2018-05-15 / Front Page

Building Project Failure is Mine, Delaware Academy Superintendent Says

By Lillian Browne

DELHI - Voters expressed their displeasure with a proposed facilities upgrade plan at Delaware Academy at Delhi by rejecting it at the polls on May 15 -  and Superintendent Jason Thomson blames himself for the proposition(s) failure.

“It was 73 cents on the dollar (we would have gotten from state aid to pay for the project),” Thomson said. “A zero percent increase to our taxpayers and I had a plan to replenish out reserves without gouging them.”

Thomson said he was “very disappointed” that voters did not pass proposition one - which contained a $9,607,032 price-tag for upgrades throughout the district. But, he said, he was extremely pleased with voter turnout. 

Delaware Academy at Delhi Superintendent Jason ThomsonDelaware Academy at Delhi Superintendent Jason Thomson“It was absolutely outstanding,” he said of the number of voters who showed up to the polls. But, he continued, he would like to see the community more involved in proposed projects from the onset - during the planning stages.

Following the rejected project(s) he was reminded, he said, to listen. “As CEO of Delaware Academy, I am listening.”

Proposition one failed by 383 yes votes to 430 no votes.

Proposition two, which included the installation of a synthetic or artificial turf athletic field with an additional price tag of $768,808 failed by a vote of 117 - 687.

Thomson is taking the failed project(s) personally.  “The missteps were on my part. It is not the board’s fault,” Thomson said. “This is my fault.” Thomson said that he was obviously unable to effectively communicate the need for the upgrades and repairs which would have had no additional cost to Delaware Academy taxpayers.

The repairs and upgrades contained in Proposition one are “critical,” Thomson said. There are boiler replacements, paving projects and roof repairs needed on campus, he said.

Delaware Academy Board of Education Vice President Glenn Nealis was “dismayed” by voter rejection of the capital improvement project(s). 

While he could understand why voters might not want a synthetic turf athletic field installed, he could not fathom their reasoning in rejecting Proposition one.

“This is clearly a matter of people being willfully uninformed about the projects - not knowing what’s inDelaware Academy at Delhi Board of Education Vice President Glenn NealisDelaware Academy at Delhi Board of Education Vice President Glenn Nealis it and not knowing what’s not in it,” Nealis said.

The elementary library roof is leaking, Nealis said. “But voters said we don’t need it repaired.”

By casting a “no” vote, Nealis continued, voters also effectively said they don’t care that high school bathrooms remain “offline” because pipes are leaking and there is exposed asbestos.

“We can continue to discharge storm water directly into the West Branch of the Delaware River - because that’s what voters want,” Nealis said, clearly frustrated.

“The fact is people don’t care about facts. They are uninterested in hearing facts and that’s evidenced by the lack of attendance at any of the capital project meetings over the past two years despite the fact that the meetings were widely advertised and open to the public,” he said. 

“People are more interested in challenging the integrity of the district, the administration and the board of education than in learning about needed projects.”

His views, are his own, Nealis was clear to point out, and not reflective of anyone else’s opinion. His views, he said, are not those of the board of education or school staff. Nealis said he has a completely different view of the community than he did prior to the failed vote on the project(s).

Where does the district go from here? “I don’t have any faith that taxpayers will take the time to become educated about what’s needed. I don’t know where we go from here,” Nealis said.

Thomson said his plan is to formulate a capital project that voters will want to approve. But, in order to do that, he said, he needs voters to communicate with him. “I encourage people to come to our project meetings, public hearings and school board meetings,” Thomson said. “My door is literally always open.”

With the sting of the failed project still fresh, Thomson said, “I need to do a better job as a coach.”

Though the projects failed, voters did approve the district’s operating budget, by a vote of 522 - 287, which includes a 1.25 percent tax levy increase over last year’s budget with a spending plan of $19,934,177.

The next Delaware Academy Board of Education meeting will be held on Monday, May 21 at 7 pm in the high school media library.

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