For the second time in a month, the Mesquite City Council once again tabled requests for marijuana sales tax receipt money from two schools at its Tuesday, Dec. 12, meeting when the educators did not adequately explain how they would use the funds.
Four requests, one from each elementary school, the middle school and the high school first appeared on the council’s Nov. 27 meeting. The proposals had cleared the Virgin Valley Community Education Advisory Board earlier but at that meeting a revised request was submitted for high school programs.
Councilman George Rapson said then that he was uncomfortable approving the update because it was submitted so late and that he wanted newly elected council members to review and approve the requests.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the council again disagreed with the proposals from Hughes Middle School and the Virgin Valley High School saying the requests were not academically related enough.
The high school requested a total of $17,597 with $10,000 of that going to its culinary program, $1,500 for auto shop, $1,500 for cabinet and furniture (Skills USA), and $1,500 for Agriculture Science. An additional $1,200 would go to the Yearbook Club and $1,897 would be used for Student Council.
The middle school asked for $14,414 of which $5,000 would be used for Band, Orchestra, and guitar instruments, $3,000 for Technology and Stem Robotic kits, $2,500 for the Dart Frog program, and $,3914 for after-school club supplies.
The after-school clubs included BMX, Archery, slime and dessert, photography, math, chess, and pinewood derby among others.
Virgin Valley Elementary School requested $15,166 with the bulk of that, $7,040, paying for a certified temporary tutor, $1,980 for substitute teacher hours, two before school tutors costing $2,415 and National Geographic reading materials worth $3,731.
Bowler Elementary School asked for a total of $12,732 that would pay for literacy remediation curriculum materials for students in grades 2 through 5.
Jodi Thornley, representing the CEAB again requested that the high school’s proposal be tabled because more work needed to be done on the items.
Mayor Al Litman kicked off the discussion Tuesday night by saying that the two elementary school requests were “just fine” but that he had difficulty with the middle school request because “the BMX club is not academic in any sense of the word.” He said other clubs like math, chess and robotics were academically related but that some of them were not in any way.
“The purchase of musical instruments, unless you were going into the job, is not vocational,” Litman said.
“The intent of the council unanimously was to not direct [the funds] into extracurricular activities, per se, unless they were academically related,” Councilman Rapson said. “The high school has had an issue with that last year and this year. I find it difficult to believe that there is not a grasp of what our intent is. I hate to have this keep coming back for the same reasons.”
Rapson continued saying “There’s one more chance and it needs to be academic. It can’t be re-directed at the principal’s whim or anybody else’s. It’s supposed to go where it’s supposed to go. If it’s not accomplished in the next go-round, I’m willing to take those funds and allocate them to the schools that have produced a very complex and relevant curriculum.”
Councilwoman Annie Black added to the discussion asking “How does CEAB put through four proposals that are so vastly different? You [CEAB] should be the ones vetting these requests and then when they come to council, they should be perfect. With all the time that I’ve heard about what council wants, I’m pretty clear what we want.”
Thornley explained the many high school students take the culinary program because they don’t intend to go on to higher education and it provides them an advantage when they begin working after high school graduation.
Maurice Perkins, Hughes Middle School principal and acting principal at the high school addressed the councilors’ concerns. “We’re trying to address needs that we haven’t already addressed [through other funding mechanisms]. I guess I totally misunderstood what we are asking you on for these academically related things during the school day.”
“We would like to see more of a breakdown on where the culinary money is going to go,” Litman said.
“We realize there are concerns with the high school’s request and we want to address that,” Perkins said. “Because these events happen outside the school day, they aren’t directly tied to academics. We can refocus the dollars to buy textbooks or pay for personnel during the school day. We’ve been looking at money for ACT classes for students.”
Rapson said he could understand band or a few other activities as warranted but some of the clubs clearly were not academically related. “But,” he said “there needs to be a balance with academics.”
“It’s not that we don’t want to give you the money,” Litman said. “But when I look at things like Student Council and Yearbook I don’t find anything academic about them.”
“In a school setting you can tie everything to academics,” Perkins said. “I hear what you are saying.”
Councilman George Gault said he had two concerns. “I would be interested to know what you’re going to buy with the money. How is it going to accomplish anything? And secondly, what did the expenditure accomplish and what were the outcomes? How many kids learned something and what was it? I want to see some metrics.”
Ultimately, the council approved the requests for the two elementary schools and tabled the middle and high school requests asking that they be brought back after more work was done on them.