January 14, 2010

Alex bond fails; supt. close to ouster

ALEX – Voters rejected a $5.225 Alex school bond proposal Tuesday that would have paid for a new community auditorium and modernized classrooms.

The bond issue failed to garner the 60 percent majority needed to pass. Only 227 of 1,578 registered voters turned out, and 118 of them voted against the measure.

In another matter that officials say is not connected to the election outcome, the Alex School Board met in regular session Tuesday night and voted to “find reasons to terminate” Supt. Norvel Heston.

Board members voted 4-1 not to rehire Heston, but he has not yet been terminated, Angela Manika, vice president of the Board, said.

“It was pretty black and white,” Robert Williams, school board president, said. “Four board members thought he wasn’t doing a good enough job and one did. Norvel is a good man. I know he’s got to be a little emotional right now.”

Heston has the right to a hearing at which the board members will air their reasons for termination, Manika said.

Heston said he does not know any of their reasons, but he knew something was transpiring over the past months.

"I kind of had an idea this was coming," he said.

No date has been set for Heston's hearing.

Going into the election Tuesday, Heston felt good about the bond’s chances of passing. Voters had supported three bonds in the last nine years.

And voters in Alex proper overwhelmeing supported the measure Tuesday, with 74 percent voting in favor of it.

But voters in the outlying areas rallied against the measure, which would have increased residents’ property taxes.

Voters in three of the five precincts passed the bond by more than the 60 percent majority required. But voters in two remaining precincts rejected the measure by 90 and 87 percent, respectively.

“It was passing until Bradley (precincts) came in, and that’s what sunk it,” Heston said. “Historically, hardly any bond issue can pass Bradley.”

Heston has served as Alex superintendent for seven years. Before that, he worked for two years as Alex High School principal.

He said one highlight of his tenure was working the deal to purchase land behind the school. That land will ease future expansion, he said.

The bond would have provided improvements, including a safe room .