TOMBSTONE — Tombstone Unified School District held a work session followed by a governing board meeting Tuesday evening where several discussions and agenda items were discussed.

TUSD work session

During a Tuesday work session, TUSD Governing Board members listened telephonically to a bond discussion by Paul Bentz of Highground Inc.

The presentation was requested by School District Superintendent Robert Devere, who wanted suggestions for organizing a successful bond campaign.

The school district went through a failed $10 million bond initiative in November 2019. Had the measure passed, the money would have been used infrastructure upgrades, repairs and facility renovations across the district.

Bentz talked about the importance of engaging the community in a bond campaign by creating a public dialogue with diverse voices as a critical component for a successful outcome.

Creating a publicity pamphlet “loaded with pertinent information that will help educate the public” about the district’s need for the additional funds is another component that Bentz discussed.

“Tell the district’s story to help the people understand that the bond provides an important need,” he said.

The work session was for informational and discussion purposes only, with some board members believing it would be best to allow more time to pass before launching another bond initiative.

“I think we ought to wait because of our recent loss,” said board President Mike Hayhurst.

While board member Randy Keeling said he would support the board’s decision, he is in agreement with Hayhurst when it comes to the timing.

“I’m afraid it’s too soon and am worried about another failure,” Keeling said. “I agree that the school district needs a bond, but convincing the community of that is probably going to be difficult at this point.”

Devere suggested reducing the size of the bond and concentrating on specific projects, hoping to make the initiative more palatable to voters.

“Cutting the bond size and working on specific projects would allow us to prove that the bond is effective” because we would have visible results for the public, Devere said.

If the district decides to put the bond initiative on November’s ballot, the board would need to vote on the measure at the May 13 school board meeting.

TUSD board meeting

The board meeting touched on several discussion and agenda items, as well as presentations, concerns and good news.

Tombstone High School Principal David Thursby talked about the possibility of capping freshmen enrollment to 140 students. He also mentioned that online enrollment is now available, with THS receiving applications from 44 out-of-district, eighth-grade students interested in attending THS during their freshman year.

Thursby said that when the high school receives out-of-district applications, those students are vetted for behavioral issues, grades and their interest in extracurricular activities.

At the start of the 2019-2020 school year, Tombstone High School had an enrollment of 445 students, representing one of its highest on record.

In his report to the board, Thursby presented a list of good things going on at the high school, with JROTC Army Instructor Thomas Gross representing the district as one of Cochise County’s teacher of the year nominees. He also mentioned a number of student athletic achievements and the high school’s steady increase in enrollment.

On a more serious note, Thursby spoke about a high incidence of student vaping at the high school and his concerns about the health impacts.

“Vaping is a major issue at our high school, and suspensions are piling up. I’m looking at implementing a program to keep kids in class while teaching them about the dangers of vaping,” said Thursby, who noted that he suspects the number is probably higher than what the school is catching.

Huachuca City Principal Kevin Beaman presented a proposal for an after-school program from 3:30 to 5:50 p.m. that he hopes to start next year.

The idea is to provide children with an affordable, safe environment with recreational and academic activities while parents are at work.

Students would also be given a snack. Those who ride a bus to school would be able to take the late bus home, which leaves at 5:30 Monday through Thursday. Because Friday is an early release day, the school would need to provide a bus for the program on Fridays.

The after-school service would also be available through fall and spring breaks while school is not in session.

Beaman presented two options to the board, with one costing families $24 a week per child, while the other would be $1 per child for the school year, with funding coming through tax credits or grants.

“This after-school program is just in the discussion stage,” Beaman said. “I still need to meet with Superintendent Devere to iron out details, but I was pleased by the support the idea received from the board. It’s obviously something that would benefit the children and parents of Huachuca City.”

Beaman also spoke to the board about a significant spike in the number of middle school students that signed up for baseball at Huachuca City School.

“We have one coach and one volunteer for 50 kids,” he said, attributing the increase to the school’s new baseball field. “This is a significant jump from last year. We weren’t aware we were going to have this kind of turnout for baseball, so we’re now in the process of hiring a second coach.”

In his report to the board, Beaman mentioned that Huachuca City School has three teachers who were nominated for Golden Apple awards in Efrain Galvez, Cari Hanson and Maribel Gonzalez, as well as an Academic All Star nominee in second-grader Oldemar Castillo.

“These are special awards presented to teachers and students by the Sierra Vista Herald/Review newspaper, and we’re very proud of them,” he said.

The next TUSD board meeting is April 8 at Huachuca City School.