School board ditches book, buys new chiller

January 17, 2019 GMT

A controversial novel is out, a new chiller is in and not-so-candid cameras are coming to every campus operated by the Lake Havasu Unified School District.

At the district’s governing board meeting Tuesday evening, the five-person board unanimously voted to eliminate “13 Reasons Why” from the novel options for grades 9-12. Author Jay Asher’s book – which was made into a Netflix series — was unceremoniously dumped from Lake Havasu High School’s supplemental resources list for English students.

On its agenda, the board was asked to approve a supplemental novel list that would update the existing list. There was no discussion on the new entries. However, board member Nichole Cohen asked that “13 Reasons Why” be removed.

“I’ve seen the TV show and I’ve never seen anything so disturbing in my life,” Cohen stated.

Asher’s novel tells the story of a female high school student who commits suicide, leaving behind recorded tapes that implicated 12 people as the 13 reasons why. It is implied that bullying led to suicide.

On the heels of Cohen’s comment, board President Cathy Cox countered that “suicide is not an uncommon topic…dark things permeate literature.”

District English teachers in attendance were asked for their opinions on the book’s removal. They declined to voice their support “13 Reasons Why.”

Before Cohen’s motion went to a vote, board members Cox, Archana Aliyar, Lisa Roman and Cohen admitted they had not read the novel. Other than Cohen, they said they had not watched the TV show either.

Removal of “13 Reasons Why” was unanimously approved by the board, as were the requested additions .

In other action, a new chiller for Smoketree Elementary School was unanimously approved. It will replace a 20-year-old unit that has outlived its usefulness.

While the state’s School Facilities Board will cover $700,000 of the $900,000 total cost, the district will pay $200,000. It was a planned expenditure that will come from 2016’s $49 million bond funds.

Business Services Director Michael Murray said the district’s portion is primarily for removal of the old unit and installation the new chiller in a more accessible location.

The existing chiller is on the school’s roof. It is difficult to reach – a person must climb a vertical ladder up through a crawl space to access the unit above the school’s gym. It is dangerous because the person must also haul tools and parts while scaling the ladder.

The new chiller will be located on the ground.

Another project that the district board unanimously supported was upgrading the video surveillance systems at all eight school campuses plus the administration complex. The amount is not to exceed $500,000 and will be paid for from the $49 million bond earmarked for capital improvements.

The new system has one platform to operate and connect all nine sites. Currently, the video systems at each school are independent of each other. They range in functionality from complete failure to operating poorly. Another improved feature the number of surveillance cameras. The proposal calls for 370 new camera. All will have a wider range of view.

The system is being purchased from IP Vision based in Phoenix. The cost includes one year of support and maintenance. The cameras have a five-year warranty; the hardware and software carry a one-year warranty.

A schedule to install and launch the new system has not been determined.

However, after the meeting, district Superintendent Diana Asseier said, “We’d like to get started as soon as possible.”