I have been wanting to solidify my “position” (as it were) with regards to the ongoing saga of the High School siting and a property tax referendum. The more I think about it, the more I realize that the physical location of the high school, and even the amenities that come attached to it, are of a minor importance compared to a need for the school district to have a solid bank account of Trust with the community. To me, it is paramount that the community and the school district work together to reach a commonly agreed upon, mutually beneficial goal.
Having said that, here is the letter I have submitted (online) to the NG editor:
“To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.
The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.” From the Maroon Tiger (January-February 1947), “The Purpose of Education”.
Regardless of where Unit 4 ultimately decides to build a new high school, regardless of when the referendum is put on the ballot, as a community we must first remember the purpose of education and take our civic responsibilities seriously. Personally, I need three things in order to vote for a future high school referendum.
First, I need to see the work of uniting the administration, teachers, students, parents and community; like a prized cultivar, we must be selective about propagating characteristics that enhance our society. How do we collaboratively imbue creative and moral thinking?
Second, I need the school district to involve and educate the public in regards to a 10-year strategic plan and a 40-year vision, via a minimum of three charrettes.
Third, I need a well-understood financial plan. Will yet another tax referendum be put on the ballot in five years, especially if external sources continue to decline?
The quote is from a letter that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr wrote to the Morehouse College campus newspaper in 1947 – the entire letter is very instructional.
Having time to chew on the recent events of the past couple days and hearing from parents and a board member, I have several observations that have steered my thinking
- While a number of people are voicing support for a possible high school at the Spalding Park area (including myself), it seems extremely unlikely that the board will ultimately go with that location due to a number of problematic obstacles:
- railroad tracks
- money involved to purchase land, eminent domain, tear down Judah, make safe walk ways, etc – all for land that the Board has said several times is too small
- will the park-district do a land-swap with the Atkins-Ponder lands we just purchased? Probably not.
- It is possible these talks will open up the possibility of negotiating land at Dodds Park. But I am not holding my breath
- No matter what, it is going to be very challenging for the district and the board to come out of this looking good; if they go with Spading Park, the tax referendum will likley be more expensive, while the Atkins-Ponder site garners more negative attention from those who are most vocal.
- The district has already conducted phone surveys, opinion polls, a so-called “Town Hall” and various forms of “Community dialogues”. I don’t think more of the same is going to be very effective.
- Board member Jamar Brown has said that when he talks to folks on the north end, they are less concerned about the location of the high school and more concerned about discipline issues. Yet discipline issues are not the focus of any phone survey, opinion polls or “Community Dialogue”. Why not? What is really most important?
Also, here is a more recent NG article:
I have no doubt that due to poor planning over the long-run and growing enrollemnt, we have a clear and present need for more capacity. Yes, we can do portables as Board President Laurie Bonnett suggested for a “Plan B”. Obvioulsy, this is not ideal. But neither is making an unwise choice that will effect us for the next 50 years or so.
What do I suggest? We need to do the hard work of building relationships, building trust, getting out there and learning what our parents, students and residents need. We need to work together to get those ends met. We need to make sure we educate with the goal of thinking critically, intensely and with morals. This is a burden we all share, not just the teachers.