Archive for Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Letters to the editor

May 7, 2003

To the editor:

Recently at a budget forum which I found quite informative, Mrs. Bullock and Mrs. Cohen were handing out budget sheets of Marion Springs, again trying to convince the Board to close Marion Springs School. Again Mrs. Bullock and Mrs. Cohen, I ask the question, why? Why are you trying to close a school that has the only environmental area, (funded on its won) in the district? Why are you not putting out the right enrollment information? Why would you want to bus 96 students into Baldwin, when there is a facility to use? Our taxes are helping pay for a new elementary in Baldwin, because we thought there was an overcrowding problem, was there one? If you bus these extra students into Baldwin, then in the next two or three years, they'll be wanting another bond issue to add on or build another school. How much money will that save the district? Why is Marion Springs on your hit list? Why isn't your mission to have the students that live in their designated areas, attend those schools?

Marion Springs community has always been a farm area, and still is by majority. We pay taxes on acres, not lots. However, this is changing year by year, just as it has in the Vinland area. Will Vinland be your next target to close? Most likely! I had a little third grade girl from Marion Springs tell me this morning on my bus route, and I quote, "There is some lady trying to close Marion Springs. I hope they don't close Marion Springs, it's a good school." Mrs. Bullock and Mrs. Cohen, would you like to answer this little girl, why? This is no different than the little girl that got up at the forum and read her letter to save the art program at Baldwin. It's as important for this little girl's art as it is for the 96 students that attend Marion Springs. There are other options to saving money, and I can give you one by saving at least $50,000 which doesn't affect kids or teachers.

Our board president said the budget cuts would be the least to affect the kids in the districts. Closing a school will affect 96 students. Is this what you want? You talk about communication, Mrs. Bullock, so why don't you communicate with Marion Springs and find out the true facts? See why this school has academic excellence, and answer this little third grade girl, why? By the way, Mrs. Bullock, you left out bus drivers on your budget, and I would be happy to give you my wages. Because I voted for you, Mrs. Bullock, in the last election, I find this to be my mistake, see I didn't find out the facts about you. And, Mrs. Cohen, one doesn't get on the school board to represent one school in the district, they represent all three.

You will find the people in the Marion Springs area are dedicated to their school, just like any school, and they won't go down without a battle!

Darlene Schwarz

Baldwin City

To the editor:

Did I misunderstand or have you not said for two years now that the main focus of USD 348 is reading? Haven't you hired reading specialists for each building and made a significant investment in time and resources to boost reading test scores? Why then would you even suggest reducing library services to any school in which you are emphasizing the importance of reading? I am saddened to see art and music programs reduced and/or eliminated and a case can be made for their general contribution to overall learning as well, but even the most uninformed person can make the link between libraries and reading!

Do you people really think that all a librarian does is check out books to students? Are you not aware that there are state standards for K-12 library media programs just like there are for reading and math? Don't you know that current research supports the positive impact of a standards-based, collaborative library media program under the direction of a full-time library media specialist on reading assessment scores? Mr. White suggests that we might look to Marion Springs for ideas to improve our reading scores. Maybe there is more at work there than small class sizes and cozy family atmosphere! Perhaps it is not mere coincidence that in the school in which there is the most student contact with the library program and where the model for a collaborative teacher/media specialist program is most closely followed, the standard of excellence has been achieved for three years! Could it be significant that the NCA Reading Chair in that school is also the library media specialist? Maybe these are unrelated circumstances, but do you really want to take that chance?

I am appalled to think that you would cut any teaching position before you would reduce extra-curricular activities and top-heavy administration, but to compromise a successful library program when you say that reading is your number one priority is so totally ridiculous that it makes me question your credibility as the governing body of our school system!

Gloria Roach

Baldwin City

To the editor:

As a parent of a Baldwin Elementary School student, I was disturbed to discover that even though we all pay the same rate in school taxes, nearly twice as much money is spent per pupil at Marion Springs Elementary than at BES. With budget shortfalls prompting the school district to eliminate all elementary art and layoff numerous teachers, it is fiscally irresponsible to not look at the inequity occurring to maintain a building for 67 K-5 students only eight miles outside the city.

Marion Springs is an excellent school, and that is due largely to the small class sizes. Case in point: My daughter's kindergarten class at BES had 16 students, eight with IEPs. Another had the same scenario and the other two had 18 children each. Vinland had 17 kindergartners. MSES had just nine. As a former teacher, I know the impact of smaller class sizes.

I've taught up to 35 students in a class in public school and as few as 10 in a private school. The students in the smaller classes received a much more personalized, quality education where I was able to better monitor their progress and catch problems early on -- that's why they paid more than $10,000 a year to attend.

Rather than close Marion Springs, which has such a quality program, the logical solution would be to provide the same type of environment for all students in the district. Unfortunately, with $100,000 to $300,000 in budget cuts, the district just doesn't have the money, and it's unlikely the state will substantially increase education funding for years to come.

Marion Springs supporters dearly love their school and I applaud their community involvement. But as I've spoken to many of them, I have asked the same question: How can we justify spending 44 percent more to provide an education for 67 students? How do we justify the inequities?

The general response is to point to the quality education MSES provides. But don't BES students deserve the same?

Closing Marion Springs is just one of a number of ideas that could solve the budget problem. It's certainly not the only option the district should consider, but it's an option that could make it possible to keep all current teachers employed and to provide art education to all district elementary students.

At the very least, it's an idea that deserves a closer look by the

superintendent and board.

Stacy Cohen

Baldwin City

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