Archive for Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Letters to the editor

May 14, 2003

To the editor:

There have been a few comments on the Signal's BBS about how we Marion Springs parents are not going to respond to the Bullock proposal on closing our school, because we have a "sweetheart" deal and want to keep it quiet. There has also been a shot or two taken at me for my "thinly veiled threats" of a lawsuit in the event the board tried to close Marion Springs.

First, you should be aware that the numbers Stacy Cohen and Betty Bullock are using are incorrect. They claim only 67 students at MSES. The actual number is 93. They also state we have six teachers, when the correct number is 5.5 (one of the teachers is on half-time status). So, the inequity they speak of is manufactured.

Second, two years ago, I was at a parent-teacher conference at Marion Springs, where Blaine Cone appeared to ask for our support on a bond issue to build a new elementary school in Baldwin City. I asked where the money was going to come from, and was assured that there was plenty of funding available from the presently existing tax base, and that no new taxes would be needed and no budget cuts at the existing schools would have to take place. I also asked what we would get at Marion Springs as part of this bond issue. The answer -- a shed. In spite of this, we voted unanimously to support the bond issue, because it was for the good of the district as a whole. Our CSO (the equivalent of the PTA) donated money to help advertise support for the bond issue, and I personally wrote out a $100 check to the board for that purpose. Having now started building that structure (as well as a significant addition to the junior high, just next door to the recently-constructed high school), the same people who sought our support want to close our school. This is somewhat akin to asking your roommate to help you build an addition onto the house, and then throwing him out because you believe he's taking up too much room.

I talked to Stacy after the meeting and again the next day. Her concern, as it appears to be some of yours, is that our kids are receiving an unfair share of a reduced budget. I told her, and I am telling you, that we need to look at restoring funding for all our children. At the risk of mixing metaphors, I told her that, if the boat is leaking, the solution is to fix the boat, not to start looking for people to throw overboard.

I crunched the budget numbers. Folks, the cuts amount to 50 cents per kid per day. I have to believe that we are willing to come up with half a buck for a child to maintain the quality of their education.

I am, in conjunction with other MSES parents, starting an endowment fund for our kids. Using my office, my phones, my fax, my stamps and my copier, we will seek to get pledges from our parents to pay that 50 cents a day for our kids, and possibly some extra to cover those whose parents are unable. We will contact MSES "alumni" -- kids who have graduated from our little school and are now adults. It is my hope that they will be able to show their appreciation and support for the fine education they received. I urge the parents at Vinland and Baldwin City to do the same.

And while we're on the issue of quality education, let's look at some other numbers. This last year, the percentage of MSES students performing at "satisfactory or above" in reading was 92 percent. For BES, it was 74 percent, for Vinland, it was 79 percent, for BJHS, it was 75 percent, and BHS came in at a shocking 51 percent. Students performing at "satisfactory or above" in math? MSES -- 100 percent, BES -- 75 percent, Vinland -- 42 percent, BJHS -- 55 percent and BHS -- 46 percent. Instead of closing one of the top performing schools in the state, we should be, as the head of the school board stated at the meeting the other night, be looking at how to duplicate it.

For the district as a whole, I would hope each of us would write our state legislators and tell them we are tired of the old "no new taxes" mantra. We are willing to pay for quality schools in this state. If they have to cut something, let it be the tax breaks they give large corporations whenever they threaten to relocate their factories to another state. We should also persuade our county commission to do the same thing Johnson County did -- raise our own taxes. I know Wyandotte County is suing them to try to stop it, but it will take three to four years for that to make it up to the State Supreme Court, by which time the "budget crisis" will be past, and the issue will be moot. In conclusion, speaking of lawsuits, I did not toss out the idea lightly. I know many of you think that lawyers just file lawsuits for the fun of it. I am a member of this community, and although I live in the country, I built my office building in downtown Baldwin City (when most other businessmen were fleeing to the highway), and I pay as much in city property taxes as most of you. I dread the thought of suing my own community. I know it will alienate many of the people I have known for 15 years of more. In addition, it would require tremendous financial sacrifice on my part. Contrary to popular opinion, a lawsuit is an expensive undertaking for both sides. I would have to bear one side's cost on my own, and use my associates and staff whose time could be better spent on work that brings in revenue to my business. I would much rather use my time and financial resources to work with all of you to restore appropriate funding to all of our schools. But the fact remains that, while we at Marion Springs would rather work together with our neighbors to "fix the boat," we will not meekly and quietly allow ourselves to be thrown out of it.

Russell B. Cloon

Baldwin City

To the editor:

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who showed their support to our family after Jake's passing. The overwhelming support and sympathy we received was indescribable. To all of the many people and organizations who helped with Jake's services, we thank you sincerely from our hearts. This most precious life was honored in a way we could never have imagined and we will carry that memory with us all our lives. We are proud to be members of such a giving, caring community that came together to share our grief. Again, thank you to all of you for anything you may have done to make our memories of Jake last forever. Your prayers, cards, offerings of food and comforting words will not be forgotten. We are so proud of everything Jake did to serve his country and from the reception we received from all of you after his passing, we know in our hearts that you are, too.

The Family of Sgt. Jacob Lee Butler


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