Archive for Thursday, June 3, 2010

Letters to the Editor

June 3, 2010

To the editor:

This is regarding the group of people advocating to close the rural schools. We obtained a report from the Douglas County Courthouse that states the urban Baldwin City limit patrons pay a grand total of $30,858,321.00 in real estate, state assessed and personal property tax. This is 42.45 percent of the taxes. In contrast, the rural Baldwin School District patrons pay a grand total of $41,837,433.00 which is 57.55 percent of the tax. If you would like to verify this information contact the Douglas County budget office located at the courthouse.

The option of rural and in-town schools is part of what makes the Baldwin School District unique. Many parents in our district have chosen to build homes in a specific area to attend that specific elementary school. A group of people in Baldwin is trying to take

that option away. The taxes generated by the rural communities pay 57.55 percent of the taxes for the entire school district. That amount certainly covers the cost of those rural buildings. The return for the rural schools cannot be measured. It is more than brick and mortar, the teachers, the parents and the students. It is a system that works cohesively. The rural schools take nothing away from the in-town elementary schools. They offer a quality education with new buildings supported financially by the entire school district. So why can't we all exist peacefully and work collectively to make our entire district No. 1?

Cheryl Rice

Baldwin City

To the editor: Our school district is in a financial crisis, much like many families in our community. When this happens to families, hard choices have to be made to cut things that are no longer affordable. The same is true with our school district. Over the past two years our district has cut $1.3 million from a yearly budget of approximately $10 million. These cuts have come from what has been called “low-hanging fruit.” We have yet to be able to reinstate that low-hanging fruit with no plans in the near future to do so. This crisis has built up over many years, not just the past few. The question is what could the Baldwin School District do with the half million dollars we could save by consolidating our elementary schools? We could work toward retaining our quality teachers and staff by giving them their first salary increase since 2007-08. We could unfreeze the pay increase for those teachers who have earned their masters degrees. We could turn the hall lights back on in the buildings when occupied by students. We could fix the existing leaks in roofs at multiple buildings. We could have our libraries open five days a week. We could offer summer school again. We could reinstate keyboarding/technology for the elementary students. We could have computers that are reliable and efficient for the junior high and high schools. We could repair the gym floors. We could replace worn-out bathroom fixtures. We could have principals performing principal duties, such as overseeing the education of our children, instead of being part-time custodians and lunchroom attendants. We could provide classrooms with their standard supplies as opposed to parents providing them. We could have reliable building budgets that won’t be revoked in the middle of the school year. We could eliminate or lower textbook, activity and classroom fees. We could offer our teachers continuing education. We could provide elementary music and physical education supplies as opposed to them being funded by PTO. We could replace our 1980 and other outdated textbooks. We could have the gyms open during breaks for student and community use. We could upgrade to more nutritious lunches. We could replace our 20-year-old buses with new, efficient ones that will keep our children safe. We could replace lockers that won’t open. It is vital to our children's education that we reinstate the business teachers, math teacher, librarians for all buildings, school nurses, curriculum director, custodians, school resource officer, elementary technology teachers, reading and math specialists, cooks, secretaries, and other staff and programs which have been cut from our schools due to budget issues. There are so many things that need to be repaired and reinstated in our school district. The citizen group that is asking the board to combine elementary schools is not doing this out of being mean-spirited or out to target a special group. We see the loyalty, ties and love of the rural schools. We truly appreciate their situation. Unfortunately, our district no longer can financially support six buildings. Very few districts our size can adequately support more than one or two elementary schools and we are attempting to support four. We are in a financial crisis and sacrifices continue to be required. Consolidating our students is the logical next one. It will benefit the entire district. All 1,400 students will at some time be in the junior high and high school buildings that are in dire need of repair. We are all affected by the lack of support for staff, classrooms and programs. We will all pay higher fees and continue to be asked to fundraise more money to make up for the shortfalls. All of our elementary schools offer a caring, dedicated staff and an excellent education. We all achieve Standard of Excellence. It is time to come together as one district and community and bring back to our district the once high standards we so proudly had in the past. Ed and Joanne Kite

Baldwin City

Comments

awedel 3 years, 10 months ago

What the Kite's fail to realize is that the school dstrict IS supporting four elementary schools, not attempting to. I have seen the tactics that the Kite's are using. "Sign this if you want the school board to do what is best." These are the exact words that I was told. No mention of closing schools, teachers being fired (they would be next year, as they are contractually obligated to keep them this year), overcrowding at certain grade levels, etc. The Kite's opinion is nieve to think that closing a school will make this go away, their numbers are based on estimates, and the high standards that they want still exist at the rural schools!

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Torch 3 years, 10 months ago

Obviously an emotional issue. I say let the rural schools break off and form their own school district if they feel they can support themselves.

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NanCrisp 3 years, 10 months ago

Agree. They should operate private schools, which they most likely can support with more cost efficiency and cost effectiveness than they would have ever dreamt possible while mired in the public school system.

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greyghost 3 years, 10 months ago

First off, Mr./Mrs. Kite, I think you're exaggerating a bit (by $200,001) when you talk about a savings $500,000. When you exaggerate figures in your argument, people tend to wonder what else you're exaggerating about. Again, from Ande Parks:

"Savings of about $136,000 in closing Vinland Savings of about $163,000 in closing Marion Springs Total of about $299,000 annually in closing both schools That figure reperesents [Sic] 1.9% of the district's operational budget"

And from the fact finding committee: Closing both outlying schools will have an annual savings anywhere from $192,941 to $425,591. http://usd348.com/?dl_id=266

Please, do not exaggerate to further your skewed vision!

So, even if we pretend that your half-a-million-dollar savings were true, that number wouldn't touch your wish list. Nice try though.


Cheryl Rice: I applaud you and your investigation. I think you may have just silenced the opposition. Great Job! I would hate to have a letter posted underneath it pushing for rural school closure.

Also, it amazes me the people who are speaking out on this issue are so passionate about their position. However, if the Kite's lived out by Worden I can only imagine that they would be just as passionate about keeping their school open. Why don't people think about the shoe being on the other foot anymore? Ego-maniacal greed comes to mind..........

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Justask 3 years, 10 months ago

So what you are saying is if parents advocate on an emotional level for their in-town schools, they are "ego-maniacal"? And if they are passionate about not gutting every other program, project, etc., in the district for less than 200 students, about one-third of which are from out of district, they are greedy? Interesting. Wrong-headed and inflammatory, too.

The PC and IC parents sat through as many public school board meetings as the rural parents did. We got the same facts. And then, we got to hear how "wonderful" the rural schools were at the expense of the "urban core" schools over and over again, and how if their children had to come in town it would ruin their lives forever.

The PC and IC are fantastic, high-scoring schools with vibrant teaching staffs and smart students. The parents are just as concerned about their children's public education as those in the rural areas. But here's the difference: I worry about what's going to happen when my child is no longer in the lower grades. I have not seen this from the rural parents. They have only told me about RIGHT NOW. But what about when their child gets to middle school and high school, and there is no technology, no art, no music, minimal athletics, no AP courses, inexperienced teachers, old textbooks, security concerns, and a general lack of upkeep and cleanliness? These programs have already been affected. (And I'm not talking about 7th grade athletics.) Then will they suddenly insist on closing the rural schools?

Personally, my child is getting an excellent elementary education. But if, when my child gets to high school, we discover that the educational opportunities that would allow my child to succeed, whether here or elsewhere, are not available, we will leave. And I know many parents who feel the same way, whether over high school athletics or AP courses. After all, it's your high school grades, activities and programs that get you into college.

I have tried over and over again to have a rational discussion about this with others. But it’s impossible. The emotion is too high. The school board has said over and over that it was the emotional displays from the rural parents that made them ignore pretty much everything their fact-finding committees discovered. And then the state swooped in and saved the day, for now.

The Kite's letter was well-written and well-researched. The items they list are not made up. They are based on information provided by the district, teachers and administration. In fact, I appreciate that both Ed and Joanne are willing to publicly discuss their concerns. And they did it without denigrating the rural schools.

The debate will rage on. People with gnash their teeth and call names. They won't listen to each other and attempt to compromise. For some reason, this has become an all-or-nothing debate. And that is incredibly sad.

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greyghost 3 years, 10 months ago

I noticed, Justask, that you didn't want to touch Cheryl's letter. Good decision.

Yeh, I debated on whether or not to include the "Ego-maniacal greed comes to mind.........." part ,due to the fact that anyone responding to my post would focus on just that (thanks for proving this!).

"The school board has said over and over that it was the emotional displays from the rural parents that made them ignore pretty much everything their fact-finding committees discovered." This really needs a citation! Anyone?

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Bloggerboo 3 years, 10 months ago

"The option of rural and in-town schools is part of what makes the Baldwin School District unique." Who cares if it is unique if it is going broke?

As for the taxes and who pays what share, so what? So there are more people living rurally than living in town. That doesn't mean every kid is being treated equally. In fact, it gives the rural parents too much power. And how do they wield it? They starve the junior high and high school for their precious student-teacher ratio. I better never hear one complaint from those parents about the junior high or high school facilities, education, activities, etc. They have and continue to drain those schools of valuable funds.

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greyghost 3 years, 10 months ago

"That doesn't mean every kid is being treated equally. In fact, it gives the rural parents too much power."

Gaddamn Socialists!

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Bloggerboo 3 years, 10 months ago

Oh brother. Now I know all of your posts are in jest. Keep trolling and have fun.

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greyghost 3 years, 10 months ago

I don't know how else to respond to your posts. They're hilarious. Another example: "They [rural parents] starve the junior high and high school for their precious student-teacher ratio."

It has been discussed on this site way too much. It has been found that the student:teacher ratio is almost identical at all elementary schools. The Signal's Jimmy-boy has compiled the breakdown: http://signal.baldwincity.com/news/2009/dec/17/patrons-want-rural-schools-be-closed/#c6386

So, now what is your argument for school closure?

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sparky 3 years, 10 months ago

I don't exactly have a dog in this fight, other than my tax dollars. We choose to home school because we don't agree with many things that go on in public schooling. But my choice would be to keep all three schools open for a couple of reasons.

1) We have been told previously, by the school board, that the intermediate center would not be able to handle all the kids from the rural schools.

2) If we close the rural schools because of maintenance costs and such, what happens to those buildings? Every time we build a new building so that we can close a school because its not worthy of being a place of learning, the district keeps the building, turns it into something else, and then ends up maintaining it in the long run anyway. So if we close a school or schools, do we have a guaranteed plan of selling/off loading the school so we aren't still paying for it?

If we lived in the rural school districts, we would consider using them, but since we live in town, we just choose to home school instead.

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BigCat 3 years, 10 months ago

The Kite's numbers are based on BEST GUESSES...estimates. They don't know how much the district could save. I would argue that it is very little as greyghost says.

The high school and junior high already have alot of what she wants. I know they have technology classes, but these classes get cancelled due to lack of interest. So how is that a budget problem?

I don't have any proof, but I have heard rumors that the Kite's went to Wal-Mart in Lawrence to get signatures for their so called petition. If this is true, then the petition is fully invalid (combine this with what awedel says about the way they are approaching people and it should be invalid anyway).

I have seen the Kite's numbers and increasing some class sizes by 9 students is unacceptable. Kids at the lower levels need as small as class sizes as they can get. Increasing class sizes any is a detriment to their learning. So closing one or both schools hurts ALL elementary kids in the district. These kids then grow up and are behind in junior high and high school. Is that what people want in Baldwin? Think about it.

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Monkey 3 years, 9 months ago

The small class sizes is what gives our kids the edge. They have more teacher to student time and there are a lot of kids in our community that benefit from that. I have heard a lot of B.S about the issue, and a lot of the crap I hear is about sports and how everyone doesn't not want to pay more so their kids can compete. Well, last time I had a job interview they did not ask what position I played, how many pins did I have or what was my or our record. I do like sports don't get me wrong it builds team building skills and character cause you will not always win. I am not a fan of closing the schools!!! I would rather pay more for activities, tuition, and books than to close the schools. I like everyone else in this world is struggling to pay bills and live in a city that cost more than any other one around here to live in, but I would rather that my kids had a quality education with small classrooms and know that they are understanding what they are being taught.

I do live in town with hopes of moving into the country, and the thought of the kids ridding the buses for 30,45,and even 60 minutes one way to get home while the bus finishes the routes is flat out stupid. That is not fair to any kid of any age whether it be kindergarten to Senior in high school.

My next question that I have is how long have we had this problem? I graduated from BHS in 1999 and we never even heard of any of this then. How did this problem arise? To me it sounds like someone from the top mis-manages money. There is a lot that I don't know, but as my life continues and we all know life happens, it takes time to recover and it takes changes. However, little changes are what have made my life easier.

Here is my next and last question on this whole ordeal. What happens to the buildings if the district closes the schools? Has anyone seen the real estate market? Cause we sure as hell are not selling any house here in town very fast. The school district will have to still maintain the buildings to keep them presentable.

And like any of these posts mine will get picked apart for grammar and spelling, but I don't care. I went to big elementary schools in other cities where there were larger class sizes, and by the time I got to high school I did not care about learning. "I am not going to use this stuff out in the real world, I just want to run equipment" Is what I said. Now look at me I had to change careers and had education been fun to me I would have found this career from the start. I am just your average person that cares about what kind of education my kids get, and I hope they have the chance to get it in small classes where the teachers can focus on their needs.

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