Delay April 1 vote and give kids what they needI read the Ellsworth School District’s recent survey on the “six year $950,000 cap override” budget increase proposal. The report references positive academic and co-curricular achievements of EHS students and their postgraduate standings. All involved are to be commended.
By: Nick Even, Bay City, The Republican Eagle
I read the Ellsworth School District’s recent survey on the “six year $950,000 cap override” budget increase proposal. The report references positive academic and co-curricular achievements of EHS students and their postgraduate standings. All involved are to be commended.
Lest my following remarks leave the impression that I lack support for public education, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I am very concerned about the state of the public schools and the Ellsworth schools in particular.
Having said that:
• I found no mention in the survey of having considered the advantages of innovative concepts — like “Small Schools = Success” or “Schools Within Schools” — only reference to dollars related to economy of scale by consolidating the last two elementary schools and dollars saved from the recent closing of two elementary schools.
• I found no mention of comparative outcomes with other educational offerings in the county as to the psychological and social adjustment indicators of EHS students in the areas of discipline, truancy, drop-outs, substance abuse, alcohol use, students on medication, grade retention, court ordered probation, in-school assaults and suicide. I found only the dollar comparison of EHS per student expenditure and mill rates.
• I found no mention of the number of parents in PTAs or their involvement in other volunteer services.
After age 4, children spend more of their waking hours during this most formative stage in life in school or in school-related activities than they do at home. Therefore, the school’s proportional impact on our youths must be taken into full and detailed consideration.
There is little question that youths in “modern society” are giving evidence for concern in many areas and which are reflected later in life, as adults. (One percent of all adults in the U.S. today are incarcerated. A higher percentage than in any other western nation.)
Maladaptive behaviors are early warning flags that require careful and thoughtful study by society as a whole. Youths’ behavior, like the canary in the mine, is largely a response to physical and psycho/social environmental impacts. Their responses need to be observed and accurately understood as to the underlying causes.
Without this, we too may see the dramatic consequences that other educational institutions have experienced. And also be tempted to respond with metal detectors and armed guards at the door — a cosmetic, deterrent, at best.
In stating that, it should be recognized that the school has been “asked” to take on responsibilities not well suited for this social institution. It has, in part, taken on many of the responsibilities of the family.
The family is the basic building block of any society. When the family does not fulfill the role that it is best suited and uniquely qualified for, then individual and social maladaptive patterns emerge. This process must be understood before root causes can be identified and corrective change be brought about.
Out of touch?
Low, comparative dollar support figures could mean that the school and the community have lost touch with each other.
All of the above needs to be put before the public’s eye and illuminated before charting and executing an action plan for the future, as they too are indicators of the state and health of the school.
I therefore respectfully urge Ellsworth School Board and the citizenry - grandparents, singles, retired, as well as parents -seriously to rethink the proposals being presented. Think in more terms than school bus replacement, bricks and mortar, and financial considerations.
I don’t mean to imply that these are not important. They are, but they are just the most obvious, like the tip of the iceberg. There are other, more subtle, less quantifiable issues of equal or greater importance, that need to be brought into the decision-making process for in-depth study.
To do so effectively will not meet the April 1 referendum deadline.
No do I believe the monetary request that has been made will be adequate to meet the needs. But if time will be allowed and an effective process be used, to allow all the stake holders to come to the table in order to understand the potential, alternative outcomes - not just for a six-year window but for as far as can be seen into the future - the resources will be made available.
Those resources will not come just in dollar amounts, but in grass roots, broad citizen involvement and support, as well as institutional changes. Without which history tells us that no society can long endure.
Nick Even spent five years treating adolescents in residential care and nearly 35 years in community mental health centers as a psychiatric social worker. He has worked in consultation to social institutions including public and private schools.