I don’t know who wrote the editorial East Allen’s progress published March 12, and I really don’t care to know – but I would like to make a few comments.
When this redesign was first announced, I started going to a few of the school board meetings and I also attended the public meetings. I was asked by the mayor of New Haven to serve on a task force with a few council members as well as business leaders in the New Haven area. As concerned citizens, we wanted to better understand what specifically the school board intended to do with this redesign. All of us involved either graduated from East Allen County Schools, had children attending or children that have already graduated.
While attending meetings with members from the school board, I heard a statement made by one of the members that I will never forget: Buildings in the communities are more important than the quality of education. This is coming from a school board member. His responsibility is to provide my child the means to a quality educational experience, not a community center. Then we hear they are closing elementary schools located in these communities, which in reality should be the ones we keep (community elementary and middle schools). They are inexpensive to operate and maintain compared to high schools.
This school board, as a whole, does not deserve any credit whatsoever. When the tax referendum failed, they decided to divide our communities again to get what they wanted. We are faced with significantly declining revenues, declining enrollment, and we just chased off another 1,000 students to parochial schools because of the inability of this school board to make some tough decisions.
Our superintendent that you speak so highly of was looking for another job while you were writing your editorial.
The supporters of the $10.8 million project who collected three times more signatures than the opponents did so because they were threatened that if you don’t sign, they will close your school. And the second petition that ends today will, most likely, bring the same result because the Heritage folks are being threatened by the same tactic. When the work is in progress for these two facilities that are already well past their useful age, the entire district will be asked for another $88.7 million to renovate New Haven High School, which again is past its useful age, and build a new administration building in New Haven. All told, $111.4 million that was voted against on a tax referendum a year ago. What part of that, can you explain to me, says community dedicated to building a strong district?
I recently went to a football boosters meeting; I have voluntarily helped paint the football field every Thursday night before home games for the past 10 years or so. Most of the conversation revolved around how we were going to raise money again to pay for field work, get dirt, fill in holes, buy paint, paint rollers, etc. This is the type of stuff all of the five high schools in East Allen County have been dealing with for the past 15 years. What we hear is, year after year: We don’t have money for that.
As another example, our high schools have to share blood pressure testing equipment, which was donated by a regional hospital, for classes. This has just become a constant theme: We don’t have the money. What is it going to take to get the entire district to come to the realization that we can no longer afford to continue down this same old rutted path?
As a part of that group from New Haven, I had thoughts of building a couple of state-of-the-art, green, maybe zero energy consumption, solar panels, artificial turf soccer/football fields (we wouldn’t have to spend thousands a year to maintain and when it rains we ruin it for a week), high-tech advanced manufacturing labs, advanced agricultural labs. Do something really special in order to make our district something to be really proud of, something sustainable. If we approach it the right way, maybe we can get the people who voted no to the tax referendum to vote yes – really spend some time explaining the value that this would bring to our district, even if it is $250 million.
But no, here we go again, spend another $110 million on maintaining five high school buildings (Harding is still going to be a high school on our budget) that are at the end of their useful life, and keep asking for community donations to fill in the holes at John Young Stadium so the coach doesn’t get another torn ligament in his leg.