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RIP Career Ladder & Saline County HighPosted Saturday, April 23, 2011, at 12:53 PM
Career Ladder is dead. Saline County High School is gone, absorbed into Marshall High School. The two programs were prized by teachers, students, administrators and, yes, the members of the school board, who made the gut-wrenching decision to end funding for both.
There has been some debate this week about whether the board made the right decision -- whether there were other options that could have been explored. But as an observer of the board for several years, it seems to me these programs were on their last legs in any case, not because they weren't good programs run by good people, but because resources to support them are no longer available.
The state stopped funding Career Ladder this year. Most school districts in the area did the best they could to keep the program going with available resources, but the squeeze on local budgets is projected to continue for several years, with state funding flat at best (and only with the help of federal assistance) or sinking further.
Saline County High School was down to two teachers, heroically carrying on the mission of the school (and I don't think "heroic" is an exaggerated description of their work). The sending schools had stopped sending. It was managed by a director who also had to oversee Saline County Career Center.
I think it's fair to say a lot of people in this community feel the loss of these programs like they would a fist to the stomach. A painful blow.
After nearly a week has gone by, are we starting to get our breath back?
I ask because I have a hunch this community can and will rise to the challenge. It has before. We can start by asking ourselves what's more important, having two programs that help students? or helping students? Society at large (via the state) is no longer able to provide the programs? Fine. We can.
I think back to just last summer, when funding problems led to the reduction of summer school to just a sliver of what it had been in recent years. Many Marshall kids who might otherwise have been in summer school flocked instead to Indian Foothills Park and Salt Fork YMCA to swim, play and participate in day camps. Summer school was virtually gone, but summer learning and enrichment survived quite well.
Maybe what we need to do is find out more details about the kind of learning and enrichment students received from Career Ladder and SCHS, then see if members of the community would be willing to pitch in and help fill the gap, financially and as volunteers, to provide some of the same opportunities. I don't think a community-based student support effort would necessarily be able to provide exactly what CL and SCHS did, but it might be able to carry on the spirit of those fine programs and continue the work of providing a full, rich learning environment that includes personal attention and academic assistance.
We've thrown up our hands, now lets roll up our sleeves.
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Eric Crump is a former editor of The Marshall Democrat-News. He lives elsewhere now but still loves Marshall and Saline County. He's trying to catch up on all the stories he should have written while he was on staff.
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