Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor: New proposed elementary school building

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Editor's note: I have made a correction to this submitted letter involving the percentages for M.A.P. testing scores. -- Rachel Knight, Editor

I attended the last meeting of the advisory committee Jan. 7 and heard the final presentation pertaining to the new proposed elementary school building. Representatives of the architectural firm did a good job reviewing materials presented at earlier meetings, presenting new material and fielding questions and comments from the audience. Before making some comments that may be interpreted as negative, I must say the building proposal is impressive and looks like it could serve the community very well.

Some of the material presented and some of the comments from the floor should be of concern to patrons. First, the representatives pointed out that according to the Department of Education, Marshall middle school ranks in the bottom 18 percent and the high school ranks in the bottom 11 percent in the state when scores on the M.A.P. test are compared. The way I interpreted this (and I may be wrong) is that they are trying to show that students in newer buildings score better than students in older buildings. No information regarding the elementary schools rank was provided. I have always believed that students perform better when parents place a high value on education, and schools provide an excellent educational opportunity. Facilities play a minor role in student achievement when compared to the two factors just mentioned. Nevertheless, I feel that student performance in our district should be the main concern of the community, the school board and the administration.

Second, one item mentioned from the floor was that people and or businesses that may be considering moving to our community base some of their decision on what they feel Marshall has to offer. We have a well kept community, an impressive appearing hospital, YMCA, airport, 911 facility, emergency response center and health department. One may also conclude that people and businesses considering a move to Marshall will also notice our 100 year old buildings and are not impressed.

Third, a comment echoed in the three public meetings I attended and obviously was discussed at the first meeting of the advisory committee is the mistrust of the board of education and administration. This statement was presented by representatives of the architectural firm at the first public meeting and came from a committee picked by the school board and should be noted by the community. Another comment that has ran as a thread through these meetings is a concern about recruiting and retaining quality staff. High teacher turnover can have a negative impact on student performance. Salary and treatment of staff are two factors that impact teacher recruitment and retention.

Last, after attending three meetings and listening to comments in the community I remain convinced that the suggestion I made in my last letter should be considered by the board of education if they wish to improve the chance that voters will approve a levy increase. That suggestion as you may recall was as follows: "It might be wise to put the vote for the levy off until August. This would allow time for the public to have a clearer picture of the economy and for questions about the Affordable Care Act to be cleared up and perhaps with this additional time confidence in the school board might be restored."

Sincerely,

-- Roger Blakely, Marshall