Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor: Marshall voters face important decision April 8

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Marshall voters face an important decision in two weeks that will allow Marshall Public Schools to push past lingering rhetoric for the betterment of our kids and our community.

In his letter to the editor last week, Edward Richards outlines a case against the current school and tax levy proposal. In his opening argument, he presents an inaccurate recount of the school district's previous bond attempts to secure appropriate learning space, affecting our children, our community and the future of both.

According to Richards, "The first three proposals received successively less support each time submitted." This statement is false. The district has submitted three different bond proposals in the last 11 years: 2003, 2009 and 2010. Voter support for these proposals were, in chronological order, 42.1 percent yes in 2003, 51 percent yes in 2009 and 48 percent yes in 2010. This is not 'successively less support each time.' The total number of 'no' votes was decreased with each campaign: 1739 in 2003, 1249 in 2009 and 1211 in 2010. (Marshall Democrat News, Oct. 9, 2009 and April 7, 2010)

From Richards, "This is the fourth similar proposal in the last 10 or so years." This will be the fourth proposal for voter consideration since 2003, but it is not similar. Three previous proposals called for a single third through fifth grade building with various renovations to other current structures. A common voice of dissension during those campaigns was along the lines of, 'the plan does not address enough of our needs.' The current proposal addresses needs at every grade level with space-appropriate buildings for K-2, 3-5 and a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) facility at the high school with technology, security and renovation provisions district-wide, benefiting every child. This proposal is comprehensive and it is different than any option considered before.

Richard's leading bullet of perceived problems, reminding Marshall voters why they should continue to be wary of progress, was a seven-year old argument that he previously addressed with a letter to the editor (Marshall Democrat News, April, 1 2008) regarding inappropriate budget actions of an administrator who ultimately left our district amid concerns. We cannot continue to deprive Marshall students and staff improved facilities over dissension that was addressed years ago.

Item "1 -- Buying land and prematurely signing it as the location of the (as yet unapproved) new Marshall elementary school" I do understand resentment for premature elementary signage. I had that thought when the sign was placed, but the School Board is authorized to act as land purchase agent without public approval or vote and protected by the Missouri Sunshine Law. ( http://ago.mo.gov/opinions/2000/97-2000.htm ). Pre-vote land purchase protects the public from price gouging, and it is the Marshall precedent as the current high school land was purchased in 1967, a full seven years before voters would approve a high school bond campaign.

"4 -- Selection as member of, and a spokesman for, the Citizens Advisory Committee, a non-resident of the Marshall school district who will be unaffected by the outcome and cannot even vote on the proposal." There was not a selection process by the School Board to act as spokesman (or serve) for this campaign. There have been many parents, business leaders, educators and concerned citizens volunteering to work with both the Citizen's Advisory Committee and the Marshall CARES for Kids campaign committee. Everyone I have worked with in this effort has a vested interest in the success of our students and the strength of our community.

Finally, from Richards, "5 -- Focusing on age of existing facilities." The age and condition of our facilities are a serious concern and have been mentioned, (frankly, the age concern is too blatant to be ignored) but they have not been a major focus of this initiative. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 1998, the average public school building in the United States was 42 years old, and four of our six Marshall school buildings were constructed in the 1920s, now at or nearing 90 years old. (How Old are America's Public Schools, http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/frss/publications/1999048/) Now more pressing is Marshall's lack of adequate space. It would be irresponsible to continue to pour money into buildings that are not suitable for our school district, under the best conditions.

New facilities are a step in the right direction to addressing our district needs. Inadequate space in every building, elementary grades spread throughout the community mandating building transitions for every child from kindergarten through middle school and hindering more modern approaches to education, such as looping and peer collaboration, coupled with excessive use of trailers at every building are taxing to our students, staff and families. Studies do indicate that building transitions are a factor hindering student engagement and achievement, though I'm not aware of any other community requiring single grade transitions from kindergarten through 5th grade. Buildings large enough to address these concerns are needed. ( Transition Study of 21st Century Schools - North Carolina, http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/curriculum/home/transitions.pdf; The Effect of School-to-School Transitions on District Performance, http://mkb.myweb.uga.edu/ruralsig/dissertations/brown.pdf; and Review of Literature on Grade Configuration and School Transition, http://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/138604/1/Impact%20of%20School%20Transitions... )

The school district's needs are real, and they will not go away with continued derision and finger-pointing. Action at some point in the near future is inevitable, and concerns only escalate in severity and cost with delayed decision. Our kids and our community are both deserving and worth your YES on April 8th.

-- Lori Craig, Marshall
Business owner
Citizen's Advisory Committee member