Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Struggle to Create a High School

by Pa Rock
Former Educator

At one time Missouri had literally thousands of little independent school districts, but with the move toward "consolidation" in the 1960's many of those little districts disappeared as they were combined into larger ones.   The argument was that larger school districts could offer many more opportunities to students, particularly at the high school level.  My own alma mater, Noel High School of Noel, Missouri, ceased to exist immediately after my class of twenty-two strong graduated in May of 1966.

I think that for several years the argument of "bigger is better" was sound, at least to a point, but based on numerous personal observations over the past couple of decades, bigger now appears to mean more complicated and problematic.   Some areas are beginning to ponder the notion of deconsolidation.

West Plains, the community where I currently reside, has an odd educational setup.  The West Plains School District includes elementary and middle schools, and what, by all accounts, is a fairly decent high school.  But the area in and around West Plains is also home to five independent K-8 school districts.  When students graduate from eighth grade in those independent districts, they may choose to attend any of the area high schools, but most obviously opt for the closest - West Plains High School - and become Zizzers!  The little independent school districts must then pay tuition to send their older students to the high schools of their choice.

I live in the Richards R-5 School District, a small K-8 outfit whose main facility is physically located within the city of West Plains.  Richards is trying to pass a bond issue to build its own high school, something that would result in the current West Plains High School losing approximately 150 students.  The new Richards school would be named "West Plains North High School."

According to the political sages with whom I play pinochle on Wednesday nights, this is at least the third time that Richards has tried to pass this proposal, and it is routinely defeated by the older citizens who are adamantly opposed to any tax increase and would receive no direct benefit from a new high school.  This time there has also been quite a bit of hostility within the community with several expensive banners expressing pro-votes being defaced with spray paint.  The people opposing the new school have two basic arguments:  they don't want to see a raise in property taxes,  and they want the Richards graduates to continue to have a choice as to where they go to high school.

I went to the polls and voted for the new school this morning, for a couple of reasons.  First off, I didn't care for the vandalism and thought that if the present school structure is producing that type of individual, the system could do with a shake up.   I don't like bullies.   Second, as stated previously, the concept of consolidation feels to me like it has run its course and the time might be right to make things a little simpler.

My polling place was at the Richards School itself.  There was a steady stream of voters entering the gym where the voting was taking place, many of them young family types.  Outside of the gym two burly men sat next to a commercial tow truck that was festooned with a "Vote No" commercial banner, but they did not seem to be attracting much interest.  Outside there was also an area vividly set off with clusters of balloons where a group of people were preparing and giving out free food - burgers, hot dogs, popcorn, drinks, etc.  The workers there appeared to be teachers and their families, and they were obviously supporting the "Vote Yes" faction.  I stopped and visited with a couple of people at the food area after I voted - and wished them well in their efforts.

To be completely cantankerous, I also voted in favor of stripping the county of one of its sales tax revenues.    Sales taxes are regressive and hurt the poor, so that one was a no-brainer for me.

I may not strap on a gun to go buy groceries, but if its election day - I vote - and you can't get more American than that!

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