To the Editor:
In October, a group of citizens in the Bessemer and Wakefield-Marenisco school districts filed a request to begin consolidation proceedings with our state board of education.
The state board has recently approved the request to allow circulation of petitions and a ballot in 2014.
I’m not speaking on behalf of Bessemer Area Schools. But, as a citizen, I support their efforts. Consolidation is a smart choice because our schools currently have inadequate offerings, ranging from shortcomings in special education to literacy, to science and technology. It’s a long list, but some classes, such as shop, haven’t been offered for years.
When you fairly examine the details, to claim, “Bessemer’s schools can do it alone,” is naive. There simply isn’t the money or academic resources to properly serve all of our students.
For example, claims that smaller districts give students an advantage is not true when our district cannot afford to hire additional teachers to split large individual classes, such as the Washington fourth grade. Consolidating our resources will create an improved academic support system for all of our students.
We have options, and voters get it. The Bessemer school bond proposal failed by nearly two to one this past May because voters understood a $7 million tax to clean up deficits and repair obsolete buildings does nothing to remedy our academic shortcomings. Any similar bond proposal in 2014 probably faces the same fate.
Finally, there are doomsday claims that consolidation is irresponsible. Such talk assumes a consolidated school board will conduct business as partisans, not partners.
It is realistic to expect a newly formed, consolidated school board will be talented, committed to excellence and ready to collaborate with common purpose and common sense. Expect school board decisions that put the education of all our children first.
Be optimistic. If consolidation is approved, we can expect our new district will receive a portion of the state’s $5 million transition fund. We can expect each community will keep a school building open. We can expect programs that create improved multi-tiered support systems for all of our students, programs that could include an early childhood education center, preparation for the trades, a focus on technology, an early middle college, and community education for adults.
Kim A. Wright