School consolidation a smart route
To the Editor:
I’m a member of the Bessemer Area School Board. I support consolidation of our schools.
Our population is declining. The source for this information is from the Daily Globe’s 2013 Community Resource Guide.
On page 6, census information states Gogebic’s population was estimated at 16,084 in 2012, down 2.1 percent from the 2010 census of 16,247, down from 17,370 people in the 2000 census.
Other state studies estimate population will continue to decline in Gogebic County until 2020, if not longer.
As a result, we have declining enrollment in our schools. State education records show Gogebic and Ontonagon County schools had 7,476 students in 1975. In 2013, there were 2,424. That’s a 68 percent drop in student enrollment.
With declining population and declining enrollment, there isn’t enough money from our tax base and state funding to run our schools properly.
Let’s stop the brain drain. Today’s technology offers remote employment possibilities. Our consolidated schools could attract and retain families who want to raise their children in our beautiful area with 21st century resources.
As things stand today, our schools don’t have adequate staff, offer inadequate curriculum and do it all with aging buildings and assets.
Our school boards can’t keep up with their bills, prompting school boards like Bessemer’s to request highly questionable, multi-million dollar bonds to reduce deficit spending without improving curriculum.
Stop gap measures won’t fix the problem. Parent-Teacher Organization fundraisers for teacher’s aides and classroom technology is no substitute for consolidating resources so we can pay teachers living wages and offer full curriculum for all of our students.
Bessemer’s superintendent of schools, an Ontonagon resident, claims our school is soaring academically. I disagree. In fact, the gap between the children that can and the children that can’t is growing wider each year.
Special needs children were asked to leave our district, telling them that Bessemer couldn’t meet their needs. Ironically, with those students in Ironwood (and Bessemer’s part-time special needs instructor resigning to take full-time employment in Ironwood), Bessemer’s test scores soar and our school board can boast of their “achievement.” Bravo.
In my view, our school board is a barrier to consolidation. Wakefield-Marenisco Schools have demonstrated consolidation can work. While they may have been frustrated through the process, they are now experienced in these matters. They will be constructive partners, along with the intermediate school district officials who are here to help.