Letter to the Editor

Do what is right for the children -- vote no on annexation

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dear NEVC patrons:

For 29 years my life was centered on the Schell City School. I was a teacher, counselor, and administrator there. My children attended and graduated there. My love for the children drove me to a lifetime involvement. I am honored to have been a part of that school. After NEVC was established, I was privileged to work there for two years as a counselor.

My concern for the children of Northeast Vernon County is passionate, and I would encourage you to go to the polls and vote against the proposition to annex the schools to Nevada. Nevada has a fine school system, and they will continue to meet their challenges and provide well for their students. Schell City and Walker can do the same for theirs.

When Schell City went through the first MSIP cycle, the people of the district, the school board, administration and staff worked tirelessly to meet the requirements, and we were successful. Schell City was accredited. Members of the community came in and built a building to house the art and music departments. When library facilities needed expanding to meet state requirements, the district patrons were there with hammers to put up an extension on the building. The district would not disintegrate under the demands of Missouri School Improvement. Together, administrators and staff wrote a five-year plan of improvement and received the support of the school board that satisfied state requirements. Walker's school went through the same trials that Schell City experienced.

When both districts reached a point when the two could not survive separately due to finances of one and the accreditation of the other, the boards and communities made the wise decision to join together as one district. The children's best interests were put ahead of personal feelings. In spite of the naysayers, the children accepted their new identity, and a new school came into being using the wise heads, the staffs, the boards, the talents and ideas of both districts. Today you have a very viable school, which is satisfactorily meeting the requirements of the Missouri Department of Education.

The state requirements for school districts are rigid and schools, large and small, across the state struggle annually to meet the APR standards. The requirements are the same for all schools. Some meet them and are accredited with distinction; some don't measure up, but have the opportunity to evaluate, write new plans, and continue.

Patrons can review their districts APR status on the DESE Web site. The current data reflects that NEVC met standards in math, attendance and graduation and did not meet communication arts. The same data reported for the Nevada Schools is attendance standards, met; communication arts, math and graduation, not met. I can assure you that administrators and staffs of both districts are working vigorously to meet those standards for the next year.

I know personally administrators and board of education members at NEVC, and I know they are dedicated, hard-working people who are giving their all for the district.

Parents, children need extra-curricular activities to balance their educational development and experience. Competition in music, speech, debate, athletics and other extra-curricular activities will be keen in Nevada due simply to the enrollment numbers. If your children make the teams, the drive to Nevada for practices, games, and arriving back at the school campus late in the evening and then having a drive to Schell City and Walker is going to limit the amount of participation for many students.

I currently work part-time in a small district (265 students, PK-12) near Springfield. We have several teachers who bring their children to our small school instead of having them attend schools in Strafford, Lebanon, and Marshfield. The feeling is the children have greater opportunities attending the district with 265 students rather than attending their larger schools. Yes, if they attended the larger school they would have much nicer facilities and varieties of equipment, they would have larger numbers of course offerings, and other amenities, but the personal and meaningful opportunities of the small school is more appealing to these professional people. The small school staff works with children on an individual basis more than larger schools that simply cannot. By the way, we have been "accredited with distinction" the past three years. Small schools work.

Small schools work. They are working every day throughout Missouri. My children are proud graduates of Schell City. Teresa graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia and made the Dean's list after graduating from Schell City in 1986 in a class of five, while AJ graduated from Central Bible College in Springfield. Teresa is vice president of merchandising for an import/export business in Bozeman, Mont. AJ is an associate pastor of a church in Taylor, Mich., a Detroit suburb. Schell City and Walker have many very successful graduates in all walks of life. School size, or community size, is not the most significant important factors in education. It is the quality of education, the personal interest and quality of staff and the opportunities for the individual child that must be considered.

As a parent or guardian of small children, I would ask you to consider, and many of you already have, the long rides that will be imposed upon very young children in some very early hours of the day. This appears to me to be very unnecessary and very unfair to the children. By the time they arrive at school after getting on a bus at 6:30-7 a.m., will they be able to do their best learning?

Northeast Vernon County, your most important investment in life is the children with whom you have been entrusted. Their lives, their future, their well-being must be your utmost concern and dedication. I will trust you, the voters of the Northeast Vernon District, to do what is right for your children. I will trust you, the voters, to do what is in the best interest of the children of the district. I will trust you, the voters, to lay aside personal prejudices, personal grudges and personal wills, and do what is in the educational interests of the children in these small communities.

What you do in the polling booth on Nov. 2, will have a life-long impact on the children of the R-1 District.

Nancy Fagan Black,