Letters to the editor

opinions

October 1, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Dear editor,
I know that our children and those who teach them need new schools. I also know that we “cannot afford” to turn our backs on $25,000,000 from the state fund we have contributed to over the years, since it is very likely we will never have access to that money again.
A week ago I was solidly in the YES camp, but last weekend we celebrated the Bowlus while looking at the school district’s future plans for the facility.
At first I was confused.  If we want to build a new structure on the edge of town to accommodate technology, why are we designating a 50 year old building as a technology center? Why are we moving the fine arts out and supplanting them with computer courses only tangentially connected to the arts?
I found the answer on the district’s website (http://www.usd257.org/page/116596_3) in a reference to Senate Bill 155 (http://www.ksde.org/Agency/DivisionofLearningServices/CareerStandardsandAssessmentServices/CSASHome/CareerTechnicalEducation%28CTE%29/Initiatives/SenateBill155.aspx). This bill provides added state funds to a school district for Career and Technical Education. It also provides funds for the transportation of students to a center for such instruction. Obviously, in order to qualify for the funding, the district will need to convince the state that the courses to be taught at the Bowlus are, in fact, Career and Technical Education.  I think that will be easy. They are.
It will be much harder to convince a court reviewing the Bowlus will that they are arts, especially fine arts.
I like technology and spend a lot of time with it. I have also been involved with music all my life, been heavily invested in dramatic arts, and am now working on gaining proficiency in the graphic arts. 
Art and technology are different. They employ different parts of the brain. They “feel” different to do. How many members of the Kansas City Symphony would buy into the idea that in “the 21st century” art is made with a computer?
The Bowlus makes Iola special. It is irresponsible to put it in jeopardy by trying to convince the community that Career &Technical Education is fine art. It is also insulting to the intelligence of our citizens.
The school district has a choice and very little time to make it. Either rethink the plans for the Bowlus, or kiss the bond issue (and the $25,000,000) good bye.
I hope they choose wisely.
Mary Ann Dvorachek,
Iola, Kan.

Dear editor,
People have asked me for my opinion on the upcoming school bond issue.
The short answer is that after reviewing the FACTS of the proposal, i.e., cost, financing, location, transportation, age of current facilities, the technological explosion, and the need for Iola to grow, I intend to vote for both the 1/2 cent sales tax and the bond issue!
Although I can’t afford it financially any easier than most of us, I don’t think we can afford not to take advantage of this opportunity. It won’t come around again.
The long answer is too long to address in this letter, but I will say that from my experience as a Superintendent of Schools that I have full faith in, and respect for, our Board of Education. In my 15 years as a superintendent, I never had one board member who didn’t take his or her job and responsibilities seriously. Their first priority was always the welfare and education of all of the students for whom they were responsible. Their next major concern was their responsibility to the taxpayers of the district to find the most economical way to finance the educational program at the lowest possible cost. Sometimes I think they felt like an astronaut riding a rocket to the moon knowing that the rocket was built with parts provided by the lowest bidder!
Boards of education are required to meet once a month. The USD 257 Board has met twice a month since the Bowlus Fine Arts building became a part of our system 50 years ago. The Bowlus is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The time board members spend on regular board business can be excessive, but when they’re also dealing with a bond issue of the magnitude of this one, they can almost be overwhelmed. They have added time to meet with various committees concerning programs, sites, security, health, activities, food service, teacher groups, administrators, architects, financial consultants, construction managers, etc., before they, as a board, decided to put it to a vote by the patrons.
I’m confident that the Board considered many different alternatives before settling on this option as the best solution to most of the problems they’re dealing with in expansion of fine arts courses that are so necessary to the support of today’s fine arts performances. Tom Bowlus was a great asset to our school district and our community!
And Board of Education members are not doing all of this for the money — a member of a board of education in Kansas is one of the only remaining elected positions that is unpaid!
Support the children in your district and your Board of Education — I am!
Vote FOR the bond issue AND the 1/2 cent sales tax.
Don Bain,
Retired Supt. USD 257
Iola, Kan.

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