all benefit. My grandparents and ….
all benefit. My grandparents and parents supported public education, and I have benefited from having a good public education.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the district over the course of the next five years? As a school board member how would you address them?
Funding is the biggest challenge. We must be able to attract, hire and keep the best teachers, fund the materials and technology for the programs, and keep our facilities up-to-date. Based on the way our schools currently are funded, rural districts like ours fall short particularly when it comes to facilities because the investment needed mainly falls on us. As a board member, I make sure I’m informed about how school funding actually works (or doesn’t work) and that I’m voting for state legislative candidates who are going to work for us.
Do you support the $39.9 million referendum to renovate and expand the high school and why do you feel this way?
Yes – I do support this. Here’s why:
• We’re trying to provide a modern curriculum that prepares our students so they can make it in their chosen direction post-graduation. That includes having the programming materials and technology, best teachers and the right facility spaces to deliver our curriculum, which is a STEAM-based curriculum (science-technology- engineering-art-math). Today’s curriculum is not a 1970’s curriculum because that will not meet the needs of today’s employers and entrepreneurs.
• We’ve done the due diligence to make a good decision including getting input from district residents and professional expertise. The proposed plan takes an old building and makes it more useable with remodeling and repurposing. For example, spaces that no longer work as they are currently designed (like the current Red/White Theater) would be remodeled into useful space for the library expansion. Since we still need a usable theater – the replacement theater would be moved to the west end of the building.
• This community needs to remain economically viable. Every week I open the Shopper and Star News and see several pages of ads for jobs. Soon two new grocery/gas centers are going to open and need workers. The pay for all these positions is average, but it’s not high enough for people to afford to commute to Medford to work. We’re short workers. The workers have to come from somewhere, but without affordable, livable housing here, and a high school facility that no longer matches a modern curriculum, why would they? Many communities around the region have upgraded their high schools and brought them into the 21st century. Medford isn’t a draw despite the employment openings. Young workers and working families are looking for housing and quality school facilities and can find what they need in communities that are making the investment to attract workers. The tax base of our community depends on attracting and keeping families. Up-to-date public school facilities are key in the future economic viability of our rural community and area.
• Businesses in the area support this referendum. Big and small businesses recognize that the timing is right to do this, not just because we have a labor shortage but because the cost to borrow the money is at an all time low. Post COVID, the economy is likely to change and the cost to do what is being proposed would be increasingly more expensive and the needs will not go away. The cost only increases the longer we delay.
• When you invest in people of any age, they will up their game. Modernizing our school facilities is an investment in our youth and working families, all of which instills pride, and inspires and motivates for success. What better way is there to support our youth than to invest in their future success? All our futures depend on the success of our youth.
What can the school district do within budgetary limitations to attract and retain quality educators and staff?
We must remain competitive in terms of salary and benefits, which is tough to do given the state funding limitations. Act 10 created a competitive environment for hiring teachers, a situation that actually hurts rural schools like ours. New teachers are looking for not only competitive pay and benefits, they want to teach for a district that supports the curriculum with best practice teaching materials, technology and up-to-date facilities. With fewer young people choosing the teaching profession, the pool of applicants has shrunk and they’re going elsewhere – where they find up-to-date facilities, community support and housing.
How do you feel the school district can be more responsive to the needs of the community in regard to setting the school calendar?
By state law, the school board can’t start school before Sept. 1 and must complete a certain number of teaching minutes throughout the year. Local school boards do not have much flexibility. We can exercise local control in setting our holiday and other breaks, but that is about it. To have school start date flexibility will require voters to elect state legislators who will pass new legislation that allows for local control.