I am writing this letter in response Superintendent Leipart’s call to the community to ask for ideas on how we can alleviate the overcrowding problems that our elementary schools are having. How about this for starters? Stop closing elementary schools and quit stopping other ones from opening!
About a year and a half ago, the administration/school board decided, against overwhelming public opinion, to close Pine River Elementary School.
In the few years before that, the administration and school board fought tooth and nail against the opening of local charter schools. They succeeded in keeping Midway School in Gleason closed and (thankfully, given our current situation) failed in stopping Maple Grove from opening.
So that brings us to today, where we have school system, who over the past few years has closed one elementary school and has kept another one from opening. And now they are trying to move our 10 year olds into the middle school because of overcrowding. I find it unfathomable that a group of administrators who have been closing and fighting to keep closed our elementary schools was too shortsighted to see the current situation coming. It’s not like Merrill has seen a huge influx of new elementary school children over the past couple of years. As far as I know the population of our city has been the same for decades.
I am not sure if somebody has planned this from the beginning or if our administrators are just incredibly inept when it comes to doing their jobs. Either way, I am not happy with the current state of how our school system is being run, and I am relatively sure that I am not the only one.
Dear parents, tax payers of the Merrill School District,
Recently the administration has proposed moving all of the 5th graders from our elementary schools over to the Prairie River Middle School. The school board wisely voted to wait on this decision for a few reasons.
Once again, the board is being asked to approve a proposal with no cost analysis on this proposal. They have told us in our meetings that moving the 5th graders will not cost us anything, this is not practical. We know there will be additional transportation costs, transferring teachers, counselors and reconfiguring classrooms and more. We were told we would save $160,000 by closing the Pine River School when in fact it cost us well over $700,000. The administration was off by $860,000. We do not want to make this costly mistake again.
The Prairie River Middle school currently has to begin lunches at 10:30 in the morning to accommodate the current children in the school. By adding the 5th graders, how early will lunches have to start?
Our overall enrolment is declining. The administration the past year has decreased the number of students at Washington and Kate Goodrich School, but increased the students at Jefferson school which has created this over-crowding. The finance director, in completing a study for the Finance and Human Resources Committee, found by moving 10 to 12 kids our overcrowding could be resolved. With the overall decline in enrollment the problem could be resolved permanently; but that option has not been presented as an alternative. As a board member, I try to look at what is best for the students, parents, and teachers while keeping everything in our budget.
We invited parents to comment on their thoughts and insights during the last school board meeting, as to the move. Overwhelmingly, 100% of the parents and citizens at the meeting were against the idea. I would hope that these individuals concerns and questions would not be disrespected and tossed aside for an unplanned and truly unbudgeted whim of the administration.
It is not shocking to me the same people that advocated to close Pine River School and created this mess are the same ones now that wish to disrupt our district again. The administration has repeatedly made costly mistakes in our district, shuffling our children like cattle to meet some foolish agenda. This makes things harder on the students, parents and teaching staff. If we spent more time on education and our great teaching staff, and less time on seating arrangements our students and district would be better off.
MAPS Board Member
I have to take issue with a couple of comments made in Mr. Diagostine’s letter from last week. He refers to “the Liberal Media,” implying a liberal bias to present day reporting of the news. There are many that use that term but it does not reflect reality. Eighty percent of all TV stations, radio stations and newspapers are owned by six companies. Their respective boards of directors include many of the same individuals creating, essentially, one company. But all six individual corporate entities donate heavily to conservative politicians and organizations. Referring to “the Liberal Media” is simply parroting politician’s claims that do not reflect reality. Very common among FOX viewers.
In one sentence, Mr. Diagostine reflects on the fact that the U.S. is poised to become the world’s largest energy producers while having what he claims to be an anti-energy president. President Obama has overseen the vast expansion of domestic energy production which put the U.S. in this position. But not without a terrible price.
The “environmental wackos,” as he describes them, are up in arms because Obama exempted the fracking industry from key positions of seven major pieces of environmental legislation (Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, and the Emergency Planning and the Community Right To Know Act) to reach these production levels. Conservative politicians would call this “removing unnecessary government regulation.” It is instead endangering every man, woman and child within 50 miles of every fracking drill site. It reverses the environmental gains of the last 40 years in the name of profit. The “Liberal Press” apparently missed these violations.
Conservative corporate interests have led the disinformation onslaught while the legislators they buy have led a major obstruction effort to make sure the Senate and president can achieve little, if anything, at the expense of the people. We have all watched this play out recently in Washington. The conservative element in our government leads by tantrum and misinformation. They would prefer to force millions into poverty and deny them health care rather than let the president be seen as succeeding at anything. Beside being ideological idiocy, it is blatant racism.
I have my issues with the Liberal side as well. The fracking industry deregulation is a prime example. But Democrats have, in general, a much better grasp of the function and necessity of government. They do not attack the people’s right to vote. They do not attach women. They do not attack civil rights and workers’ rights. They do not abandon the poor, the elderly, and minorities. They do not blame teachers and other public servants for the incompetence of elected officials. They do not put dollars over people. Republicans do these things. Walker and Tiffany here in Wisconsin; Johnson and Duffy in Washington, have all done the bidding of their corporate masters over the good of the people. That is not the way our government was created. We cannot afford to live this way.
I am a concerned parent who is adamantly opposed the sending our 5th graders to the Prairie River Middle School; for reasons which I stated at the meeting. I attended the MAPS School Board meeting on Oct. 21 hoping to get a better understanding of both sides of the issue in order to either solidify my stance or be convinced of the necessity for change. What I witnessed was a fiasco and an embarrassment to our school district and community. I was appalled at the dysfunction of the meeting, especially as members treated each other with disdain and disrespect. I feel there was deliberate grandstanding on both sides of this important issue. Are these the characteristics and behaviors we choose to exhibit as leaders?
It seemed to me that the administrators were only sharing the “pro” side of moving the 5th graders to the middle school while dismissing any reservations or concerns as “emotional” in nature. This issue has been on the table for several years; yet there was no business plan as to how best to create this transition for our children. The only plan was to make a decision and only then create a committee to deal with the aftermath. This type of planning is backward and absurd.
I am very relieved that this proposal was voted down and I encourage all parents as well as concerned citizens to continue to be proactively involved in decisions such as these. Our kids and our community deserve better!
Letter to the Editor,
I attended the Oct. 21 Board of Education meeting and was shocked when they voted on moving the 5th graders from elementary school to the middle school. They didn’t even consider how the community of Merrill felt about it.
If you ask me, certain board members don’t really care about our children at all. This is a huge decision for the school district and it needs to be taken seriously. They wanted things all said and done that night.
We as parents and as a community cannot let them choose what’s best for our children without having a meeting with parents and community members coming together to discuss concerns, ask questions, and hear other options that might be available before any more votes are taken. We certainly need more than three minutes to say what we need to say.
We simply cannot take a child and move them to the middle school when children 10 years old are not ready for that environment.
We have to let our kids be kids. They have to play and run. Children are expected to grow up so fast in today’s society, we certainly don’t need to push them into something they are not ready for.
This change would affect every child when they go into 5th grade. So if parents are opposed to this, we need to come together and discuss this issue.
It is said that Wisconsin has its own four seasons: “Almost Winter,” “Winter,” “Still Winter,” and “Road Construction.”
I think that we are now in the “Almost Winter” season. It freezes at night, and pretty soon our children will go out for tricks or treats.
Children will also carry their UNICEF boxes to collect for other children, those who are in extreme need.
In Merrill, the money collected is ear-marked for the children in Syria. There are now over one million refugee children in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and other border countries of Syria.
From a recent UNICEF bulletin: “Four million children are now affected by the brutal conflict. In some areas, UNICEF is maintaining the entire water supply… UNICEF has helped mobilize what is now the largest humanitarian operation in history – supplying food, water, education, clothing and critical immunizations to families and children in Syria.”
In the U.S., we do not feel the seriousness of this crisis. We are so far removed from it. But let us give top priority to help the extremely needy Syrian children.
Please be generous when our children present their UNICEF boxes.
In communities outside Merrill, such as the greater Wausau area, the monies collected will go to help in the Syrian crisis, and the 150 other countries where UNICEF is active.
Town of Maine
As a concerned parent who is not in favor of sending our 5th graders to the middle school, I attended the MAPS school board meeting on Oct. 21. As reported by the Foto News, the board was to consider this move based on the recommendation of area administrators. Actually, the school board directed the administrators to present them with the benefits of this option – not the pros and cons, not the top three options, just reasons why this choice was the best and only viable choice.
It kept being emphasized that Jefferson Elementary is currently operating at 109% capacity, and that the extra space at Kate is meant to provide a separate area for art and music. It seems that extra space could easily be used as classroom space until the currently larger 3rd and 4th grade classes naturally move up to the middle school in a couple of years. Is it really necessary for students to have a separate room for a class they have for an hour a week? Also, there are still several families who are living within blocks of Kate Goodrich who are being forced to bus their children to Jefferson. If a few Jefferson families were to voluntarily choose to attend Kate, the overcrowding at Jefferson would be alleviated.
It was pointed out that when Pine River was closed following the 2011-2012 school year, those students were moved to Washington and other students were dispersed among the remaining two grade schools. It is important to note that although the board chose to close Pine River because it was too costly to maintain, it then dumped nearly a million dollars into upgrades and continued to maintain it as a pre-K facility. Wouldn’t it then be legitimate to consider sending our area kindergarteners to that newly-renovated learning center to alleviate grade school overcrowding? Pine River is meant for little learners; the middle school is not meant for 10-year-olds.
The administrators reported that there are currently 57 schools in the state with a grade 5-8. There are nearly 500 middle schools in the state. The fact that only about 10% of the state’s middle schools include 5th graders is a clear indicator that it is not the optimal placement. Parents were assured that 5th graders would be separated from the older students for their safety, which is an admission that it is not an appropriate placement.
The Foto News reported that a letter was sent out to parents two weeks prior to the board meeting and that collectively administrators received 12 responses. In fact, the letter was sent home on Friday, Oct. 11 leaving only one week for parents to react. The board meeting was also held during the popular Lighted Schoolhouse event. I would like to point out that I sent a letter to each board member as well as the superintendent and received only three responses out of 10.
The Foto News also reported that the board will revisit the issue at their next meeting on Nov. 17. What actually happened at the Oct. 21 board meeting is that one board member forced a vote that night, seemingly out of spite for another board member’s ideas. The motion to send our 10-year-olds to the middle school was VOTED DOWN on Oct. 21, so why would the issue be revisited at a later meeting?
I think everyone can agree that 10-year-olds are simply not physically, emotionally, or physiologically ready to be lumped in with 14- and 15-year-olds. Once a decision like this is made, it is nearly impossible to reverse. It is time to return to the “pride and excellence” era when decisions were made with the children at the core.
Kristin L. Van Der Geest