Note: While I have finished my tenure at The Kenmare News, I have moved my weekly "Fresh Eyes" column to this blog. Seems I can't let go of this writing opportunity--I hope you follow me here each week!
Readers of this column may have noticed that while I often express my opinion about various community events and activities, I have remained silent about the $14 million building project proposed for Kenmare High School.
I’m breaking that silence today, the day of the special election.
As a reporter for The Kenmare News, I wanted to remain objective in my writing about the proposal, knowing this would be a story to follow for weeks and months.
However, Marvin Baker has that task now, so here is what I think.
I think if you are of voting age and live within the school district boundaries, you must go exercise your right to vote today, on these issues: should the school district increase its level of indebtedness and should the school district take on a $14 million construction project?
You can agree or disagree with the school district’s stand on this, but go put that view in writing. The polls are open until 7 pm tonight at Kenmare High School—make that one of your stops today.
I also think approving the bond issue and building the addition are the right steps for the school district and community to take, even with the tax burden associated with the project.
Believe me, I understand there is more than one side to this issue. And as the only non-school district individual who attended ALL the committee meetings, regular board meetings and special board meetings centered on this discussion during the past year, along with two of the three public meetings, I can tell you every side of this issue has been suggested, debated, hypothesized, examined, considered, pondered and reviewed.
I do not always agree with members of this school board and their actions and decisions, but I respect the process and procedures followed by the board AND the men and women who choose to put themselves in these positions and accept the responsibility of serving.
Regarding the $14 million proposed building project, they have taken that responsibility seriously.
Oh, the discussions have not been perfect. This board is not in agreement on the proposal, as has already been reported in The Kenmare News. At times through the past year, every single board member and administrator present has voiced doubts, questions or concerns about elements of this proposal.
However, they have taken time with this matter. They have looked at a great deal of data and anecdotal information provided by the construction management company hired to assess the district’s building needs, and closely studied four options provided by those consultants.
In fact, the Kenmare School Board took a significant step in even hiring an outside construction management company in order to start with a more complete and objective picture of the district than they could ever generate themselves.
In those initial meetings with Kraus-Anderson representatives, I can tell you the engineers made statements that bothered and even offended board members and administrators—mostly statements related to student and classroom needs, as opposed to sports program needs.
Yes, the discussion started more than a year ago with an interest in building a second gymnasium. And, yes, the district needs that space, but the continual questions and conversations led to the final proposal which includes so much more than a basketball court and bleachers.
The proposal before you today includes a vision to provide high quality education for children in the Kenmare School District for at least the next 50 years.
Some of you are thinking about your own children who attend the school now and will graduate soon, perhaps before any building project would be completed.
Some of you are thinking about the increased taxes you would pay for the next 20 years should the bond issue be approved today.
Some of you are thinking the school district is asking for one more thing, again.
And if you’re thinking about those things, you may vote “no” in the election.
However, despite your own relationship to the Kenmare schools right now, remember the fate of a school and its community—and that community’s residents--are inexorably linked.
The school is one of the most visible reflections of any community.
The school also lays a foundation for the future generations of leadership and prosperity in a community.
For the sake of YOUR future in Kenmare—and the futures of your children, grandchildren and, yes, great-grandchildren—I urge you to vote “YES” in the Kenmare School District special election today, November 19, 2013.