I have over twenty years experience as an administrator or coach. To say I’ve had a few difficult conversations over that span would be an understatement. It just comes with the territory. One fundamental lesson I have learned through the years is that you’d better know your facts. More times than I care to remember, the person I’m having a conversation with has not taken the time to find out all sides and all of the facts. More times than I care to admit, I have been that person. It’s a lesson you learn thoroughly and it is long lasting.
Everything that has happened in the district over the past seven months has forced us to evaluate where we’re at and plan for where we want to be. I would like to stress the importance of two things that should always be considered as we go through this process. How many students do we have? What is best for them over the long-term? Ultimately, that should always be the bottom line.
Topics of discussion concerning these possible facility upgrades have ranged from needing to “Invest in the district’s long-term future” to “It’s awful expensive grain storage if we shut down or consolidate”. Motivated by these discussions and rumor mill, I’ve had a couple of patrons stop by my office and point out in no uncertain terms that a bond had no chance of passing. That’s fine, this is not my district, it’s yours and the majority need to do with it as they see fit. I serve at the pleasure of the Board of Education which in turn serve the majority interest within the district. Both of these visitors cited that declining enrollment is going to cause our schools to shut down or consolidate and any bond consideration is irresponsible. Again, my job is not to push one way or the other. My job is provide factual information for all patrons so that the majority can make that decision. These sidebar conversations aroused my curiosity so I decided to spend a little time doing some research.
Currently, we have a total of 122 (Hanover – 71; Linn – 51) 9-12 students on our enrollment forms in the district. If enrollment numbers stay consistent, in five years the district will have 129 (Hanover – 62; Linn – 67) 9-12 students. That number continues to increase and in ten years the district will have 178 (Hanover – 88; Linn – 90) 9-12 students. In ten years time, our enrollment numbers are going to increase 46%! What is even more encouraging is that these numbers will likely hold steady for the forseeable future from there.
This district is financially sound and our numbers are increasing. It’s exactly the position you want to be in going forward. Your school board and district staff have done a fantastic job in weathering the deep budget cuts that education suffered through a few years ago. USD #223 has survived when there were others that could not and is starting to thrive. This an incredible testament to the students, communities and staff. That’s something to celebrate and take pride in!
The prognosis is positive. Do we have our issues….absolutely. Are any of those issues we’re faced with something that is long-term…..not in the least. These current issues are only for a season. Again, it should always comes back to the numbers and what is best for our kids. Increasing numbers cure a lot of ills.
So there you have it…….a few more facts that you can arm yourself with no matter which side of the conversation(s) you fall on. Regardless of the facilities decisions looming in the near future it looks as if USD #223 will be around for quite some time yet. That is exciting news!
As always, my door is always open and I look forward to hearing from you. Everyone please enjoy your family and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.