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Commentary: Menahga School building project misstatements

By Menahga School Board members

This letter is the second of two commentaries by Menahga School Board members.

Misstatement 3 – The growth is only a projection and the needs aren’t real. Many issues factored into the rejection of the prior bond referendums that started in 2009, but largely our community did not accept the projected growth estimates that we now have, and are facing into the future. Our community had never experienced the growth that we have experienced since then. At that point, we had a student population of roughly 700 and space was a major issue, but our population had been even less many years prior. Five years later we have a student population just short of 1,000, with growth estimates of at least 150 more kids in the next five years.

Make no mistake, the board and administration have not misled the voters on the growth or space needs of our school. Those community members with vast experience and who have served on the board and also previous building committees and projects, have warned us not to shortcut on the facility space needs. They had done so in the past, and look at where we are at now … their wisdom needs to be heeded! Our student population growth is real and expanding even more, and we need to act.

Misstatement 4 – If it wasn’t for open enrollment, we wouldn’t have to build. The district’s student growth is the result of resident growth. We have maintained roughly the same number of open enrolled students for the past nine years. In addition, we have capped open enrollment for the past three years in the elementary and in 2012 in the high school. However, during those three years of capped enrollment, our student population has grown by 130 students. We do not lose money on open enrolled students. We benefit from them and their presence in our school, and along with their families, they have been an asset to our district.

Misstatement 5 – The community hasn’t had a say in this project. As listed in the timeline in the Oct. 25 article in the Enterprise, the community has had several invitations to be involved. The building committee was made up of 22 members. However, this board is committed to making sure that every community member who requests to be involved can participate. It is important to understand that the board is legally obligated with the final decision, but your input is very important and may shape the final outcome of the project. Following the election and assuming passage of the referendum, the board will determine a plan of action that will provide for community input and ideas on the prototype plan we have presented for the bond referendum. The bond request is for “up to a $15.7 million building/remodeling project,” and also has the debt restructuring component, but the scope of the building/remodeling project can still be adjusted after a passage of the bond referendum.

Misstatement 6 – Those who oppose the project have not been heard or their ideas accepted. We have a democratic process in place for how our board operates. No one individual can get his/her way on every issue. Community has spoken directly to the board also about their thoughts, and that input has been received. A decision by the board is achieved by a collective vote, in which the majority moves the item forward; the right to disagree is part of that process. Once the board by majority approves any request that come before it, that vote becomes the expressed will of the board. The only way an opposing view is entertained or approved, is if the opposition can gather enough support and votes, to persuade the others to move in their direction. Throughout this planning and ultimate submission of the bond referendum to the voters, the majority has always supported it, and those who have not, have been heard and given extended time to express their opinions and ideas.