The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Letters to Editor

Dear Editor,

I am Kevin Holland, I am a Montana Game Warden.

A friend and former co-worker of mine, Wes Long, is running for sheriff in an upcoming election.

I understand Wes' employment status in Montana was under question in the last election.

I would like to offer this letter to help clarify this employment in MT.

I worked with Wes for 5 years in the early 1990's. He and I were both Montana Game Wardens.

We worked many cases all across the State, we drafted legislation and provided technical support for many other wardens on an as needed basis.

During my time working with Wes he was hard working and dedicated to the resources.

I would offer my support to Wes in his bid for Sheriff.

Kevin Holland
Billings, MT

Dear Editor,

High School Convergence

We are grandparents to 7 great kids who are or soon will be attending school in the Dallas City and Nauvoo-Colusa districts. The move toward convergence of our high schools is a golden opportunity for these children and for our small town.

The young children will continue to attend the local grade school and the community will continue be involved in school activities.

A high school with a full curriculum, intramural clubs, and expanded athletic activities is a real draw for families looking for a place to settle, as is a local elementary school.

If the high school convergence fails, it won't be long before finances will cause the state to mandate consolidation of districts. In that case, local control and local elementary education will end.

Soon to be on a fixed income, we are very aware of tax increases. A new school inevitably leads to a tax increase. However, taxes will go up regardless of convergence, perhaps even higher in order to provide for 3 schools instead of one.

To have all that expense and no expanded curriculum is a real pity. Think about the increases we have seen with the current setup. To maintain 3 separate schools thus duplicating curriculum, faculty and transportation systems is terribly expensive.

To remain as we are means our teens traveling to an out of district school, no local control, shrinking enrollment, reduction in personnel resulting in reduction of opportunity for our young people.

Please vote yes for convergence. We are at a point where we can improve the lives of our families for years to come by doing so.

Fred and Pat Howe
Niota, Il

Dear Editor,

It is becoming increasingly more difficult for our schools to provide a quality education in the current scenario.

Dwindling resources result in dwindling opportunities and curriculum. State aid and local Equalized Accessed Valuation continue to decline while expenses increase.

While we are obligated to provide our teachers, staff, and administrators with reasonable wages and benefits, the revenue streams to do so continue to dry up. We must act now to take advantage of the economies of scale.

A teacher can teach 22 students more efficiently than 15 while not significantly lowering the quality of instruction. Now we are duplicating efforts in each of three school districts, but convergence will allow for a much more efficient use of our personnel's talents.

Convergence will allow for an expanded curriculum for all students: the average, the special needs, and the exceptional.

Vocational curriculum is sorely lacking in our schools and is very difficult to access. Students who desire to enter the work force after graduation from high school are not adequately prepared to do so.

The curriculum to ready our students to be productive, contributing members of society simply does not exist in our schools.

This area demands attention that no current school district can afford to give. Convergence will allow one larger school to address this need in a much more effective manner.

Convergence will allow for more diverse offerings and greater student participation in extracurricular activities: specialty clubs, music, performing arts, sports, intramural activities like chess, checkers, or scrabble tournaments.

The possibilities are endless. These types of activities round out the educational experience by providing skills in team work, dedication to a common goal, sacrifice, and self discipline. All of these are essential in building character, leadership abilities, and effective social skills.

It is certainly our communities responsibility to provide for the best possible educational opportunities for our children while living within the resources we have available.

Convergence will help us meet this responsibility. I support it, and I ask you to support it. Please vote yes on March 21st.

Unity for Opportunity!
John T. Huston,

Dear Editor,

When I attend meetings about the school district reorganization (convergence) of Dallas City, La Harpe, and Carthage, one of the questions that often comes up is, "Why can't we leave things just like they are"? Well, we can, but there are consequences. The harshest of these consequences is that our schools, at best, will only be able to offer a very basic high school curriculum. If our school enrollment continues to decline (as projected), the number of courses available to high school students will become fewer and the selection of courses will become more basic.

Why do I say this? As enrollment declines, dollars coming into the schools via State Aid decline.  The Carthage C.U.S.D. 338 FY 2006 budget shows that General State Aid supplies 48% of the income to the Education Fund and that receipts from local taxes supply 31%. State Aid is calculated by a formula that includes student attendance. When fewer students attend, fewer state dollars come to the schools. Historically, when school boards deal with fewer dollars, they look for ways to reduce expenses. This usually means fewer classes in the elementary grades, fewer courses offered in the high schools, and fewer staff people employed. This scenario doesn't suggest that we can expect things to stay just like they are even without reorganization.

Realistically, the hope of a better future and more opportunities for our students education is a cloudy, if not dim, one without approving the school district reorganization (convergence) that will be on the March 21st ballot.

That school reorganization item on the March 21st ballot, if passed, will a) form a high school of 400-500 students which can offer a higher quality high school curriculum than any of our current school districts can afford to offer, b) maintain local control and identity of our elementary schools, and c) will provide for long term financial stability with a moderate property tax increase.

Convergence of these three school districts can be a turning point to a brighter future for our students and for our communities. I support it, and I ask you to support it. Please, vote yes on March 21st.

Unity for Opportunity,
Walter S. Swearingen,

Dear Editor,

On March 21st, the voters of the Carthage, Dallas City, and La Harpe school districts have the opportunity to advance the educational opportunities for the high school students in our communities.

The decision to converge three separate high schools into one combined school is not an easy one. It is a deeply emotional issue that is tied to our personal high school experience. I presume that most of the voters in our districts were graduates of either a one-room school house or one of the current high schools.

I, too, have a long connection with and deep fondness for small school districts. I am a graduate of La Harpe High School and have been employed by the La Harpe school district for 13 years as high school counselor.

Prior to coming to La Harpe, I worked in three other rural school districts. Small schools provide staff the luxury of knowing each and every student by name. The personal relationship we have with our students facilitates their willingness to ask for help when needed and greatly reduces discipline problems.

Research consistently demonstrates that students tend to learn better in classrooms with smaller numbers of students.

Why, then, would we want to look at combining students from three communities into one larger high school?

Quite simply, it is because our small high schools have reached the point where we cannot individually prepare our students to succeed in today's world.

Any parent of a school aged child can easily see that the education that students receive today is vastly different from that which was received even a generation ago.

Technological advances require students to know much more in order to succeed in today's labor market.

In order for students to graduate with the requisite skills and knowledge, we have pushed material that used to be taught in high school into the junior high.

Minimum requirements to enter college and the work force are much higher today than they were for the parents of our students.

While the requirements of the labor market continue to evolve, the curriculum that we offer in our small schools is stagnant or has declined.

Each year that a class offering is cut or textbooks and computers are not replaced to due financial constraints, the less prepared our students are to compete in college and the labor market.

Within our school district, financial considerations must take precedence over student need in determining which courses and the number of sections of each course that will be offered from year to year. Many academic and vocational courses that were once offered every year are now offered on alternate year.

We also have more teachers who are either employed part-time or are teaching both junior high and high school courses. This has created a situation in which students cannot take courses either because they are no longer offered or because of scheduling conflicts.

There is no doubt that the number of course offerings in all areas (academic, vocational and fine arts) and the quality of those courses could be improved with the convergence into a larger high school with a stable financial base.

The convergence also offers a number of benefits for our staff, and thus, our students. In order to offer the widest curriculum possible for our students, our faculty members teach many courses.

It is not unusual for a teacher to have five different subjects in the six to seven period day that they teach.

When you consider the time it takes to prepare material for each class as well as the time needed for grading, our staff members are stretched very thin.

Teachers have also seen a steady rise in the number of students in their classes because we are combining students into fewer sections and offering fewer courses.

Even though we have a very dedicated staff, it would not be hard to imagine that a faculty member would exclude an enrichment activity or reduce the amount of written responses required of students purely because they do not have enough hours in their day to do everything.

Should our high schools converge, our faculty will have fewer classes to prepare for because they will be teaching multiple sections of the same classes. That would afford them the time to strengthen the curriculum they are teaching.

Given the requirements of No Child Left Behind legislation, it is incumbent upon every teacher to increase the rigor and relevance of their curriculum.

Teachers would truly be able to reach their fullest potential if their workload is made more reasonable and they are given adequate resources.

I could go on and on about the advantages of the proposal before us. I know there are concerns about taxes, transportation, and athletics.

But if we look strictly at the school's first priority - that of providing the youth of our communities the knowledge and skills they will need in order to be contributing members of society, I don't know how we cannot vote in favor of convergence.

It is imperative that we look past our differences and recognize this one commonality. Combined, we can do more for our children and grandchildren than any one school will be able to do on its own.

Ann Logan/La Harpe