The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
I have lived in the La Harpe School District all of my life and have worked as both Unit Secretary and Board Secretary for a long time.
As an employee of the district, I have had the opportunity to obtain a considerable amount of information about school district reorganization over the past few years.
After considering the various reorganization options that are available, I believe the proposed school district convergence will provide the best educational opportunities for the students of the Carthage, Dallas, and La Harpe Districts in three ways:
1) it will provide expanded opportunities for high school students by creating a new district with representation from each of the three unit districts,
2) it will allow each district to maintain local control over the future of their existing elementary school and,
3) it will provide long term financial stability.
The first way is to provide expanded opportunities, including both curriculum and extracurricular programs for our high school students so they will be better prepared for college or the work force.
We have great teachers but our curriculum at La Harpe has been steadily struggling for several years.
We are able to offer only one section of many of our courses and this makes it difficult for students to take some of the courses they want or need to.
For example, it is becoming more difficult for our incoming freshman students to plan a four year course of study due to the growing uncertainty of what courses can be offered.
This is a concern that two parents have just recently mentioned to me following freshman registration.
The one father told me that we talk about the "students" not having a strong curriculum available, but when he put his son's name in that statement it really brought it home very quickly.
Our guidance counselor, Ann Logan, talked about the same problem at one of the community meetings at La Harpe.
Several parents of college students have mentioned that students from larger school districts already have taken courses in high school that their children are having to take in college.
The President of Carl Sandburg College spoke at one of the community meetings and said that some students from smaller high schools have to take remedial courses when first coming to college to be ready for the regular college curriculum.
Tuition has to be paid for these courses but no college credit is given for them.
The second way is to maintain local control of our elementary schools and be able to improve them. We would be able to keep control of our PK-8 grades in each district.
Each elementary district board and the voters would make the decisions concerning the elementary schools.
We would be able to concentrate on making our elementary/junior high school the very best that it can be while also doing the same for our high school students in a setting that provides them with greater opportunities.
Dallas Elementary is a good example of this since they tuition their high school students to another district.
They have a wonderful elementary school with state of the art technology that is integrated into their curriculum.
With some changes to our high school building in La Harpe, we could have our students in a handicapped accessible building and not have to take them out for Art, breakfast, lunch, music, to the library, or PE in the high school gym. It would be a huge help to both students and teachers.
And last but certainly not least, is to provide long term financial stability.
I have seen what it takes to try to balance the budget. I have watched board members have to make some very difficult decisions that they didn't want to have to make to cut expenses.
This has included cutting the number of employees, the number of classrooms, and many activities.
It is not only sad for the employees who are cut, but for the students who will miss the opportunity of having these talented teachers in the classroom.
Conditions would be worse if it wasn't for the dedicated teachers and staff that we have to carry on in this difficult situation.
The La Harpe board will not address deficit spending by reducing programs and staff this spring, but has already passed a resolution to sell working cash bonds or borrow funds from other sources which will be repaid through a tax increase just to meet operating expenses.
Declining student enrollment and declining EAV's are the two main contributors to financial distress for a school district.
This decline has led to financial struggles for both La Harpe and Dallas and student enrollment and EAV's are declining in Carthage.
This situation can impact a district very quickly.
We have a chance right now to make a difference in the future of our children's and grandchildren's education by voting for the convergence as a first step in the process.
I feel that we must not pass up this opportunity.
If this referendum should fail, the same petition cannot be counted on again for two years unless one of the districts is on a financial or academic watch list.
Our students should not have to wait that long.
I want to add that there are some who believe a single county wide school is a preferred option.
While this may eventually happen, we believe it would be very difficult for a seven district consolidation to pass in the near future.
We also do not want our high school students to be deprived of greater opportunities until a county school might become a reality.
Please vote "Yes" for Convergence on March 21st.
The Case Against Gambling
Although it is not really anyone's business how others spend their money, indirectly it affects all of us.
We probably all know people who have lost their business, home, family or all three because they could not resist the temptations of gambling.
Many people start out penny ante with Bingo or a lottery ticket. When they win, the compulsion grabs them and their bets escalate into a huge problem.
I remember entering a contest called Games of Skill in the Sporting News magazine, which involved picking pro football games for a season.
Anyway, not bragging of course, I got fifth in the nation and won $500.00.
You get the idea that you are some kind of expert, while in reality, as proven in other years, there is a lot of luck involved.
That is why many times an amateur wins the World Series of Texas Hold'Em Poker, which seems to be sweeping our nation.
You are confronted daily with this game on many TV stations, plus the promises to learn how to play like an expert on line.
Then you have our governor trying to introduce Keno and more casinos and lotteries are developed all the time.
Gambling came to the forefront last week when eight meat packing workers from Nebraska won the $365 million Powerball jackpot.
They were definitely smiling and happy. However, the other approximately 180 million people, standing in long lines, were not.
If you've ever been to Vegas you see a lot of sad faces.
It is disheartening to see many shabbily-dressed people feeding the one-armed bandits all day.
Of course, some people have done a lot of good with their winnings, such as contributing to the community and religious causes.
However, many others have lost everything by spending foolishly.
Everyone knows what you won and many want a part of it. People have been killed or committed suicide after winning the lottery.
So what is the alternative to gambling?
Under an investment plan, the Nebraska Powerball winners $15.5 million, after accepting the lump sum and paying tax, could produce a yearly income of about $500,000 a year, without lowering the principal.
This is why some of us feel that it is imperative for at least most Americans to have some of their Social Security money invested in the stock market, if they are going to have an affordable retirement.
Many people say that most people do not understand the market.
They do not need to understand the Stock Market. All they would have to do is put their money in an index fund of a few hundred of the top companies in the U.S. and let it ride.
The odds are much better, than even, that your money would multiply several times by the time you were ready for it at retirement (in 10-40 years).
When more money is spent on gambling than on all the schools and churches in the U.S., it becomes everyone's problem.