From: Darrell Downs
There is an old saying that “no good deed goes unpunished,” and today this seems relevant to District 861.
With area voters’ generous support of millions in referenda for operational and technology spending, they’re about to be punished with the closure of Madison, W-K, and Rollingstone elementary schools. The School Board is sounding a full retreat from small and centrally located schools – because it claims they’re “unaffordable” – while at the same time, it is angling for another referendum of $90 million.
Sadly, the School Board’s understanding of “affordability” depends on what it can gather at the ballot box to fund the middle and the high schools. Affordability is more than that.
Can we afford to have elementary-aged children spend more idle and unhealthy time on buses, for which their parents will pay again in added busing costs?
Can we afford to have elementary-aged children in larger schools and larger classes where their distinct abilities and challenges are less recognizable by their teachers?
Can we afford to have parents of newly closed schools depart from the district to pursue a private school education, home schooling, or online options?
Can we afford to pay for new schools in sensitive bluff lands or in valuable parkland spaces in central Winona? And further, can we afford to pay higher property taxes resulting from lower property values when the district abandons the neighborhood schools?
Can we afford to have a superintendent whose alleged plagiarism damages his credibility and that of his entire leadership team?
Can we afford to have School Board members that do not demand full information on the value of elementary schools before they vote to close them?
School leaders could benefit by setting some priorities before they act. Absent any priorities today, families with limited means have no choice but to endure, while wealthier families will migrate to smaller, community supported, and higher performing schools. I don’t think we can afford that kind of leadership.