WAPS: Don’t tie your hands by selling schools


From: Gabe Dybing

While I unenroll my student from irresponsible Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS), I watch with interest for those who do not share my opportunities. As reported by the Winona Post, at the last board meeting Superintendent Dahman “reproaches” board member Allison Quam for bringing to the table “rumors and innuendo” about WAPS’ plans to build a new school but abruptly changes his tune as soon as two other board members (Ben Barrato and Jay Kohner) express hearing the same. In contrast to Quam, though, these men are not “irresponsible.” Instead, suddenly, it is “irresponsible … not to consider that [a new building] is something that could happen.” What changed as soon as the speaker changed?

Well, it is clear that Dahman has a marked antipathy for Allison Quam, to the point of embarrassing unprofessionalism, since (unlike the majority of the School Board) she believes differently than he does and requests that he support his demands with data-driven research. And now let us consider Dahman’s sense of responsibility: “Any work that we do now should leave open any possibility, because it would be irresponsible for us to tie the hands of any group down the road.”

Oh, really? Then why are you selling the schools? The community has been asking only that you “mothball” these structures to allow time for a full comprehensive facilities plan. That’s all. It sure looks like, by fire-selling the schools and forbidding them to be used for any educational purposes, you are “tying some hands.”

As Jay Kohner wrote in an October 13, 2010, editorial, “Those in favor of consolidation are not making any claims about educational benefits that might result. Their only claim is that it could save money, but this has yet to be demonstrated in a well thought out proposal. Consolidation does not raise test scores, it does not keep class sizes at target size, it does nothing for best practices curriculum, it does nothing to increase enrollment, and it does not put our children’s education first. Most studies show the opposite: Smaller schools are better.”

Sadly, Kohner has not voted according to these principles. But this doesn’t mean that they now are unsound. Allison Quam still advocates responsible decision-making. Let’s do the responsible thing and keep open every option, including repopulating our neighborhood elementary schools.


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