Meadville Tribune


January 4, 2012

Emotional outbursts not making school consolidation job easier

MEADVILLE — Editor’s note: The author warns that this column has language for mature audiences only. Reader discretion is advised.

If you’re like me, you’ve chosen to live in a small town because the communities are close knit. You attend the same churches, volunteer for the band boosters, frequent the same bars, cheer for the same football teams (or their rivals), and watch parades with your neighbors. Small-town folks treasure simple virtues like honesty, integrity, kindness, generosity, respect and working together.

Now more than ever those of us who live in Conneaut School District need to let those values guide our behavior. We are facing serious adversity as the school board and administration make major decisions concerning the configuration of our schools. Sometimes it seems as though bitterness, anger, fear and dishonesty have ruled the day instead.

Instead of extending generosity to volunteers who have given hundreds of hours of their time to try to save the district from fiscal catastrophe, I hear verbal invectives hurled at them in public meetings. (“Screw you! You have screwed us over for years. Screw you!,” accompanied by audience jeers and mocking laughter.) Instead of honoring the integrity of the process, these volunteers and administrators are accused of not caring about kids because they didn’t say the word “student” enough in their presentation. (Let me see, and they’ve worked this hard for ... Edward the vampire? Breast cancer research?)

Instead of acknowledging that often research can be found that supports both sides of an argument, people insist that “all research shows” that small schools are the best way to educate kids. I have research that says that medium sized schools (9 to 12 grades) of 600 to 900 are the most effective size in educating kids. This research also shows that disadvantaged kids benefit the most from those schools.

Instead of showing respect and kindness, students boast that they will never be friends with kids from (pick one) Lake, Linesville or Valley. Parents support and encourage that attitude. Tell me, how do you manage that on Facebook? Do you check addresses before you friend someone? If “outside” students are bused to the school in your town, will they (and their parents) be welcomed or shunned?

Instead of working together, some parents will homeschool their kids through cyberschool and keep them out of a consolidated high school if that’s the decision. That’s your right. The district will have to take more money out of the bricks and mortar schools to pay thousands of dollars per cyber child. What the district has budgeted to pay for cyberschooled students ($700,000) is almost as much as its entire kindergarten budget ($775,000). I respect parents’ right to educate their children as they wish, but that is the cold, hard economic reality. This astronomical bill is one of the reasons the district has to consider consolidation. The threat of cyberschooling is also a good way to show the powers-that-be how wrong they are to dare to consider change, isn’t it?

I believe that the vast majority of people in our small towns are good people who live lives of integrity and honor. Many have expressed support and thanked those who have worked tirelessly at dealing with the issues facing Conneaut School District. I’m not saying that everyone has to agree or that anyone who cares about our schools can’t be passionate about issues, express concerns, ask questions and disagree. But how we conduct ourselves in difficult circumstances is revealing. Adversity has a habit of cutting through all the baloney and showing our true character.

Now it’s time to direct our energy into participating in this process and supporting whatever decision is made. This is why you elected the school board and they in turn appointed the committees (BUSS) to study the issues. The school board is charged with promoting student growth and achievement through providing a thorough and efficient system of education. The people you’ve elected and who volunteer to serve on committees throughout the school year all come from your communities and reflect your values. They are being responsible to the students and taxpayers by facing these issues head on and leading our district through a time of change.

I believe that my friends and neighbors still believe in simple values. Perhaps the most important one is to treat others as you want them to treat you. We need to extend encouragement, kindness and generosity to each other, and support neighbors working together, yes, even from different towns.

How we face this adversity will give our kids more of an education than anything they’ll get in the classroom, wherever that happens to be. They are watching their grandparents, parents and peers to see if our small town values are really as important as we say they are.

Zill is a Conneaut Lake resident and former member of the Conneaut School District school board.

Text Only
  • It’s hard to believe park will turn things around until secrecy ends

    Even if a deal is struck to save Conneaut Lake Park from a pending sale to pay off back taxes, it appears unlikely that the park will succeed unless its new managers pledge themselves to transparency and public accountability.

    April 22, 2014 1 Story

  • Public pensions for private lobbyists under fire

    Employees of the Pennsylvania School Board Association don’t work for any of the state’s 500 local school districts — not directly, anyway. They lobby lawmakers on behalf of those districts for things like funding.

    April 20, 2014

  • Many veterans suffer PTSD, which needs to be dealt with

    Initially, I intended this article to be about PTSD “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” I wanted to write about the myths and misconceptions that those four words may hold. But as the days went by, the story just wouldn’t come together for me. Everything I typed seemed to miss something. There was no feeling.

    April 17, 2014

  • Journalists in combat zones ‘write with light’ while risking their lives

    I first heard the news on National Public Radio on my car radio. On April 4, the day before elections in Afghanistan, an Afghan military officer walked up to a car in a convoy and opened fire. Anja Niedringhaus, a staff photographer for The Associated Press, died instantly.

    April 16, 2014

  • There’s no war on men and boys — it’s quite the opposite

    Two weeks ago, Paul Dici submitted an column titled “It’s time to fight against the war on men and boys” (March 28). Mr. Dici would have us believe that men and boys are being “wussified” by a progressive agenda that may jeopardize our national security. Also, he makes the point that men and boys are not given the same advantages (programs) as women and girls.

    April 14, 2014

  • McCord outsourcing ‘scandal’ reminds me of Y2K fears

    With only seven weeks to go until the May primary election, the campaigns are expected to get a lot hotter and more negative.

    April 13, 2014

  • Can we trust luck when it comes to the nuclear industry?

    Let’s review the history to better understand a major concern of today.

    April 11, 2014

  • Aging — is it a disease to be cured?

    If you are already old, get ready for what comes next. If you are not old yet but on the way, it is not too early to start thinking about aging and dying, because both are part of being human.

    April 10, 2014

  • Local high school students help keep future of journalism bright

    Significant technological and economic changes have caused some to question the future of journalism, both as a viable business enterprise and as a potential career. But if the proceedings of the eighth annual Northwest Pennsylvania High School Journalism Day are any indication, journalism is alive and well, especially in Crawford County.

    April 10, 2014

  • Reps want to hang ‘English only’ sign at the Capitol

    Pennsylvania, it turns out, is one of 19 states that have failed to address the menace that is non-English. Or maybe it’s un-English? Or dis-English? There must be a word for it.

    April 8, 2014

Business Marquee
AP Video
SKorea Ferry Toll Hits 156, Search Gets Tougher Video Shows Possible Syrian Gas Attack Cubs Superfans Celebrate Wrigley's 100th Raw: Cattle Truck Overturns in Texas Admirers Flock to Dole During Kansas Homecoming Raw: Erupting Volcanoes in Guatemala and Peru Alibaba IPO Could Be Largest Ever for Tech Firm FBI Joining Probe of Suburban NY 'Swatting' Call U.S. Paratroopers in Poland, Amid Ukraine Crisis US Reviews Clemency for Certain Inmates Raw: Violence Erupts in Rio Near Olympic Venue Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide