Letters to the Editor – April 2, 2014
Attend PI School informational sessions
To the Editor:
Citizens of the PI Schools, if you missed the opportunity to attend the informational session on March 25, please take the opportunity to attend either of the remaining sessions scheduled for April 23, and May 4. Both events will be held in the PIHS cafeteria at 7 p.m.
Regardless of how you intend to vote on May 13, please attend and educate yourselves. Participate and listen with an open mind and an open heart. Consider what is at stake, not only for the future of our school, but the future of our town.
In terms of space per student, Pine Island ranks 12th of 12 versus peer schools in the Hiawatha Valley League and 64th out of 64 public schools in the State of Minnesota with similar enrollment.
Question 1 is an estimated $33.25 million. State aid would be $4.126 million. Total voter-covered cost of $29.124 million.
Question 2 is an estimated $6.5 million. State aid would be $3.892 million. Total voter-covered cost of $2.608 million.
At another time I will talk about the benefits of this referendum. Please take the time to educate yourself on this very important issue. To quote former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”
No questions allowed
To the Editor:
Despite being a public forum, any public questions or concerns were NOT allowed at the Pine Island School bond referendum meeting on March 25. Since the public might pay for these proposed projects, not having a voice is of utmost concern. If given the opportunity, here are my questions:
1. Since Pine Island School enrollment (1,200) has not experienced growth for the past ten years and the US Census Bureau projects no growth for Pine Island, where are the additional 500 students (42% growth) coming from over the next ten years?
2. Since the school board mentioned its desire to be transparent, where is the budget? What explicitly is the $39.8 million tax expense supporting?
3. Is this bond for 30 years? If so, according to the school’s tax calculator, taxes would increase by $458 annually for a house worth $200,000 – times 30 yearly payments for a total cost of $13,740.
4. The decision process involved many committees of preferred participants. As a taxpayer, I would like to see all the analyses and support documentations associated with these decisions.
The public should be allowed to have a voice and be heard in a public forum for all publicly funded projects. A few predetermined questions were allowed in the back of the room after the meeting if asked privately.
Choose pride and prosperity over triviality and insignificance
To the Editor:
Ben Franklin once wrote, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” On May 13, voters in the Pine Island School District will have the opportunity to make an investment in the future of their children and the community as a whole. Do we want to be a community that thinks long term? Do we want to give our children the same opportunities that our forefathers gave us when we were young, or do we want the next generation to just “get by” with what was built for us? Do we want Pine Island to grow and become an even more vibrant community, or do we want to stagnate and become a town of boarded up dreams?
Facts are facts, and the fact is that Pine Island Schools have a critical space problem. Compared to all the other area HVL Conference schools, Pine Island finishes a distant last in room per pupil. To take that further, if you compare Pine Island to the 64 schools closest in size statewide, they also finish dead last. Although average class sizes haven’t changed significantly over the past decade (which is not exactly something to be proud of), state mandates have changed who is educated and how it is done – making the existing space nothing short of crowded.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know that the Pine Island School Board has been studying solutions to their space problem for about two years now. This process included two very well attended public forums where many ideas were shared and prioritized and evolved into a very large community board that held many public meetings to brainstorm and thoroughly examine options. After it was concluded that building a new PreK-4 building was the most cost-effective way to go, separate groups were formed to study ideas for the new building, best methods to get the most out of our existing building and how to improve our arts and athletics facilities (which is dealt with on Question 2). Any person who wanted to participate in the process had ample opportunity to do so. Comparatively, the Manhattan Project may have been less thoroughly considered.
Even a project as thoroughly thought out and lean-and-mean as this one still costs significant money – but I think people need to really look deeply as to whether NOT passing this referendum will actually cost more than passing it. When a community continually demonstrates that it is not willing to support education - especially when the support asked for is relatively insignificant compared to most neighboring communities – then that sends a signal to the rest of the area that Pine Island is NOT a place with a future. Potential home buyers look elsewhere, home values drop, businesses close, student achievement often lags and once vibrant communities become desolate. Would this happen overnight? No, but inevitably, decisions do have consequences and Pine Island’s consequence would be to become irrelevant compared to more forward-thinking communities. Can you really afford to live in a community that is not attractive to others?
As Plato stated, “The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future in life.” On May 13, Pine Island area voters will have the chance to decide what direction they want to see for Pine Island – one of pride and prosperity or one of triviality and insignificance. It is my hope that you will make a choice that provides Pine Island with a bright future.
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