Board still mulling where to put kids

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Marshall County school board's building committee could not agree on what recommendation to make to the full board regarding the distribution of grades in the schools next year.

By a vote of 3-2, the committee approved a motion to recommend "Option C," and this was greeted by applause from nearly three dozen teachers who attended the meeting Monday night.

However, chairman Craig Michael also made a motion to recommend to the board that it gather more information before making a decision on where to move the grades. Included in this motion was the request for an analysis of the cost of making Marshall Elementary School equitable for grades K-6.

"I'm confused," said committee member Randy Perryman. "We just voted to recommend C and now we're over-ruling it?"

"No," said Michael. "The minutes will reflect that we recommended C by a vote of 3-2, and that we also recommended more study. We're giving the board two options. They're not bound to accept the recommendation of the committee."

With Perryman abstaining, Michael and Curt Denton voted for the "more study" motion while Kristen Gold and Todd Tietgens voted against it.

Stan Curtis, director of schools, gave teachers an opportunity to vote for four different options last week, and 69 percent of them preferred Option C, which is for all three Lewisburg schools to house grades kindergarten through sixth.

This is in line with the feedback committee members said they had received.

"I've had calls from teachers this weekend favoring K-6," Perryman said. "They're saying they can make MES work. If we can make it work without spending money, I'm for it."

Gold agreed that the feedback she'd had from parents and teachers at all the schools had supported K-6.

"The teachers are for it, and the administrators say they can work with it," Ann Tears remarked.

"The problem I have with Option C is: it puts MES is a position where it will never be equitable for grades 4, 5, and 6 without a major renovation," said Michael. "Teachers have told me they think the board moved too fast without enough information and thought when they decided to make the schools K-6.

"It should trouble the tax payers and the county commissioners that we have less students (than we did eight years ago) and a new school (Oak Grove) and yet we're saying we have space constraints," Michael continued. "To me that indicates that we've done a poor job of planning. It pretty well justifies the people who say education is not cost-effective."

"I can't see putting sixth grade at MES," said Denton. "You'd have to add on and increase the play space. The best scenario would be to put sixth grade at Lewisburg Middle School. I'd like to see us do something that will have a good long-term result even though it is shell-shocking now."

"From a parent's subjective perspective," said Gold, "I think sixth grade does much better in an elementary setting; it's positive for them."

"I can't make it any plainer," countered Michael. "You're putting a square peg in a round hole (by forcing fifth and sixth grades into MES). I hate to see money spent on anything other than the classroom teachers, and I don't know how you can make it equitable without spending money."

"I've had feedback from teachers and Dr. Curtis that they can make it (Option C) work," said Perryman, and there the committee left the matter.

"They have a very narrow perspective," said Michael after the meeting, referring both to his fellow committee members and the teachers. "Not that many take a long term view."