To the editor:
On Monday, Oct. 15, I attended the RTR school board meeting in Russell. At the meeting, a lawyer representing concerned citizens presented a petition with more than 500 signatures from people in the three voting districts of the RTR school district.
The citizens wanted the school board to listen to their concerns about spending many millions of dollars to update aging school buildings in the RTR school district. We didn't want the school board to move forward WITHOUT a vote of the people. That was, in my opinion, the reason for the petition. The district's citizens and taxpayers want input in the building decisions and we want to be heard. Our school board members need to listen to all constituents in their voting district and not just those whose opinions they share.
In August, there was an open meeting in Ruthton with a presentation of several possible building options. Approximately half of the people in attendance did not vote for any of the options, most likely because they saw none of the options as acceptable. If they were like me, they did not feel spending $4.8 million to update the Ruthton school, plus another $6.3 million to update the Tyler school was a prudent use of taxpayer dollars.
Many of the citizens in the district feel the time has come to eliminate one school building now, and move toward an eventual goal of having the RTR school system in a single location. Whether that happens in five years or 30 years, the time has come to proceed toward that goal.
Terry Gordon, a Russell (and north Tyler) board member, said at the building committee meeting on Oct. 9 that "everyone knows the school will be in Tyler" at some date in the future.
Why then are we putting millions of dollars into old school buildings which have to be closed at some future date? We need to consider moving toward the goal of one school, and one location at this point in time, thus (i)decreasing maintenance and operating costs, (ii) eliminating duplication of facilities (kitchens/lunchrooms) and staff, (iii) decreasing busing time and costs, and (iv) decreasing administration and travel (costs including teachers traveling from one school to another). The inefficiencies of a multiple building school are in itself a burden on the taxpayers. We realize this will not happen overnight, but if that is the eventual goal and realization that the building committee shares, then continuing to spend millions of dollars with "band-aid" applications to our failing buildings seems to be a waste of my money and all taxpayers' money as well.
I am not a proponent of a new $30 million school. I do not believe that a new school building will provide an enhanced education to our students.
I do agree with the land owners that the tax implications of building such an expensive school would be an unreasonable burden to put on anyone. I would like to (i) see the millions proposed to upgrade the school buildings in Ruthton and Tyler be combined into one pot and be spent to expand the school building in Tyler to accommodate more students and (ii) keep the Russell building open until at some point in the future, when the goal of having one school building will need to be realized (as acknowledged by Terry Gordon at the building committee meeting on Oct. 9).
I was visiting with some of the Ruthton men present at the Oct. 15 meeting and they asked me why Tyler citizens always do things so secretively and underhandedly, to which I replied: I signed this petition because I didn't feel like my representatives heard what I and many people were saying at the public meeting in Ruthton in August; namely that we were not comfortable with any of the current building plans without knowing more and we wanted to have a voice in the decision to either build a new school or remodel the old school buildings. With 437 ballots handed out that evening, only 223 replied.
That is only 51 percent responding and to me that speaks volumes about the dissatisfaction with the options provided. Only 25 people voted for Plan L- to build a new school building, 77 voted for Plan J-to remodel the schools in Ruthton and Tyler, while 60 voted for Plan F- to close the school in Ruthton and remodel the school in Tyler. Fifty people (besides the 214 who didn't vote at all) made comments about wanting more information and/or more options.
It seems given the options provided that evening there was no clear direction given to the school board from the public. Obviously these results clearly point to no consensus among the public, and yet our administration continues to imply there is an urgency to proceed with Plan J.
I would urge all the RTR school board members to let the public have some input on a decision of this magnitude. We care about our school district and want to work together for the best facilities and the best education for our children, grandchildren and the generations to come. It is time to move forward toward our goal.
Ruthton District voter