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USD 372
200 Rice Rd
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Sliver Lake, Kansas 66539
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Superintendent Hallacy reacts to HB 2504 in blog

Silver Lake in jeopardy of consolidation

(Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016)

Superintendent Blog: “A Faded Old Photograph . . . . . . . ”  

A faded old photograph of the first class of Silver Lake High School hangs on the wall in our district office. That photo of six students was taken in May of 1910. For over a hundred years our youth and community have been well served by our schools. Through good times and bad, the community and district have worked and grown together to nurture and prepare the next generation to make their way in the world and assume the mantle of leadership each generation eventually passes to the next. The district and community, each one a thread woven into the fabric that makes up the place generations have called home.

Today, that fabric in our community and others across our state is in danger of being torn apart by HB 2504.  HB 2504, which is being marketed as “realignment” not consolidation, would reduce the number of districts in Kansas from 286 to approximately 132 by forcing many districts to merge with others. In counties with less than 10,000 students, there would be a single countywide school district. In counties with more than 10,000 students, each district would be required to have 1,500 students or be absorbed by a larger district. As a district with less than 1500 students that is where our fate would lie. We would be absorbed by another district.

The proponents of this bill will argue that it does not close schools or eliminate positions other than wasteful district office personnel. They also point out it doesn’t necessarily mean local school boards will be eliminated even if they lose their central office personnel. That is laughable! This bill sets up future school boards and the State School Board to do the dirty work of closing buildings, eliminating jobs and local school boards because most of educations costs are in personnel meaning the only way to significantly reduce costs are closing buildings and eliminating staff. Lost in this argument is any concern with improving student performance and better preparing them for the future. The proponents of the bill don’t even attempt to give lip service to school improvement, it’s about reducing expenses.

After five years of continual attacks on teachers, administrators, schools boards and public education in general, communities should be extremely weary and skeptical of this bill. The proponents estimate this could save the state a little over 17 million dollars a year in a 6.2 billion dollar budget. That is so little savings for so much upheaval and potential harm that one has to question whether saving dollars is the ultimate intent. The continual erosion of local control and the attempt to sever ties between communities and their local school districts is just another step in the march to mix public dollars and private education and quiet the voices of advocacy for public education. This ultimately makes it easier to control and impose unpopular ideological changes on public education that have never been broadly supported by Kansans or able to stand on their own merit.

For now, the old faded photograph of our first high school class hangs alone on our district office wall. If our communities don’t speak out, it will eventually be joined by a beautiful digital color photograph of our last high school class . . . . . which will hang on the wall of a district office in another community as a reminder of our district and community that once were.

Tim Hallacy

Silver Lake Schools