Letters 2

Letters 2 Approving bond will improve education

To the editor:

I am writing this letter from the perspective of a parent, a grandparent, and a teacher to urge people to vote yes in the upcoming school bond election.

It bothers me when I hear that we aren't preparing our children for college and life after high school. All three of my children were raised here and graduated from Wakonda. They each went on to graduate from different colleges, and I have never once heard any one of them say that they felt unprepared or at a disadvantage because they graduated from Wakonda. In fact, they were and are proud to say that they are from Wakonda. I can't believe that things have changed that drastically in the few years since they graduated from Wakonda High School.

We've had a large number of graduates who have gone on to successful careers. Some have said that our students can't be challenged sufficiently with fewer class offerings than larger schools. Many schools around us have several seniors each year who are tied for the top of their class with straight A's. Some schools are thinking about weighted grading systems and such to separate their top students out.

We've been here 22 years and have never had a student graduate with a 4.0. Each of them must have found a challenge somewhere along the line. In two out of the last three years our students have ranked in the top 10 of the state for freshmen grade point averages at state supported schools. This doesn't surprise me. All three of my children graduated from college with higher grade point averages than they were able to earn at Wakonda High School.

Research shows that the single best indicator of success in later life is not your high school grade point average. It isn't your ACT score or class rank either. The single best indicator of success in later life is successful participation in a school activity. In a small school every child that wants to can have a successful experience in an extracurricular activity.

I've taught in two different classrooms in Wakonda. One was about 500 square feet. The one I'm in now is more than 700 square feet with a 15 year-old window air conditioner that helps a little on the hottest days. I can tell you from experience that a teacher can be much more creative when they have the room to do the things they'd like to do in a comfortable environment.

I was frustrated on a regular basis because of the things I couldn't do with my classes when I was in the smaller room. I have it pretty good now compared to most of our staff. It hasn't been so long though since I was in their shoes that I can't empathize with what they're putting up with. I know that there are many days when the rooms upstairs get up to 90 degrees or higher. Do I feel guilty turning on my air conditioner when many rooms don't have that luxury? Yes, but not guilty enough to turn it off.

We have teachers that don't request additional computers simply because they don't have any place to put them. When you aren't in the school on a regular basis it's easy to forget that although class sizes may be smaller than in years gone by, computers and audio-visual equipment take up a lot of space. Plus the fact that teaching methods have improved from the time we went to school.

We're trying to get away from the days of the teacher standing in front of a large classroom of children lecturing all day while students sit in rows and take notes so they can regurgitate the answers on a test later on and forget everything a couple of days after the test. Information is changing at such a rapid rate today that there is no way children can learn everything. Have you looked at a high school textbook lately? Many of them are over 1,000 pages and that only scratches the surface of the information that is available in that subject area.

While there is still a place for lecture and rote memorization, teachers today are trying to give children the skills they'll need to become life-long learners. I think that the Wakonda School has done a good job of that.

I have a granddaughter who is in kindergarten this year. She could have more easily attended school in Gayville-Volin or Vermillion. If this bond issue fails, will she and her brothers attend school in Wakonda in future years? Some people are voting against the bond issue because they feel our enrollment will decline. That might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We don't do anything because our enrollment might drop, so our enrollment drops because we aren't progressive. How can we blame young parents for sending their children elsewhere when every school around us has had major building and remodeling projects in the last few years?

I feel privileged to have taught so many wonderful students in the last 12 years. I have had many opportunities to observe our students in a variety of circumstances and have never felt anything but pride in their performance and their behavior. I have always been grateful for and amazed at the tremendous amount of support that the parents and community give to our students. This support and pride show in these children and are obvious to them. Please continue this support and vote yes on May 8.

Vicki Flynn


Wakonda students deserve better facility

To the editor:

I'm writing to ask people to please vote yes on the Wakonda school bond issue on May 8. I have a daughter in the small kindergarten class in Wakonda that people are talking about. The size of the class was an obvious concern for me before the school year started. Nothing means more to us than our children, and we want only the best for them.

After I called around to both Vermillion and Yankton schools, I confirmed what I already knew deep down. Both of the schools I mentioned talked about the advantages of smaller class sizes. At both places she would've been in a class of about twenty-five kids. Mrs. Holloch has told me that the class is learning more rapidly than usual and benefiting from having this more individualized attention. We have chosen, as my in-laws did 30 years ago, to send our children to Wakonda although there are two schools closer to us. The Vermillion bus comes by here every day.

I read John Haver's letter in the April 13 paper talking about what is not offered in Wakonda. I would like to talk about what is offered. I would have never had been in band, chorus, track, one-act plays, declam etc. ? if I hadn't attended a small school like Wakonda. I have well-rounded high school memories collected from each of these experiences.

I've heard many times during my life that it takes a community to raise a child. I believe in that, and we have faith in the Wakonda community. My children may not all be athletes, which is another reason I want them in Wakonda. They'll have better opportunities to see if other extracurriculars are better suited for them. You are able to try everything in a small school.

I would like to emphatically emphasize the statistics that Theresa Hessman and Peg Nelson put in the April 13 paper. They stated that Wakonda kids continue to score higher than any other Tri Valley conference schools (and surrounding schools such as Beresford and Yankton) on the SATs (Stanford Achievement Test). It also stated that Wakonda kids attending state universities have an average GPA of 3.01, which again is the highest in the area.

For all the people that claim to put academics before athletics, now is your chance to prove it. This new addition has nothing to do with a new gym, track or other sports. No one is saying that we will be bringing in a lot more kids if the addition is built. What we are saying is let's make it better (or at least up to standards) for the ones that are already there. Our students have proven that they deserve nothing less.

I would once again like to bring up a point that John Haver made in the April 13 paper about how many different teachers his kids had while in high school. What is going to keep the good, desirable teachers in Wakonda if the school is crumbling and other towns are building new or adding on? Why would someone not want to work in better conditions and go to other towns?

I am thankful that taxpayers thought my education was important when I was attending school in Wakonda. After my kids are out, I will help pay for other kids to go to school. That's just the way life is. Vote yes for larger classrooms and a better facility. Vote yes for the future of our children.

Laurie Larson


Citizens called to unite and vote yes

To the editor:

In the upcoming school bond election Wakonda residents should realize the following factors:

1. Consolidation is not cheap. We're gonna pay (and pay our tax dollars to another community)

2. Children will be farther from home on snowy wind-swept roads in winter, to say nothing of trips back in the evening hours for school events.

3. In larger schools only the most talented youngsters "make the team," are chosen for plays, or are elected class officers. The extra-curriculars benefit them as they learn principles which are not in the text book. The "average" kid has more of a chance to participate.

4. The "CEOs" have a better handle on discipline, thus setting a strong moral tone. Our kids have surpassed neighboring schools in SAT scores (last year's survey). Positive proof that our high school has met the challenge of the high-tech society. Courses are so much tougher now and some of the text books are college level. Schools can't do it all, though � otherwise we'd never need the trade-tech schools or four year colleges.

It is all well and good to cooperate with other communities in regard to civic organizations. To lose a school, however, is to lose the core of one's community and identity. Other factors are brought into play also, such as a potential drop in church membership, and fire department.

"Life is what you make it" is an old adage which can be applied to education. Without motivation and desire to learn on the part of the student the best "state-of-the-art" curriculum is to no avail.

An outstanding example of those qualities is Harold Dwyer who graduated from WHS in 1927. As a toddler, he was stricken with polio and was a cripple all of his life. He held various jobs "keeping books" (as it was called back then) worked his way through undergraduate classes at USD, and after being elected Clerk of Courts for Clay County, attended law school at night at USD.

He passed the bar exam and was a successful attorney in Vermillion for many years. It is doubtful that he had business law in high school, but he had lots of drive and determination to reach his goal.

We all plant trees for the next generation. Let us unite on this bond issue and "plant" a school for those who will follow us. Please vote yes!

Eileen Donahue


Is consolidation right for Wakonda?

To the editor:

Is it time for consolidation?

Let's take a look at some of the issues with consolidation of schools and see if it would benefit the Wakonda Public School District.

The first issue people assume that consolidation would save money to the taxpayer. In Wakonda's situation this may not be true. The logical consolidation choices would be either the Gayville-Volin or the Irene School District.

If we decided on Gayville-Volin to consolidate with they currently have 198 students in first through 12th grade and Wakonda has 174 students in first through 12th grades for the 2001-2002 school year. The total students in this consolidation would be 372 students and an average class of 31.

Our other choice is to consolidate with Irene and they currently have 222 students in first through 12th grade for the 2001-2002 school year. The total students in the Wakonda-Irene consolidation would be 396 students and an average class of 33.

The numbers above show an average class size of 31 to 33 students with a consolidation with either Gayville-Volin or Irene. At this point you can see either choice, Gayville-Volin or Irene, wouldn't make a difference.

Would you want your children in a learning environment with 31 to 33 students in a class? I would hope not, but to back this up I spoke with a local school administrator about how they handle class sizes. The class size for kindergarten through second grade was 20 but not more than 22 students, third grade was 21 but not more than 23 students, fourth grade was 22 but not more than 24 students, fifth grade was 23 but not more than 25 students, and grades up through 12th were at 25 students.

So you can see from the above information, the class size of 31 to 32 students would be split into classes of 15 to 16 students. This would require two teachers for every class. Wakonda currently has an average of 15 students in a class, which is an ideal learning environment. On this first issue you can see there would not be any savings to the taxpayer.

Next let's look at the issue of consolidation of schools at one site. This would save some for the taxpayer on a few administrative positions and expenses of running one facility but does this outweigh the disadvantages?

Where will the school be located? This would probably not happen in Wakonda for the following reason: All the surrounding schools Centerville, Gayville-Volin, Hurley, Irene and Viborg have added new additions or built new schools. These schools have already tried to secure the future of their school districts. Not having a school in Wakonda poses a very poor future for our community.

Let's assume the consolidation into one school does happen in one of our neighboring communities. Where do we put the existing students in this new one-school consolidation? None of these schools currently have the room to hold the students from Wakonda, so a bond issue would have to be brought up and passed to build new facilities. The disadvantage here is that the taxpayer will still have to pay for school bond but in someone else's community and not our own.

The chances of a school consolidation at one location is not likely considering the recent history on school consolidations in our area alone. Wakonda-Gayville-Volin School Districts' efforts to consolidate failed partially because one school district wanted a school at one location and the other didn't. The Viborg-Hurley School Districts attempted to consolidate but failed because one district wanted it in their town and the other wanted it located somewhere between the two towns. The above school districts looked at their school districts' future and added new additions or built new schools, except Wakonda. It is time for Wakonda to look at their school district's future and to pass this bond issue.

Consolidation would possibly offer more classes to choose from, which would be great for the students. This however, will cost more in additional teachers, books and more classroom space. However, there is no cost saving and more bond issues would need to pass in order to have additional classroom space. Once again, Wakonda taxpayers' money ending up in someone else's community and not our own.

With new technology like the Dakota Network, Distance Learning Programs and the Internet, Wakonda students can currently take many additional classes. These new technologies will continue to expand and change the way our students learn.

My daughter Jamie was able to take Spanish I and Spanish II through the Distance Learning Program at Wakonda. Jamie is currently taking Spanish II and she is the only student from Wakonda taking that course. This was possible because of the technology that just five years ago would not have been possible in Wakonda.

It wouldn't make sense to hire a Spanish teacher for only one or two students, but technology has changed the way we learn. The old days of small schools not being able to offer the curriculum that larger schools can is changing because of technology like the Distance Learning Program.

Take a look at what happens to the smaller schools when consolidation take place. Usually the larger school will tell the other: "You'll always have a school in your community." Marion told that to Monroe, McCook told that to Spencer, and Lennox told Chancellor that.

Monroe has no school, Spencer has no school and Chancellor had a kindergarten through eighth grade just a few years ago and currently only has kindergtarten through fifth. Volin, our neighbor to the south, had a school at one time but now their school is closed and the new school is in Gayville. The point I'm trying to deliver is that the small school will never have much say or control on what happens in the new consolidated school district.

The schools above are all examples of what happens to the smaller school after a consolidation takes place with a larger school. Guess what folks � Wakonda would probably be that small school. We still have control of what happens in our school district, but after a consolidation, that may not be true.

Wakonda's graduating classes from 1947 to 1956 had 153 students in that 10-year period, that is an average class size of 15. That is about where Wakonda's current enrollment is. I'm glad the voters in the school district during those years gave me the opportunity to continue my education at Wakonda. Most of the people in the school district wouldn't have had a school to go to or send their children to if the school had closed at that time.

Wakonda is a small school but has always been a small school. The benefits of a small school outweigh the disadvantages. Students in a small school have more opportunities to participate in extra-curricular activities like sports, plays, and band. In larger schools you get weeded out at an early age in some of these activities. The teacher-to-student ratio in small schools like Wakonda is a benefit to the students. These are all important in developing the student and getting a well-rounded education.

There is one question the voters of the Wakonda School District must ask themselves before the May 8 bond issue vote. Why did the school districts of Canistota, Centerville, Gayville-Volin, Hurley, Irene, Montrose and Viborg all pass bond issues to build new additions or schools in their districts? My personal feeling on this is that they all knew what they would lose would be far greater than the cost. They didn't want to lose their community organizations, businesses and churches, but most of all, they didn't want to lose the future of their children, the most important thing of all. These communities did not want to become like the communities of Monroe, Spencer or Volin � a town without a school.

The Wakonda School District has the choice on May 8 to look to the future by supporting this bond issue or face the harsh results of the past.

Wakonda has 18 or 19 kindergarten students in the school district for the 2001-2002 school year, and 14 and 15 the following years. If we want these children to stay in our school district we must pass this bond issue on May 8. I've already heard teachers and parents say that they would be leaving the Wakonda School District and community if the bond issue doesn't pass. I don't blame them because they are looking at their future and the future of their children. Why would you want to stay in a community that won't even provide a proper facility for their children's education? Let us keep the students, teachers and families we have by supporting this bond issue.

I know that we have voters in our school district that will never support or vote for this bond issue, no matter how many articles are written trying to change their minds or view on this subject.

I also know that we have voters out there who either voted no on the first two votes or didn't vote at all because they just weren't sure of what to do. You are the voters we hope we have informed on the issues and we hope you will support and vote YES on May 8.

It is time for the people of Wakonda to come together, forget personal differences and do what is right for our community, but most of all, do what is best for our children and their future. This is why we are asking you to please support and vote Yes on May 8.

Tony and Teresa



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