Letters There are only losers in this whole mess

To the editor:

This morning, Friday, April 6, 2001, on Main Street Wakonda, I was verbally attacked by a man I have known and respected my entire life. I was accused of being against education, the community, the youth of the town, and only caring about $2 per thousand in taxes. He had little interest in anything I had to say, so I will respond with my first and hopefully last letter to the editor.

First, I think there are wounds being cut through this community that will not heal in my lifetime. There has been name calling, people have been told to move, one neighbor told another neighbor to get off his place.

A community this size cannot survive without everyone working toward a common goal. I think everyone's goal should be a better education for our children. I really think that is my attacker's goal, but I resent his implications that it is not mine.

I was told that I received a good education here. I agree, but that was 33 years ago. Times are different. My class graduated 36. The class ahead of me, 35. This year's senior class is 10 and the kindergarten class is seven. There are two families with preschool children in my neighborhood and no young couples who are going to have additional children.

At the public meeting unveiling the school building project, the question was asked if there had been a study projecting the school population for the next 20 years. It was treated as a joke, but I think it was a legitimate question. Future students are not coming from Star Township.

As I look at the current curriculum, I see that not much has changed in 33 years. There are more industrial arts, but math, science, history and English are basically the same. No bookkeeping is currently offered and Spanish is available only on long distance learning. I think our students deserve better, especially in math and science, so they can compete in a more complex world against people who have had far more background.

I think our school has an excellent faculty but they are overworked. We have a math teacher teaching six preps. Last year's science teacher taught five preps, six classes. This year's artist in residence, a college English professor, said there was no way he could teach the Wakonda English load with five preps, two study halls and a head coaching job. Is it any wonder that my daughter had four science teachers in high school and my son has had four math teachers in three years?

Is there any hope? I think we need to examine the evil word CONSOLIDATION. Gayville-Volin wanted to do it before they built and have continued to express interest after each of our bond issue votes. We filled out surveys dealing with the issue, but I have yet to see any results. Don't we need to at least explore this option?

Every other group I'm involved with seems to welcome cooperation. The fire department calls for mutual aid on a regular basis and I've been on calls in at least five other districts. The first responders always have an ambulance coming from somewhere else. My church shares pastors with three other churches. When I was Cub Scout den leader and scoutmaster, we had kids from Gayville-Volin in our troop as well as Wakonda boys. Little League was with Gayville-Volin. Legion baseball is with Irene and Viborg and football is co-op with G/V. My daughter played softball with Irene along with some Viborg girls.

Why do we have to go it alone when it comes to something really important, the education of our children? Why can't we at least talk to Gayville-Volin (1999 K-12 enrollment 226) and Irene (1999 K-12 enrollment 238) to somehow combine with our 199 students to possibly form a Jr/Sr high school so we could have 50 per class?

We would still be smaller than Beresford who has 58 per class. We could offer a broader curriculum that would enable our children to compete in a fast changing and increasingly competitive world. We could keep our small grade school where small class size is a distinct advantage. I know that more students does not automatically mean better education, but it would at least give us a chance.

I admit I'd rather not have to do any of this. I'd like a family on every quarter and a main street lined with businesses. There was such a time, but times are different. Student needs are different. Let's be different and put education, not a building, first.

One thing that is not different is the strain these issues put on a community. My dad used to talk about Wakonda's first consolidation. People who had been lifelong friends, refused to speak to one another for the rest of their lives. I hope history does not repeat itself but we are headed in that direction.

I'm not going to try to convince anyone how to vote. You seldom change anyone's opinion, only their opinion of you, but I'm voting NO.

No because we've yet to address the real issue, seven in kindergarten, and it appears to me less down the road.

No because our children deserve more than a 30-year-old curriculum taught by overworked teachers.

No because the kids who have open enrolled out have not left because of the building but because their academic needs were not being met.

No because the students who remain need those curve wreckers to compete against.

No because one of the main reasons for the building, as expressed by the building committee, was to "ward off consolidation."

Anyone who thinks I'm wrong, come and talk to me, convince me, show me how to make seven students per class work. Don't call me names. Don't say I'm against the town, the school, and education. Don't say my dad would be ashamed of me.

In the 130 years my family has been in this community, I'm certain I'm the first Haver to

vote against a school bond issue and I didn't and don't take it lightly.

After a second vote, a friend, and I hope we still are friends, told me, "Congratulations, you won." I told him there have been no winners, only losers in this whole mess and no matter how this next vote turns out, I believe that will still be the case.

John H. Haver


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