Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Perishing Paron

John Brummett today wrote an excellent column concerning the tiny Paron school district and the legislative maneuvering around it which almost brought about a catastrophe. Brummett rightly points out the typically virtuous State Senator Jim Argue and how he saved the day for reasonable folks. Jeremy of the Hutchinson klan and Dwight Fite are the chief villains. You need to read the entire thing as published in the Morning News of Northwest Arkansas.

Now, I come down squarely on the side of Brummett, Argue, grandma, Chevrolet and apple pie. Nonetheless, here is a letter (which was signed) from a Paron patron which is submitted for no other reason than to give a voice to the "other side." While I would not hesitate to call the hand of a lawmaker messing around with the public trust, I have no problem with a parent putting forward an opinion that might help their children.

Dear Pat,

I haven't been able to keep up with your views on the Paron School issue but I feel compelled to tell the story from a Paron parents' point of view and how it will potentially affect her family ...... and maybe sway a member of the media to become an opponent of school consolidation.

I have three kids in Paron. All of them are in danger of being shipped next fall to the new Bryant Middle School and Bryant High School. The Bryant School Board has said that it is for the better that my children be shipped TWO HOURS on a bus just to get to school, by way of a very dangerous stretch of road. (Adults do not have to commute to work for this length of time!) It is for my childrens sake that they sit through eight hours of school and then ride TWO HOURS on the bus to get back home. (I know that some news stations have reported one hour erroniously.) This will greatly increase their chances for asthma, bronchitis, and upper respiratory infections due to FOUR hours a day of diesel exhaust. (There are studies concerning this fact) So, it is also for the good of the children that they must now miss out on any extra-curricular activities because of our proximity to our new schools. I'm sure this will greatly enhance their college resumes when trying to gain acceptance into college. I'm also sure that staying up until 10 pm doing homework will be beneficial as well. Especially since every study done on the face of the earth concerning school children is adamant about children needing a minimum of eight hours of sleep in order to function properly. Hmmm, 10pm to 5am (which is when they will have to get up for that two hour bus ride)... I think that's seven hours, assuming they immediately fall asleep.

BSD has said part of our consolidation is due to Paron School being roughly 250k in debt. According to their own numbers we are only 157k in debt as a school in whole. The high school is operating on a budget that it currently can't afford due to two significant factors: 1. We were forced to lower our millage (to match Bryant) and raise our teachers pay when taken on by Bryant. (Double whammy) We don't want to pay our teachers less, but I find it strange that at one of Bryant's own board meetings they are having to decide whether or not to drop certain teacher performance bonuses due to the fact that they cannot afford the salary pay scale which THEY have set forth. 2. We literally are having to pay a teacher full pay for teaching a math class that is required by the state in order for us to meet the core curriculum. A class that has only ONE child in it. The child is forced to take a higher math class to help keep us open. (We are thankful for this kid!) I would also like to note that for 70 years we operated just fine. Two years with Bryant and we're going under.

I find is strange that, according to Shane Broadway, we are qualified as an isolated school. In fact, Paron also falls under the category of super-isolated school. These are qualifications that were set by the State Board of Education. The strange point is that there is NO funding in the super-isolated school fund. It could easily be funded by the isolated school fund because many isolated schools have been consolidated and there is actually money left over in the account.

Even stranger is the why Bryant, while building a state-of-the-art middle school, has not hired any teachers for that school. Why hire others when you can simply shut down another school and use their teachers instead.

Bryant was given millions in compensation when they took us on. Where has that money gone? They recently received another $500k that will be used for anything but keeping us open, as well as the extra funding per student that was passed by the powers that be in the state.

I shouldn't be quite so negative....they did paint our school so that we would match their schools more. How thoughtful! Of course, we are no longer allowed to bring homemade snacks, cakes, or punches to our class parties or fall festivals. Trust me, I've tasted some of our local fair....this IS a travesty!

It doesn't seem to matter that Paron school outscores Bryant on testing. In fact, we consistently score as one of the top schools in the state. We have smaller, more personalized class rooms, and great parent involvement. Our small basketball program actually makes money for the school. We produce productive citizens who return to this area to raise their own families. We are located in an area that will be booming in ten years. West Little Rock, Hot Springs Village, and Benton/Bryant are all expanding our way. Kill our school and you will kill our property value, school pride, and our sense of community. If someone can explain to me exactly how this benefits our children I would certainly be willing to listen.

I'm not quite sure if I'm making the kind of sense that I want, but I'm pretty hacked off and can guarantee you that my children will not attend Bryant schools. I will homeschool or send them to another district that is closer. This is the consensus of many Paron parents.

Thanks for reading!

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