Some arguments to keep Lawrence open are misguided

The Marietta Times front page article published Tuesday, March 23, entitled, “Lawrence School To Close,” following the Monday preceding night school board meeting, was accurate and appeared to be honest reporting.

The final paragraph, however, was stunning. The comment alleged to have been made by Frontier school superintendent Bruce Kidder who was quoted as saying, “If you think Switzerland of Ohio is better than me, good luck,” leaves me bewildered. The comment smacked of vindictiveness and any sense of intelligent expression.

The article published in the Marietta Times on Wednesday, March 26, “Mourning for Lawrence School,” seemed geared to fostering continuing grief among all Frontier citizens. Certainly, anger and sadness would be expected from all those affected by a school closing. However, the reported emotions expressed in the article seem misplaced from the issues.

The teacher who is aggrieved, being unable to retire at the school where she has taught all her life, is selfish and has nothing to do with what is best for children or a community. It is a personal complaint that stirs the pot of anguish. The school closing is not about her but about money and funding and why so many schools across the country are closing, not only buildings but closing on educational opportunities for our children. I would suggest that teacher contact her teachers’ union officials for advice. The financial contributions to congressmen and lobbyists by teachers’ unions are staggering, outdistancing AARP, banking interests, and others wishing to buy congressional favors. Perhaps the union could offer a suggestion for her dilemma.

It would seem that the Lawrence school building failures – asbestos, flood plain, mold in the school, etc., that was of concern to New Matamoras parents, would also be of concern to Lawrence area parents. Last summer, my husband and I were invited to a social function at Lawrence school. I made a “dry run” to the school prior to the event and was appalled by the road leading me there and learning the building still functioned as a school.

On Monday, March 24, I made a call to Lawrence school at 2:55 p.m. I called the number listed on the internet three times, but no one ever answered. It occurred to me that if the school was so revered, perhaps a volunteer would “man” the phones. I imagined my horror if I’d called a school one of my children attended and no one was there! I checked the Internet for school telephone policies, and it seems that across the country, schools do have policies regarding answering the telephone, what should be said, etc. Also, as I’ve learned while visiting public and private schools in Ohio and Pennsylvania, most schools have policies in place regarding visitors, and how they should be handed. Let us remember Columbine. I lived nearby. Let us remember Newtown … and all the other places in this country and elsewhere where horrible tragedies have occurred.

I remembered the New Matamoras parent, the father of a child with peanut allergy as I read in the Wednesday Marietta Times that Lawrence school was staffed by three full time teachers, one part time teacher, and the custodian. Where is the school nurse, fire department, police department, etc? What programs do they have in place for emergencies, especially, since there appears to be no office staff?

I’m deeply sorry that young children are burdened with the problems of school closings. Surely, they don’t understand “millage,” flood plains, or why the second floor of their school is closed. The individual who alleged at the March 24 school board meeting that he could be at Lawrence school in 10 minutes was not being truthful. He failed to report where is starting point was.

Last week I also communicated with Marge Scherer, editor in chief of Educational Leadership magazine in Alexandria, Va.. She is associated with ASCD, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, a global organization with 175,000 members. She wrote me, “I am so sorry that your local school is closing. I hope you will do all in your power to communicate with your school board and principals your concerns for the safety of the local children who will now have to attend another school.”

She responded to an article I had asked about: Surviving a School Closing,” by Peter DeWitt and Josephine Moccia, published in the May 2011 issue of Educational Leadership. The authors conveyed their own dismay about their school closing… and told the tale of their efforts to improve the situation and, yes, mollify the parents and public. “Unfortunately, the solutions are not perfect, as you well note. Sometimes both educators and the public do not get anywhere near their preferred solution.” She continued … “Please know that there are still many people who want to put kids first.”

Founded in 1943, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development is a global community with member from over 100 countries. Its mission is to develop programs, products, and services essential to help educators learn, teach and lead. The association has developed the whole child initiative: Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child.

My parents, more than I, were affected by a school closing nearly 60 years ago. As a child, I had no idea what had occurred. I adjusted. My parents held grudges until long after I graduated high school.

Education is no joke. But it has become a joke in the United States. My grown son who is a father himself constantly points out what he observes among immigrants to his Pittsburgh community. They comprise the largest number of parental participants in most school communities. My grandson, however, does not attend public school.

Among the do’s and don’ts for school closing, in the DeWitt/Moccia article, “Do” was to remember that every decision has to be about the kids. “Don’t” was not to forget that there is a cost to closing a school building just as there is a cost to keeping one open.

Sunnie Kuhleman lives in New Matamoras.