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December 01, 2006

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Have you ever been to the western UP? You want to consolidate districts but you appear to have no idea of how far apart these students live already. Kids are already on the bus around 6 am, and one of the districts you mention Ewen / Trout Creek already contain two towns that must be about 20 miles apart. You cannot compare the educational districts in the UP and Detroit but if you wanted to you could go to great schools website and see how well those Ewen and Trout Creek students do with far less money and resources then those enrolled in high priced down state schools. In fact if you really wanted to do something good for schools that are so successful for 3 million a year, why don't you contribute and ask others to contribute to the Million Dollar Project a Ewen elementary teacher has his students working on after they started asking him about how much a million dollars is and what a deficit is. Send all you can to the Million Dollar Project, 14312 Airport Road Ewen Michigan 49925 and leave your critiques to those schools that aren't educating our youth.
Thank you

It seems that big schools, like big cars, is an idea that we keep buying even though its time has come and gone.

The big push for school consolidation started in the late 1950’s, as part of the push for better education that was sparked by the launch of Sputnik. It made sense then. Gas was less than 10 cents a gallon. New roads and interstates were being built everywhere. Education was seen as a content based commodity, so it was important to get students physically close to good libraries and teachers who had the specialized educations that were beyond the reach of smaller schools. Nobody worried about crime in schools. No one had even heard of sprawl.

Today we face a different world. In the age of the internet, memorization of acts, or housing facts in libraries, is less important. Students and teachers must become lifelong learners, adept at evaluating a constant flow of competing information. Employability depends on being adept at embracing new technologies at a record pace, on emotional intelligence and team working skills, on good work habits and a highly developed sense of personal responsibility.

In the 1990’s, the Search Institute’s (http://www.search-institute.org/aboutsearch/research) produced a list of 40 Developmental Assets essential to raising successful young people. Those of us who live in small school communities were not surprised to find that small schools have always provided many of these assets. Kids do better in intact communities.

But aren’t small schools an expensive luxury? The people at The Small Schools Project (http://www.smallschoolsproject.org) don’t think so. They cite studies that look, not just at the cost of running buses, paying staff, and keeping the lights on, but at the cost of producing an actual graduate. As schools get bigger, the dropout rate increases. Studies in both New York City and Nebraska show that the economy of scale in the larger schools disappears when measured in cost per graduate.

It makes sense to evaluate schools this way. You wouldn’t measure the efficiency of an auto plant by how many cars they tried to make; you’d want to know how many actually ran. And putting a half-built car on the scrap heap costs nothing compared to setting a high school dropout loose on the streets. If we were to factor in the societal costs of high school dropouts, small schools would win hands down.

In Michigan, consolidation is not the answer to our school funding problems. Some of our biggest districts are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and some of our smaller districts are winning awards for efficiency. Talk of consolidation only diverts attention from our real problems: the erosion of Proposal A’s tax foundation, the escalating cost of health and retiree benefits, etc.

I attended the school in White Pine. In fact, I live across the street from the school and it was wonderful! We were small, but we were very connected -- we were like one big family. We all felt at home. My last year at the school was my 8th grade year, when the high school portion of it "closed". It was heart-wrenching. My mother was the first Freshman class to attend WPHS; my 5 older siblings attended WPHS as well as countless other relatives. It's very sad. I can't imagine it happening to any other person; it's harder than you could ever think. I lost something incredibly important to me; it wasn't a complete loss because I've gained many other friends and have experienced a new life that I never thought of. It's still something that I hate to think about. It's something I will never get over. There needs to be something done for Michigan and the economy. Schools are getting hit hard. Marenisco School had to shut its doors as well. It was another sad thing to see especially since my brother was a teacher there. There needs to be something done and efficiently as well before more schools are in so much trouble that they have to close. Pretty soon we're all going to be in one large school. I'm currently a senior at Ontonagon. In White Pine, the class was 13 studnets (the 2nd biggest class), now there are 51. I still feel that this is large! I really wish White Pine wasn't the first domino to fall, but sadly, with how the pattern is continuing, there's going to be more schools closing in Michigan. Especially the Western end of the UP. It's horrible.

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