EDITORIAL: Thanks for listening

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot

Thank you to the Greencastle-Antrim School Board for listening to those constituents who have chosen to let their feelings be known. Four members voted to preserve the educational program at Tayamentasachta, the district's unique outdoor education center. For decades the students have been served by a science teacher on site, and that will remain for at least another year.

It is difficult to fathom why such a decision was even controversial. Board members received 150 emails, over 500 students signed a petition, and hundreds of people turned out for the May 17 meeting to support Tayamentasachta, athletics, music and adequate classroom sizes. No one in the public spoke against the proposed cuts.

Yet only a technicality on a tie-vote saved the Tayamentasachta director position. If the board members who voted to cut the position had heard from the public that they wanted to save a few dollars to take this resource out of our schools they haven’t shared that. So we are left with listening to those who have spoken. That community obviously believes the center is a treasure and has provided significant learning opportunities through the years. They get it that if the science program was taken away, even for a year, it would never return. The potential for beloved community events continuing as in the past was also in danger of disappearing.

The school board is in an enviable position right now, and does not appreciate it. Citizens recognize the financial crisis, and have told them they are willing to pay more in taxes to preserve and even improve our educational system. Grab that opportunity! Naturally, every position and expenditure should still be examined for every budget. But by this point, simply slashing is not the answer if Greencastle-Antrim is to maintain a quality of life, not only in the educational system, but in the entire community.

One board member criticized previous school boards several times for what he thought were bad decisions. Yet several members of this board appear willing to make a more serious mistake, by refusing to raise taxes that are absolutely necessary to keep current programs going. Even with the maximum two mill increase, one person stated the district would barely keep pace with needs. By not levying those mills, the problem will be compounded next year, and the next. If the potential cuts this year frightened people, wait until the ramifications next year. As everyone knows, income from traditional sources is down, and some heavy expenditures are mandated by law. Therefore, regardless of past board decisions, we are where we are and we have to deal with it wisely.

The citizens who packed the middle school library value education to the nth degree. Without a strong foundation, which includes academics and extracurricular activities, our youth will not be prepared to face the world with wisdom, confidence and ambition.

More often than not at budget time citizens rail against a tax increase. This time many are taking the time to tell the board that they know it is necessary. The sacrifice of $20 or $40 or $60 over the course of a year is worth what will be retained and gained for the students. Many people pay that much extra every month in higher fuel prices, but who has really cut down on their driving? It is all about priorities. The impact of a tax increase is greatly overblown, and no board member has presented a palatable reason for avoiding a mill increase. We hope they will behave as true leaders and act in the best interest of the children.