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Campus Connection Staying focused on what matters: the children

Article Date: 
22 March, 2013 (All day)

“It takes an entire village to raise a child”
-African proverb-
This past weekend, a number of residents spoke about how fortunate they were to be able to live in Morgan.  Most of them have moved their families here from other areas in the state or nation.  They pointed to their wonderful neighbors, the schools and the beautiful mountains.
It has been my good fortune to reside in this wonderful valley most of my life.  I’m thankful for the privilege and I do not take it for granted.
I remember years ago a civil engineer doing some work for the county remarked, “Morgan is the best kept secret in the state and someday people are going to discover it.”
According to the 2010 Census, his prediction is coming true.  At that time the population was 9,685 residents.  The average household had 3.32 people residing in the home compared to a state average of 3.02 persons per residence. In 2012 there were 129 new building permits issued in Morgan County.  As of this writing there are 55 homes presently under construction.
In 2008 we had a student population of 2,186 in grades K through 12; today there are 2,533 students enrolled in those same grades.  This is an increase of 347 students in a five-year period.  Class sizes continue to grow, particularly in the elementary schools.  Morgan class size averages at the elementary level for next year, without additional student growth, will exceed state averages in all grades except third grade.  With 55 homes already under construction, the district anticipates class sizes in all elementary grades to exceed state averages by the fall of 2013.
State and local revenues to the school district have not been able to keep up with this growth.  The school board has done everything in their power to balance each year’s budget while protecting the instruction delivered to students.  At this time, few options remain and without further assistance from the state and county taxpayers, student instruction will suffer. 
Simply put, primary residential homes do not cover the educational costs of the children housed in those homes.  What is needed is either a robust business and industry community within the district or a willingness of the populace to pay more for public education without a large increase in the number of businesses and industries.
While our city and county leaders are working to bring more business and industry into the valley, this is a long and tedious process that will take many years to accomplish.  Residential building, on the other hand, is robust and growing.
On June 25, 2013, the voters of Morgan will have the opportunity of going to the polls to decide if additional funding for our schools will be enacted for student instruction or if they want the school board to reduce instructional services to students and balance the budget with current revenues.
The leeway funds would be used to reduce class sizes, particularly in the elementary schools.  Growing math, science and language arts class sizes in the middle school and high school also need to be addressed. Funds are also needed to provide critical remediation to students struggling academically, especially in secondary math classes.  
Funding for our special needs students is falling further and further behind the actual needs of these students.  Recent legislation will require all students to take the ACT exam before graduating.  Many of these students need additional attention and instruction in order to reach some level of proficiency in this test.  
And finally, because the district has no funding for professional development, our teachers are hindered in their ability to be competitive with teachers in other districts where such services are provided.
It does take an entire village to raise a child and the Morgan Board of Education is calling upon the public to study the proposal and vote.  Once the vote has been determined, the Board will set a budget based on the voice of the people.  Their ultimate goal is to always stay focused on what matters: the children.
The Morgan County School District will hold four parent/community information nights on the voted leeway in April. They include: Mountain Green Elementary on April 3 at 7 p.m.; Morgan Middle School on April 4 at 7 p.m.; Morgan High School on April 16 at 7 p.m.; and Morgan Elementary on April 18 at 7:30 p.m.  Parents and the public are invited to attend.