EDITORIAL: What school votes signal about the future

06-valemiddleschoolVale put down its marker for faith in the future by approving a new middle school last week.

That vote for the $8 million bond measure is about more than replacing an aging building. Voters wouldn’t have taxed themselves for the next 20 years if they didn’t have faith in local kids, school officials and their community. That’s an electoral thumbs up when across the nation the populace seemed to be demanding change in government.

Now Vale joins Adrian and Nyssa in the work of carefully spending what the taxpayers are handing over.

In all three school districts, leaders wisely sought deep community involvement. The bond measures passed last week and last May were shaped by citizen voices. As all three districts move ahead – and Adrian and Nyssa are well on the road towards a new gym and new middle school – leaders should continue to nurture that taxpayer involvement.

Taxpayers, first, will expect prudent spending. They will want to know they made the right choice in saying yes to school taxes. That means the leaders – the professionals on staff and the volunteers on school boards – should constantly assess whether there is a better way to spend each bond dollar.

A recommendation before the vote for how the money will be used shouldn’t be seen as chiseled in granite. If new opportunities arise, let’s take them. We want our schools to be safe. Are we using the best technology we can to make that so? We want our schools to be modern without being works of science fiction. As technology evolves, so should thinking about what our schools need.

As the work goes forward, those who are writing those property tax checks should be kept close. Those who say yes to the bonds deserve the thanks for students, parents, and school staff. But they also need to be told: Stick with us. They should remain partners in the planning.

But there is another group that warrants attention as well. That is those who voted no. In Vale, more than 800 people opposed the bond. Nyssa had the closest bond vote, just 45 votes separating win from lose. In that community, 399 people said no. Why?

We can surmise the reasons. People don’t like paying taxes. But alert community leaders would do well not to assume that’s all it is. Is there a message in those no votes that might be illuminating? Those who voted no could help their community by sharing their reasons. Perhaps there is an issue lurking in those votes that hasn’t quite made it to the school board agenda, and that ought to.

For us, the biggest message is that these communities believe in themselves. They are opening their pocketbooks to say so. They see good in the years ahead. For an area that struggles economically, that is much needed optimism.  – LZ