Local Views: A Response to ‘Stillwater’s Forgotten Children’

There are a few comments in Tina Riehle’s piece titled “Stillwater’s Forgotten Children” that we can agree with. Allow us to list a few.

1. “We live in a community of intelligent passionate people.” Absolutely. In District 834, which encompasses 18 separate communities, there are numerous intelligent people passionate about education. This includes the school board and the candidates for the school board. Because of their passion and intelligence, not every citizen has to engage in a “very exhausting marathon.” Trusting in elected officials allows all citizens to live their lives without being exhausted.

2. “We need a School Board and a Superintendent that are fiscally responsible.” Absolutely. In the 42 years we’ve lived in District 834, we’ve watched numerous school boards make decisions for the good of the District. Some of those decisions have been difficult. Whether turning bus driving over to an independent contractor, choosing to build one new high school instead of having two high schools, introducing laptops to just one junior high, funding all day kindergarten, moving from a seven period day to a six period day in the secondary schools, establishing new boundaries in the districts, or voting to consolidate schools, boards have been motivated by the knowledge they have a duty to be fiscally responsible.

3. “Stillwater is a unique community comprised of various socioeconomic neighborhoods.” Absolutely. It is precisely because of these various neighborhoods – and their various needs – that decisions the board makes cannot be the same for all. Ms. Riehle’s contention that “One is able to choose the environment best suited for themselves and their family,” is not true. While some in our District do have that ability, many are limited by their family circumstances from choosing. Perhaps, in hindsight, Ms. Riehle would agree.

4. That idea leads to her following comment that “no honest definition of equity was ever given.” Equity is largely accepted to mean a commitment to ensure that every student receives what he or she needs to succeed. The Bridge to Excellence includes numerous strategies to get as close as possible to this ideal. To personalize education in a large school district is a notable goal. To encourage this every day, for every student, in every classroom, should be the focus for the school board.

5. “If Stillwater focuses on kids already enrolled that have needs not being addressed, they will attract and retain the students that are fleeing.” Absolutely. With a current enrollment of 8400 and a healthy start to our pre-K program, we have more than enough needs to be met. Making sure each student has access to a caring, intelligent teacher, a stong support system when additional help is needed, and the opportunities to develop his or her passions in academics, arts and athletics would be more than enough to market.

District 834 is unique. It has helped raise two of our children to become successful adults.  Our E-21 school system is not perfect, nor has it ever been. But trusting in the board, superintendent and staff will make one’s life from feeling like running a marathon.

George and Donna Hoeppner

Response to Forgotten Kids post