Roland ‘Bud’ Buchman: An Open Letter to the Stillwater Area Public Schools Board of Education

Some thoughts and questions for each school member:

Much has transpired since May 2015, the time of the bond referendum.

As you recall, accompanying the $97,500,000 referendum which passed, was the assertion that no schools would be closed and, furthermore, some of the money would be dedicated to the three schools now considered for closure.

Tom Nelson, interim superintendent for this district for the 2014-2015 school year and seasoned superintendent of many years including a previous year as your interim superintendent, worked to help you arrive at the bond proposal. I presume Mr. Nelson’s vast experience and counsel, and your lengthy time to develop the bond proposal, led you to have full confidence in your request to the community and your assertions in support of it.

Now, after a few months into the new school year, the BOLD plan purports to close three schools, contrary to your, the school board’s, public declaration made nine months ago.

Now question yourself.

Did you, in your heart and on  your honor, your word, truly commit to your public statements at the bond vote time? Or were those  just soothing words? Your honesty, your integrity are at stake; qualities that I recommend you protect. How would each of you answer about the value of your word?

You could proclaim that you were “shocked” at the per- pupil costs at the three schools, as declared by the administration, but that would be evidence that you hadn’t studied the past budgets of each school. Rather, I believe you were in support of the District’s long-standing value of these small schools and  strong communities as I am; that you supported school options and blue ribbon schools.

Now, with little study, at least compared to that I presume you gave to the initial bond proposal, you are changing course. You are trying to justify this in the politically correct name of “equity,” rather than acknowledging that you are down-grading the system. Rather, benefit from those schools by drawing more students in through boundary change, by evaluating the reasons behind student moves within a particular school and responding, and by better PR work.

You have something good at work in the small schools. Emulate it. Do not believe your work has been done when your spread sheet shows you have the right number of students in the right number of desks. Students are more than numbers.

Some might argue that there are factors beyond school that affect the composite student achievement within a school. Don’t pass over the distinct benefit of each school just because the differences may be the effect of  cultural differences. I maintain that school systems are data rich but information/knowledge poor, probably the best use of data being within the classroom. Set up a system of evaluation to measure school effectiveness and student benefits, a future challenge. (A bit of a digression from today’s message.)

I have read that ” you will transfer the school’s culture along with the student,” an administration statement.

Just what is this “culture” feature,  rooted in time and place, that is to be transferred? Have you wondered how that could be done? After a moment’s thought you realize how remarkable, no, how impossible that would be. Was that “culture transfer” promise just something to make you feel good?

I’m sure you are being lobbied to renege on your word by some who benefitted from the “yes” votes generated by your “no schools will be closed” assertion.

Don’t let that cause you to go back on your word. Be true to your word; retain your integrity.

Your work is not easy. I’ve been there. Take the time to study the bigger picture. Draw in community leaders that know their distinct setting. Work with the community.

Back to the start. What does your word mean? Will you sacrifice  your integrity?


Roland Buchman

Stillwater, District 834 school board member, 1976-2008, 32 years