Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yet Another Reason Why the School Systems Should Merge

There was an article in yesterday's Martinsville Bulletin that should trouble you deeply if you live in this area. The Martinsville City school board passed a budget Monday that eliminates the JROTC and landscaping programs and abandons the MHS vocational building. The school board holds out hope that Patrick Henry Community College will pick up the vocational building's costs and that city students will be able to participate in JROTC programs at county schools.

Please don't misunderstand; this is not meant to be a criticism of the school board's budget. I don't know enough about how these cuts were devised to point fingers at Scott Kizner or anyone on the board. All I know is that the economy is in chaos--I don't doubt for a minute that something had to be cut, it was never going to be pretty, and the board did the best they could with an outrageously crappy situation.

But this highlights an issue that I've been known to preach about from time to time--and by "from time to time," I mean "constantly." This is even more evidence that we as a city/county community can no longer afford to operate two separate school systems. It made very little sense even before the national meltdown, but now it's directly undercutting our attempts to renew this community--how are we supposed to make the case that our workforce is trained and educated when we're forced to cut vocational programs? Moreover, what are the former JROTC students going to do? I was never a member of JROTC, but I was involved in the marching and jazz bands and I learned more about life from those experiences than I did in most of my other classes--if I had lost that, it would have deadened my high school experience. For JROTC students, there's the added benefit of experience that could help them advance through the ranks if they were to pursue a military career. Our inability to work together has now cost some of our students one of their opportunities to succeed.

Hey, I know it won't be easy or fun. I was a Bulldog and I don't want to see that go. But the longer we put off at least a school system merger, the more we shoot ourselves in the foot and the more we simply prolong the agony. If we want to survive as a community, we have to make some tough decisions--and we have to do it now.

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