Letter to the Editor – School Board Oblivious to the Community’s Voice


Dear Editor:
“The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity, and accountability”—Simon Mainwaring

Once again the voters in the Fort Madison community have said no to building a new grade school. This is the third time they’ve said no, which means it’s the third time that time, money, and resources have gone towards trying to convince them to say yes. Time, money, and resources that could’ve been spent on something more worthwhile for our schools and students, possibly.

And instead owning the responsibility to PROVE to the community why we so desperately need this new school, those involved blame the community by stating things such as this by Board member Gayla Young, “We had tours, we had meetings, and our emails are public. Do you know how many people emailed me for information—zero. I can’t believe there are people out there that don’t want what’s best for these kids.”

To further this, Erin Slater stated “We still believe this is the right thing for Fort Madison and the younger students. We need to figure out how to correct the misinformation voters used to vote no.”

It is NOT the community’s burden to hunt down information or to even ask for it as individuals, it is the Board’s responsibility to make sure that information is fully provided to ALL voters in as many ways as possible, in as easily accessible ways as possible.

When the community cannot get straight answers through statements by the Superintendent and Board members, as quoted by area news sources, then why should they individually seek out additional information?

I’ve personally heard, from news sources and Board members, a number of different reasons for this great “need” to build a new school. Student safety, technology, accessibility, heating/cooling, etc. Ok, which is?

What we, the public/voters, have not seen is a thorough breakdown or itemization for what the costs are for building this new school in comparison to what the itemized costs would be to refurbish two separate buildings (or possibly even one, depending on the current and prospective number of students over X amount of years).

How many quotes or bids were procured and where did they come from? What is a cost-analysis, based on a sustainability factor for the community, of leaving two empty buildings and adding a brand new one? How will this affect taxes within a community which cannot be considered anything but lower-middle-class when it comes to wages versus cost of living? What alternative energy, technology, and even safety sources have they researched to determine if they’re a feasibility? IF a new school is built, will the money from the sale or rental of the other properties be put fully towards the cost of the loan for the new school or will it just be imbedded into yet another “general” fund for the town; one where the citizens really see no added value for themselves?

We have now had three votes on the same issue and the outcome has been the same each time. The responsibility or “blame”, as it seems the Superintendent and School Board would like to infer, doesn’t lie with the community at large; that lies directly on the shoulders of those who have continued to try to shove this measure down the public’s throats without giving any consideration to the community they’re actually supposed to be serving—because as the Superintendent and Board of our local schools, it’s not just the students they serve, it’s the entire community.

If they expect the voters to consider the best interest of the children, then they too need to consider the best interest of the voters. And the voters have thrice told them that they do not see this as something in their best interest. Tim Wondra called it a “me-first” society. Well, the “me’s” in this community are both parents and non-parents who are looking out for their families and livelihoods first because that is what happens there aren’t enough livable wage/benefit jobs to afford even a small tax increase…they have to think of putting a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and clothing on their backs.

It takes a great deal of privilege and lack of seeing the WHOLE community to be able to make the statements that Wondra, Slater, and Young have made regarding this issue. And it shows that, as representatives of our School District, they aren’t giving us self-definition, transparency, authenticity, and accountability.

Michelle Scott

Fort Madison, IA

About Chuck Vandenberg 5272 Articles
Pen City Current and pencitycurrent.com are products of Market Street Publishing, LLC, a multi-platform media company delivering hyper-local news, sports and advertising information to Fort Madison, IA and surrounding communities.

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