Archived Story

Bond quest transcends schools

Published 9:59pm Wednesday, March 21, 2012

There are no easy answers when it comes to the daunting challenge facing the Dowagiac Board of Education, which is well aware it has a moment in time to reinvent our schools.
The stakes could not be higher with little time to communicate a new plan.
School board members are being challenged to position the district to flourish while other districts would be content to survive.
Citizens need to keep an open mind and not to resist change or be sentimentally attached to a particular building.
This is about change — not if, but how.
Work was meant to culminate in a May bond election to fund an addition to the middle school, consolidate lower grades into a central location at the high school and perhaps close some elementary buildings.
But the financial landscape keeps shifting. It became apparent energy performance contracting to update 50-year-old Union High isn’t financially feasible.
But updating 119,000-square-foot DUHS is a major concern because failure of its boiler could blow a $700,000 hole in finances or at least continue to be a drag on the budget.
April 9 school leaders will weigh how to proceed for the Aug. 7 ballot, which could be the last such opportunity for a generation because of something called Bill 770, which caps bonded indebtedness statewide.
Board members and other school leaders, from administration to building principals, devoted Saturday morning to poring over data sorted into seven options.
Extremes are dead on arrival, like Option G with its $45 million price tag, compared to $16 million to build on DMS, or continuing with more of the same, which leaves the district broke by June 30, 2015.
An answer must come from the middle, which involves various K-5 and grade level configurations to go with a 6-12 grade middle/high school and closing Sister Lakes and/or Kincheloe.
The school system invested a year tin Disney Way customer service principles and storyboarding to gain broad input.
The goal was to identify best practices to remake the district for technological times which demand problem solving and critical thinking and thrust graduates into a global job market.
Things like the new learning lab smart classroom teach teams by tackling collaborative projects designed to engage minds by incorporating real-life applications.
Dowagiac knows Buchanan ran a perfect program, did everything right and still fell short, presumably because of economic apprehension.
How this plays out will have a great deal to say not only about the education of Dowagiac’s young people but will define the community’s ability to compete and stem decay.
Change is our only hope — not hoping for change.

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