Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

October 26, 2013

Make the system better

The following letter addresses some of the points in the Kimi-Scott McGreevy letter (“Two high schools are justified, “Oct. 13 Times-News).

Although I would prefer to see one high school in Cumberland, I agree with Ms. McGreevy that education needs to be a priority no matter what.

The only way to help Cumberland get back on the map is to improve the education system. This is one way to attract new residents or industry to the community. The ideals of the national “Blue Ribbon” school-rating program should be a goal.

The population of Cumberland is at an all time low. Perhaps it has stabilized, but it is quite small. Allegany and Fort Hill are both 1A schools in the state rating system for sports. The 1A schools represent the smallest 25 percent of the schools in the state.

Mountain Ridge is a 2A school under the same system. This means there are 50 percent of the schools that are larger then Mountain Ridge. Merging Allegany and Fort Hill will create a school similar in size to Mountain Ridge and no larger then either Fort Hill or Allegany have ever been in the past (in the 60’s Allegany had over 1,500 students).

The issue is not how large this school will be but the size of the classes for the students. By merging the schools less teachers might lose jobs if class size is taken into consideration.

Ms. McGreevy states, “Nor do they seem to understand that operating a large high school in a jurisdiction that is among the poorest in Maryland would cost the community dearly through the higher dropout rates and increased rates of school violence that often occur in large schools with high poverty numbers.”

Clearly these points are important and cannot be taken lightly. Why not invest money into eliminating dropouts/crime and drugs by adopting some of the points below?

The following are known causes of dropout rates: The attached article gives great strategy and insight on how to address them. (http://teens.lovetoknow.com/Causes_of_High_School_Dropouts)

 Academic Failure

 Attendance/Preparation

 Disengagement

 Pregnancy

 Financial Difficulties

Engaging a consultant can be effective. It all depends on what information was presented. Clearly we are really not talking about a “larger high school” by the state’s standards.

As I said before 50 percent of the high schools in the state will be larger then the combined school, and the county already is managing Mountain Ridge which is about the same size.

It is hard to imagine that the costs of a larger school will be more then the combined costs of an old (building) Fort Hill and a new Allegany plus the cost to build and move Allegany. Upscale 21st century curriculum, class size, quality of education and cost are most important.

In conclusion, we live in the 21st century where many of the potential jobs that our high school students may get have not been invented yet. The classes today go way beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic. Innovation is critical. Entrepreneurial skills must be developed.

Even those who consider factory or distribution work need skills in Information Technology. The Chinese program at West Side is a great example. These classes can more easily be taught in one high school. One school can manage a broader curriculum to educate your children.

The honest truth is students today should complete no less than a junior college education.

There is funding available to do this if the student is interested.

Instead of investing in a new school, take the money and make the school system outstanding. Make people on the outside or down state say “Wow!”

L. Tadd Schwab

Delray Beach, Fla.

 

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