Column by Ken Hamilton — Here is one that you out there who gives a darn will have to hold your noses and vote “Yes.”
After losing a bonding issue that was worth twice as much as the first one, the Niagara Falls School Board is putting an up-to-$67-million bonding issue before the taxpayers, and it has to pass by more than 60 percent of the voters because it constitutes increasing their bonding limits.
I voted “no” last year for likely the same three reasons why so many others who overturned it voted no.
1. I didn’t trust the board of education and its superintendent
2. I didn’t want them to be rewarded or distracted from their primary goal of actually teaching kids, which thus far, they have done a terrible job doing
3. I didn’t fully understand it, though if I had, it would not have necessarily changed my mind.
The smoke and mirrors of education law and accounting is confusing enough for even regular lawyers and accountants to understand, so much so, that in order to be good at it, you have to really specialize at that and that only.
I believe that the same obstacles exist in the understanding of educating our kids and I have advocated in the past that, until the education levels of our children are significantly raised, and that the graduation rates, especially for African American males — the lowest performing group in the system, then every board member, administrator and staffer should, as it is with lawyers and accountants that specialize in education law and financing, should drop off all of the feel-good boards that they are one and focus totally upon the education of our children.
There will come a sense of satisfaction from the accomplishment by our board in getting this bond issue passed and seeing the manifestation of it coming into fruition. Some will feel that their many years in pretending to educate has been adjudicated by it; and they may bask in the afterglow of this single success while our children continue to fail.
News flash: You are educators, not developers. Your product are smart kids and not smart buildings and in too many cases, the buildings are already smarter than the kids in which you provide many of the things that their parents ought to be providing for them, but can’t. And they can’t because you also taught the parents.
But the system has not been a total failure. Even a dummy like me had the skill set to seek additional information on this bonding issue, and through Washington, Albany and local contacts, I have been convinced that even though the lips of those educators who were advocating it were moving, surprisingly, they were actually telling the truth — it won’t cost the local taxpayer a single cent more than what we are already putting into our various tax kitties. The only difference is that the local taxpayer gets some benefit from its tax dollars, and not some other school district in the state.
Do I trust that any of this bonding will actually improve the education of our students?
No. No I don’t.
And that is because buildings and athletic facilities don’t build confidences of, or even teach children, people do that.
And those people are the same people that they see in the classroom five days a week — if their parents even bother to send them to school.
The people who build good students are the administrators who design programs that work, and not buildings, classrooms and athletic fields to do the work for them; and those are people that the student rarely sees.
Those people are board members who, at least once every week, are actually in those schools, letting the students know who they are and why they care about them.
And they certainly are the parents, despite the fact that some of the people who mis-educated or under-educated them are complaining that they have no value for education.
We all have to do a better job of understand what the other is doing.
Parents need to attend parent-teacher conferences and become partners in their children’s education – and not just during a sporting event.
Teachers need to believe that their students can learn in these new, improved facilities and work hard to make it happen.
Students need to understand that the public dole may not always be there and that they will have to provide for their and their children’s own future.
And board members may have passed that first bond issue if they had done as I have asked them again and again — despite how boring they are, they need the same students that are televising city council meetings to broadcast theirs too.
Nonetheless, I strongly recommend holding your nose and voting “YES” on Tuesday, and we will personally “teach” the board of education a “lesson” later.