11 March 2008

St. Paul vs. Consolidation Update

The people of the small towns of St. Paul and Appalachia can breath a sigh of relief for a moment but this is not over by a long shot. This article lays out some interesting numbers that help explain the madness behind county school board member's desire to build a super school. This article does a nice job covering what was discussed at last night's school board meeting.

It is painfully obvious that this is about staffing. This is about 'saving' money by cutting payroll. Eliminating jobs for good teachers, coaches and staff just to fatten the bottom line. I estimate that consolidation would eliminate at least 129 jobs. That is 129 valuable members of Wise County's economy that won't be adding to Wise County's tax revenue. That is 129 people who will probably take their talents to Russell, Scott or another county. This is insanity. Virginia's unemployment rate rose by 3.8% in January and you want to spend the county's tax payers money to research plans to cut more jobs. To me the solution is a no-brainer and is long over due; fix the schools you have. If they can't be fixed then rebuild. Yes, the students of Wise, Coeburn and Powell Valley deserve to have class in nice air conditioned rooms. That is no reason to take kids out of a school like St. Paul that already has nice air conditioned rooms. Do not punish the smaller towns and the long term well being of the entire county's economy just to put some construction dollars in the hands of a few. This is cutting off the nose to spite the face.

This idea that population decline necessitates closing schools is absurd. These schools are not empty and thier jobs are some of the last jobs keeping this county going. If you believe that defeatist nonsense then what hope is there for this county? Do you think Russell and Scott county are bringing new jobs into the area by cutting schools? That is insane. This is a chance for Wise county to make a stand to say that this county is not dying, to say this county will grow that we will invest in our children and educate a workforce that will bring new business and opportunity to the county. This is not the time to go backwards. Closing schools is not progress.

Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith
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