Why are Corbett “locals” trying to “destroy” their schools?
This is a question posed to me recently after the October 2011 school board meeting. I was asked to not be offended, but it was a serious question, and one that deserved a well thought out answer.
Currently I believe there are two opinion groups when it comes to the Corbett Schools.
One side is pushing for expansion, bringing in more out of area students and increasing the size of the district to 1,500 students, more if possible. [ Update: Select here for information about the October 2013 hearing to increase the population again through the conditional user permitting process. ] This is the position posed by the Superintendent, who has stated in OregonLive that education is Corbett’s industry, and has said in school board meetings that he wants to bring in as many students that will bring in profit. This side believes they are saving the school by increasing its size and offering more programs, focusing on “AP for All” and college prep.
There is another opinion group and they want to look at the long term effects of becoming dependent on so many out of area students and the possibly devastating results that will happen to the district when the “locals” reach their breaking point due to traffic or other issues now at hand. To reach the 1,500-plus student level you will need to bring in over 900 out of area students, which means to house and educate these students you will need the taxpayers of the area to agree to support the program. The students bring in their State dollars, but that is not going to pay for bonds and levies that will be required to repair or build new buildings, or fill in when operational bonds are floated.
The Corbett School administration has stated that the taxpayers won’t pass increased taxes because they are too strapped, so taking out large loans to do repairs and upgrades is the only way to get the expansion program done. Their plan is to pay for these upgrades by bringing in additional students, and so the district is calling these types of loans “no-cost” since the cost will not be passed on to the taxpayers.
The side that feels the expansion is not the right pathway to be on feels the taxpayers won’t pass the levies because they don’t like the direction the school has been taken over the past several years. Many local taxpayers have told me they believe in education and the students, but not in paying for students who do not live in the district. Passing increased taxes when the student population is no longer Corbett residents is not something they are willing to do.
The side that wants expansion will discuss the National recognition the district has received in recent years with the AP testing. The other side will point out that the AP ranking is based on what they believe to be purchased PR and suggest parents look into how the school is doing based on the Oregon Department of Education State tests and the fallen rating Corbett has gotten, dropping from an “outstanding” school to a “satisfactory” one.
Those who don’t want any more expansion, will tell you they want a Corbett school, not a school in Corbett. The other side has been heard to say the district has such a great thing going we should open it for everyone who wants to come in.
From what I can tell, each side feels the other is trying to “destroy” the school. In fact, both sides believe they are trying to “save” the school. One is looking at “going and growing” as it was put several times in board meetings last year, the other side is saying, “slow down.” One side appears to be only focused on the short term, the other is looking down the road ten years and saying that the path we are on will leave Corbett without a school or one that is surely going to be representing students that don’t even live here, over the ones that do.
Personally, I don’t see the disenfranchised residents deciding in ten years that they are happy with the district and voting to pass a bond to build a new middle school or high school. I believe those who are unhappy will do what they are telling me they plan to do; pull their students out of Corbett, stop donating time, money and items to the school and quietly vote down increases in their taxes. Do I believe these people are trying to destroy the school? No. I think they want to change the path they see the school headed down, and they have voted with their dollars when they have had the chance, asking the district to consider what the community will ultimately support.
Corbett voters have also changed out four seats in the last two election on their school board. They are sending a message, and it is up to us to decide if we are going to listen.
* I am a new member of the Corbett school board. The opinions and understanding of information is mine and does not reflect the school board, school district or anyone other than myself.