By Superintendent Ken Adams
A few years ago, while dealing with some serious issues and looking for a silver lining, I decided to change my choice of words when discussing challenges. Turning a negative into a positive I now call them “Opportunities for Growth”. I’ve also altered my salutation to those who ask, “How are you?” Rather than using the stale phrase, “Fine”, I look them in the eye and say with enthusiasm, “I’m glad to be living in America!”
Those two changes in my verbiage seemed to have made a difference in my attitude and with those to whom I give the responses.
A rural school system is a reflection of the larger society in which it functions. What happens at school reflects what is happening in the community. Generally speaking, we value education, respect our judicial system, seek to serve others, and love our country. The community tackles problems head on and works to improve our standard of living with the resources at hand.
The Board of Education made a decision prior to the beginning of this school year to use federal stimulus funds to construct a P.E. /activities center and a transportation facility. During the pre-planning and pre-design phase they created plans that would best meet the needs of current students and future growth in the coming years. When the actual cost estimates came in, it was obvious the federal funds fell short of what was needed. The Board was then faced with an “Opportunity for Growth”. Do you scale back the projects and reduce the effectiveness of the facilities or do you use other collected funds to complete the projects in such a manner as to enhance the educational opportunities of students?
When the dust settled, the Board actually did both. They scaled down the projects, leaving what was absolutely necessary and planned in the design the potential to expand the projects as funds came available. They also chose to use $250,000 of capital funds and possibly $250,000 of pay-as-you-go funds to add public restrooms, complete the core of the P.E. building including a court, track, turf field and storage area. They also chose to construct the transportation facility using block rather than metal sheeting.
The Morgan Education Foundation was invited to join in the effort. The Foundation was asked to solicit private funds to cover as much of the pay-as-you-go funds as possible. If they exceed the goal, the additional funds will help build a classroom, fitness room, and offices in the P.E. facility. The Foundation eagerly agreed and they are in the process of creating fundraising projects and promotions.
The Board is also hopeful that the architect and construction manager can use value engineering in the bidding and construction process of both projects. Competitive bidding, creative engineering, and innovative designs may save a substantial amount of taxpayer money.
The Board is also working closely with the Morgan County Council in an offer to sell the county 1.3 acres of land recently purchased for the transportation facility for the purpose of the fairground. This exchange would provide the county with a much needed parking area and the Board would use the funds to help pay for the transportation facility.
While the economy has struggled across the nation, families continue to move into Morgan County. Our school population grew by 4 percent this year. These 99 students are most likely just the tip of the iceberg when we consider the potential for growth in our schools over the next five to ten years.
If we do not build adequate facilities today, we will pay a greater price tomorrow to retrofit those buildings to meet the needs of students. We can pay now or we can pay later. The Board has chosen to take this “Opportunity” by the horns and tackle the issue head on. I believe their foresight is commendable and will eventually save the taxpayers of Morgan County hundreds of thousands of dollars within the next decade.