Friday, November 7, 2008

Veterans Day Program

This morning, a district-wide special program was held at the high school to honor our veterans, and it was awesome!

There were representatives from every branch of the armed forces, and the guest speaker was Mr. David Boyer - a 2000 graduate of Swanton who is currently serving in the Army. Miss Mackenzie Simon led all of us in the Pledge of Allegiance. The children from Crestwood sang a beautiful song for us, as only little ones can do, with special solos by Alexis Bergman, Olivia Bergman, and Joellen McDonnall. Park School children also sang a special song, accompanied with hand motions and cards held high to represent a large American flag in the bleachers.

Two young ladies from the Middle School - Courtney Barker and Lauren Keefer - gave a joint speech on freedom, and we were also shown a slide presentation prepared by the SHS Interactive Media Class with stirring music playing in the background (and some cool special effects on some of the slides!). Our high school band played a medley of the songs from each branch of the service, as well as other patriotic numbers that brought tears to my eyes.

High School Principal Steve Gfell concluded by sharing a personal story of his experience in the airport at Nashville last year when he learned that the plane he was trying to exit carried the body of a fallen soldier. His description of the respectful actions of everyone at that huge airport toward this unknown soldier touched all of our hearts.

A luncheon was then provided for our veterans at the Swanton Sports Center. Mrs. Betse Schmitz and Mrs. Carol Arvin really outdid themselves with their efforts here - everything was beautifully decorated, and the food and service were excellent. Both ladies were decked out in pretty, patriotic aprons and they took very good care of our guests by serving and keeping coffee cups filled around the room. The time and care they put into this luncheon was evident to all.

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to such a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Levy Has Passed

The .75% income tax levy for the Swanton School district has passed, but it was disappointing to see how many "no" votes were cast for this levy that was actually a reduction in the tax rate. I was hoping for something more resembling a landslide than what we actually got.

But: it DID pass, and that is good news! We owe a ton of gratitude to the Levy Committee for all of their hard work, as well as our sports teams who helped at the polls and in picking up signs after the election had ended.

The current levy will continue to collect for another year before this new (reduced) levy will take effect. When it does, our residents will be contributing to a steady stream of income for the district, but at a lower rate.

Thanks again to everyone who made a positive contribution to the effort!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What Is the Purpose?

About a month ago, I received an email from a Board member's private email account to my private email account. The email consisted of only one question: what was my purpose for this blog?

Since then, I have had a few more ask essentially the same question. Allow me to share my response with You.

I began this blog when I was first elected, in November 2007. I told no one except my husband that I was going to blog about school board things. I told no one that I had a personal blog online. I just quietly began posting articles. Somehow, my blog was found by someone - and I am told that several people have read or read it. (THAT was a surprise!)

I have learned quite a bit since I first started. For one thing, since somebody is actually reading it, I try to "speak" to others more than just ruminating to myself, as I did at the beginning. I censor my more personal comments and opinions, even though this is a personal blog, because my purpose is not to share my opinions - my purpose is to share information. I understand the difference, and I see no point in willfully poking someone in the eye. That is not the kind of person I am.

That is not to say that everyone is always pleased with what I write! While facts are facts, people may hold varying opinions of those facts. Opinions are based more on the personal effect those facts have on individuals. So while the fact of the temperature may be 60 degrees, my opinion may be that it is 'just right' while the opinion of my neighbor might be that it is 'too chilly'.

The interpretation of facts may also be different. That is how you can have board members who have done hours and hours of study on financial reports of the district believe that they are offering a "fair contract" to a group of people, but that group may strongly disagree.

Facts are not subject to emotion, while opinions are often completely based on emotion. That is how human beings are wired.

So my purpose in continuing this blog is to disseminate, as best I can, the facts about issues in our school district. No one can hold a valid opinion on any issue if they are ignorant of the facts. This blog is my attempt to get the facts "out there" into the hands of our residents.

I will do my level best to avoid inflammatory adjectives. It is not my intent to pick a fight with anyone, even though I realize that some will hold strong opinions opposite of my own. I will not print half-truths and present them as the whole truth. I will not presume to know anyone's personal thought process and motive unless that person tells me. I take the position that ALL of us in this school district want it to succeed - even those of us who have no children currently in the system - and I realize that we will not always agree on the best way to achieve that goal.

But hopefully I will at least be able to share information with whatever few people read the articles on this blog. Those who are so inclined are welcome to chime in - pro or con - by sending their comments, and as long as they back up their opinion with their full name, their comment will be posted here, whether I agree with it or not. This can be an avenue for us to exchange ideas and information for the betterment of our school district, in addition to the opportunity afforded at our monthly board meetings.

Which reminds me . . . I know most people are not able to physically attend our board meetings, and that is frustrating. I would like to digitially record and then podcast all of our board meetings so that EVERYONE may hear what was discussed. The Board talked about it earlier this year, but no official vote was taken and thus recording has not begun. If you think that having the recordings available online would be of value to you, please tell a Board member. If the Board hears from enough of our residents, maybe we can put up an "official" site to hold those recordings as an additional means of keeping all in our district informed.

At our most recent board meeting, treasurer Cheryl Swisher moderated a financial forum on our district finances, which was VERY well done. I will share some of the highlights soon, and I will include a link to the latest version of our 5 year forecast. I think it is important that everyone in our district be aware of our financial situation - so I will share these facts on my blog.

I apologize for rambling a bit! But I hope you understand just a bit better why I write on this blog. It is my conviction that an informed populace is best able to make decisions on the issues before us. If you have a question, please feel free to write or call any Board member for an answer. If you write your question to this blog, just remember to include your full name - and a response will also be posted to the blog. That way, others who may be interested can also see your question and the answer.