“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
“Investing in education is critical to fostering growth and innovation for generations to come. Improving our children’s education is the surest way to ensure a brighter future.”
Vice Chair and Chief Diversity Officer, The Nielsen Company
High Quality Education is Crucial to Achieving Success
In 2013, the Nielsen Global Survey of Education Aspirations polled over 29,000 Internet responders in 58 countries to ascertain the sentiment on the importance of educational opportunities. The respondents believed that the path to better jobs, increased earnings and improved lifestyles is paved by education. Benjamin School District 25’s mission statement, To provide each child with the best educational opportunity to become a lifelong learner, achieve the highest personal growth and be a contributing member of society correlates with the respondents’ beliefs.
Improving Learning, Facilities, Safety and Security While Lowering Taxes
My previous three letters highlighted the planning which began in July 2015 to identify improvements needed to build upon the community’s investments in our school facilities. A Community Engagement Team, BenCARE (Commit And Reinvest in Education) consisting of a cross-section of stakeholders was formed this fall. The purpose of the 22-member team was to:
- familiarize the community stakeholders with the current facilities’ needs and challenges;
- identify the community’s level of support for a tax rate decrease for Benjamin School District 25; and,
- provide information to the school board to assist in the decision to place a proposed referendum on the April 4, 2017 ballot.
The team planned and coordinated the community outreach door-to-door open house invitation canvassing, the distribution of a postcard to district residents, open house events, information sharing, online and random telephone surveys, and online and paper surveys. Feedback was collected from the following sources: open house participants, 100 random telephone surveys, and online and paper surveys. The specific results of the surveys are shown in our Winter 2017 Ben.25/Connect newsletter under the District News tab.
In summary, 58 percent favored a possible referendum, and the support increased to 80 percent when the respondents were informed that the debt tax rate would decrease by 16 percent. The highest ratings of the possible improvements targeted maintaining the facilities, improving educational programming, and ensuring safety/security.
Based on debt tax rates decreasing by 16 percent if a referendum were to pass and the community input received from various sources, the BenCARE Team recommended--at the December 12 school board meeting--that the board place the proposed referendum question on the April 4, 2017 Consolidated Election ballot.
The school board will consider placing the referendum question on the ballot for the April 4, 2017 Consolidated Election at the January 9 school board meeting. Included in the Winter 2017 newsletter is the ballot question using the official language and a less technical wording of the question.
If the school board acts to place the referendum question on the ballot, the school district then can only communicate information related to the referendum.
Our students will continue to have more opportunities to explore and experience Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) activities during the second half of this school year. Evergreen Elementary School students are learning how to code to manipulate simple robots.
The Robotics Club is thriving with Benjamin Middle School students building robots to use. In the future, the club will participate with other schools in robotic competitions.
Also, nearly 70 middle school students are involved in the production of the musical, Oklahoma which will take place on March 17 and 18.
Finally, the new reading/English program for grades K-5 is going well with more emphasis on non-fiction reading, more in-depth writing, and enhanced higher level thinking skills. Faculty members for grades 6-8 are examining two reading/English programs to determine which will best meet the needs of all our students.
Philip M. Ehrhardt, Ed.D.