Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Small College Town Schools

I have a couple things I wanted to blog about recently and one theme I can pick up on is our local schools: Small College Town Schools. I live in a small college town surrounded by rural communities. We are about 45 minutes from Major City, but are definitely not in the suburbs. Our district is fairly large geographically speaking, but relatively small in terms of students: we have three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school (about 1000 students at the high school). I won't pretend to know all the details about how our district is funded, but I do know that the state provides some money and other money comes from local tax levies.  Ever since we moved here, we've heard about tax levies failing to pass and how our schools are in serious need of updating. D was only two when we moved here, so she wasn't in school for the first few years we were here.

We decided to put her in the only local private school for kindergarten. We don't have a Montessori school here in town, and this was the closest thing we had (so I thought). Kindergarten was OK, but it seemed they were a bit too lax in terms of structure and discipline, so we switched to public school when D started first grade. This is her third year there and she is doing fine. The teachers are great, but the facilities are pretty poor. 

We went for parent-teacher conferences last night and found that D's teacher loves having her in class, but that she tends to be a bit too chatty at times (just like her mom). I haven't been as involved this year- last year I got to go once a week to help with reading and it was a great chance to get to know her teacher and class. D's teacher this year doesn't have anything regular like that, so I haven't been in class this year- that's OK, though.

As I mentioned earlier, the school levies usually fail around here- the people "in-town" tend to vote for them, but rural residents tend to vote against them- and they out-number us, so the schools suffer. We passed one for a new elementary school several years ago and it looks like our ballot issue to build a new high school might have passed. On election night it looked like it had, but then there was the matter of a whole bunch of paper and/or absentee ballots to be counted- and it had only passed by less 500 votes out of over 12,000. Last I heard, it is still looking positive, but has not yet been certified. 

The whole school situation here is pretty interesting, I think. You would think that a college town would have excellent schools, since so many residents are educators themselves. I'd be curious to know if other small college towns around the country struggle with similar issues or if the professors' kids tend to go to private schools. I like the idea of D being in school with kids that are different from her and going to our public schools accomplishes that to some degree. Almost 40% of the kids at her school are considered "economically disadvantaged". The vast majority of kids are white. We have rural poverty here rather than urban. 

I guess these are just some ideas I've been stewing about and wanted to share. I had started thinking about sending D to private school in high school if that levy didn't pass- we have the oldest school building in the county (50+ years) and it isn't even capable of being locked-down. Private school would mean a long commute out of Small College Town for D and a lot of money for us. I prefer the idea of public schools, but it's frustrating when not everyone wants to pay to improve them.


TiredProf said...


Having read your blog for a while, I realized at one point that I grew up in your Small College Town and graduated from that 50+ year-old high school (it needed to be replaced when I went there 30 years ago!) I really enjoyed your post today about the local levy climate because it's absolutely true, and has been forever. Best of luck with the local schools--some of us came out of them in pretty good shape (and became academics...)

ScienceGirl said...

I am in what I would describe as a Mid-sized College Town, and some of the public schools here are, in fact, pretty good. I think that is mostly because there is a school district that is all in-town voters, and the rural residents belong to another district along with the poorer part of town; those schools are in pretty sad condition, unfortunately.

I hope the new high school ballot passes!

Addy N. said...

Hi TiredProf: I wondered if my post would reveal too much! I figured only people who live here would know. That's funny you grew up here! Do you have a blog? Thanks for your comment. I know that my daughter would be fine to go to that old building, but I also want her to have better if we can provide it for her. I guess it's gotten so bad that the school doesn't have adequate science labs for students to complete required state standards, so I hope we get the new one.
ScienceGirl: I guess our district was once two- town and rural, but was combined at some point. There was a move to split it again many years ago, but the state refused- I would hate to see the state of the school in the rural district if that happened!

Ann said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Addy N. said...

Thanks for the comment, Ann! I removed it because it was a little too geographically specific- I am trying to remain a bit more vague than that! You are right that it's still an issue, but I don't think the schools are terrible here- certainly not worth commuting 30-45 minutes to campus (rather than 5-10). Most of the faculty I know who have kids still live here in town. We really like being here- of course- I saw where you are and can't say I would pick here over there!

Ann said...

I just assumed you were talking about another town--I wasn't trying to expose you. Like you, I assume this is a problem in more than just one place.

I'm glad to hear that some faculty still live there.