The joy of jubilation was mixed with a sigh of relief, as supporters of the $19,030,000 school bond issue that passed here last week swapped celebratory handshakes, hugs and high-fives.
Victory had been a long time coming.
Tuesday’s scaled-down version of a plan to improve facilities at 50-year-old Duncan High School actually started when it was part of a massive $119 million school improvement plan that was soundly defeated in April 2010.
That led to a $40 million proposal that centered on DHS last September. It passed, but was short of the necessary 60 percent supermajority margin necessary to enact changes.
So, apparently, the decision to reduce again the scope of the project was a good one. Balancing a list of serious needs with a pledge not to raise taxes was obviously the proper formula for success and will, without question, be a plus for kids now in their sophomore year at the school.
The resounding 68 percent approval was — and is — a significant triumph. And not just for the schools.
It signals voters here are willing to back worthy causes and renews hope that a previous reputation for wanting and developing a quality community remains alive and, if not exactly well, at least has a heartbeat.
Much work lies ahead.
Funds generated from the successful bond issue will fix a lot and should provide an environment conducive to helping our students achieve more, positioning them better in a competitive world and enabling them to grasp opportunities equal to their contemporaries in other systems.
But gaps remain.
For example, moving the administrative complex to the front of Duncan High will create a checkpoint for campus visitors. But the multiple-building, open-concept remains a security risk, one not answered by a full-time officer and 65 security cameras that might document but won’t likely prevent incidents.
And before you naively suggest violence in Duncan, America is unthinkable, note the good folks at Pearl, Miss. or Columbine, Colo. probably thought the same thing.
Linking core classes, adding a new library, remodeling classrooms and building a new cafeteria and commons area are all necessary improvements. So are other repairs and renovation at Duncan High, but problems — serious problems — exist at all of our elementary schools.
A comprehensive master plan is needed now for each school so that steps toward remedying those physical concerns can be addressed and eliminated.
It is, like it or not, an ongoing process, an investment in our young people, in our community and in our image as a fine place to live, to work and to raise a family. And it is a message we must embrace as we move forward.
Perhaps even more meaningful, it is a message that also needs to spread beyond brick and mortar and into the classrooms. We should explore opportunities now to create a world class education system, one that attracts the best of teachers, one that encourages and rewards them to broaden their skills and knowledge, one whose curriculum stretches the minds of our young people, one whose path charts challenging and even unconventional directions for learning, one that moves us away from being simply average, one that sets us apart.
Education is the key to our future. It is the hub around which we must build, the most beneficial and most direct path to solidifying and preserving what we have been and what we hope to become. Recognizing that now and embracing that now seems critical.
As we seek to move forward, the opportunity looms for our administration, our school board, our school foundation and our community to assume an aggressive role — seeking outside help, if necessary — in assessing the potential, planning the route and locating the resources necessary to implement and maintain such an ambitious commitment.
The focus should center on educating kids, on teacher development, on classroom improvement and on reaching to be among the very best.
If new jobs and new industry are drawn to the area as a result of a remarkable educational magnet, that only strengthens more the awareness that quality schools are important and can make a truly positive difference.
Last week’s strong and enthusiastic showing at the ballot box needs to be more than a simple election triumph. It needs to be a turning point, an energized catalyst to the return of a proud community’s can-do spirit and its willingness to again achieve touches of greatness.
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