Letter: Don?t dismantle the district by Linda Goldsworthy
Last week, RHS social studies teachers Fred Lintereur, Jacob Stingl, Doug Nelson, MJ Laggis and I sat down to discuss the implications of a failed referendum on our department. While we never said it aloud, one thing loomed over our heads during the conversation – our department would be sliced down to 4.5 teachers. When I started with the department in 1998, eight teachers served RHS students, but the combination of declining enrollment and the flawed state funding formula have taken their toll.
Yet the five of us had a job to do. We needed to figure out exactly how to dismantle our department while doing the least amount of damage to the quality of education currently offered. Should we move to social studies 1, 2, and 3? Do we eliminate or combine electives? Can we continue to offer classes yearly? Do we cut AP classes? How can we keep freshman and sophomore survey classes under 32 students?
Needless to say, as I drove home with my 9-year-old son Daniel that evening, I wondered what would be left for him in another five years as other departments at RHS had been doing the exact same thing that afternoon. I wondered what would be left for students who rely on SDR for not only opportunity but also for stability.
My thoughts also drifted to presentations that I had heard from those who understood the implications of the three-tiered state funding formula. I recalled one board member who didn’t run for re-election over a decade ago because she didn’t want to participate in the dismantling of the district that had provided a quality education for her sons. Years later, I listened to others, including Chuck Fitzgerald and Chuck Radtke, predict the long-term consequences of the discriminatory formula which targeted so-called “property rich” districts without considering other factors.
Unfortunately, their dire predictions have come true. Without the passage of the referendum, SDR will begin the final stage of dismantling the very programs and electives that have allowed it to successfully thrive. From the elementary SAGE program to the high school core and elective classes, this community has a lot to lose.
I ask that you consider the educational and economic impact of a dismantled district on Rhinelander. Once taken apart, it will be hard, if not impossible to reassemble. Our children deserve a fully-functioning and vibrant learning community.
Please vote “Yes” on Feb. 19.
Linda Goldsworthy, Three Lakes