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A K-12 facility at Kingsland: Is it best for students?

Fri, Jan 17th, 2014
Posted in All Commentary

By Jeff Erding

The December 30 edition of the Journal contained an extremely well done article by Jackie Horsman. It was based on an interview with Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald. The subject: the proposed move to a one site location as unanimously recommended by the Kingsland School Board.

The first part of the article described recent innovations at Kingsland in regards to offering college credit courses. While it must be agreed keeping the students on site that formerly were going post secondary is a good thing, it is certainly not a new concept. Many of us could not understand why this method was not instituted long ago. While it is certainly to both his credit and that of the school board, Mr. McDonald seems to feel he has built up a huge reservoir of political capital to make expensive changes to the district. Mr. McDonald leaned heavily on the input of a “strategic planning” group of about 100 district residents who met in 2011 as a precedent for his enthusiastic support of a one site location, stating “The next step to achieve academic growth is to move to a one site school.” However, when questioned further by Horsman, McDonald admitted there was no discussion of a one site school with that group!

One of the main items the planning group listed as a goal was “Facilities that match our educational needs.” Please note the word is “facilities” in plural. If the strategic planners had envisioned a one site facility, the plural form would not have been used. So much for McDonald’s use of the Strategic Planners to support his position.

McDonald went on to state it made more sense financially to upgrade the Spring Valley facility to a K-12 than to repair and renovate the old facilities, even though Horsman questioned his reasoning by stating the estimates done by the engineers and architects indicated the opposite. McDonald stated the numbers quoted at the board meetings and submitted by the engineers were “preliminary” and “no longer valid” even though the most recent were done in October of 2012!

When questioned about the promise made to keep school facility open in Wykoff, McDonald stated he “had not talked to anyone who has said those agreements were made.” He “wished he had a deeper history.” McDonald stated it would be uncommon for a board to promise not to close a facility and it would not be wise to do so.

Well, Mr. McDonald, your wish is granted. Here’s a little history for you along with the procedure for school consolidation. Surprised you don’t know more about it.

Pairing agreements in some sports and classes existed for several years prior to consolidation. When it became imminent for residents of each district to vote yea or nay on consolidation, citizen task forces were formed in both districts to investigate, determine the procedures and details, and present their findings and recommendations to the respective district residents.

The members of the Wykoff advisory group did their due diligence and the majority thereof were in favor of consolidation based on the fact that “the school in Wykoff would remain a permanent part of the newly formed district.” Each district had a separate election, the question being whether to disband the old district and form a new entity composed of the Wykoff and Spring Valley districts. The proposal passed by a narrow margin in Wykoff. Had the promise never been made to keep the Wykoff facility open, consolidation would not have happened.

All these items are of little importance compared to the effect of school facility configuration on the students. Reams of paper with the detailed findings of study after study exist: every single one for the last 50 years confirms that students in age segregated facilities are far better off psychologically and academically. All responsible educators recognize the need for special consideration of students in early adolescence. Typically, grades 6 thru 8 represent the most difficult time in a young person’s development. Students enrolled in a system with the middle school concept in place are found to experience gains of 1.50 grade equivalents higher than those in a K-12 facility. Schools with a middle school concept also have far less behavior and discipline problems than those in a K-12 system. For confirmation of the facts I have stated, you may visit or call the National Middle School Association at 800 -528- 6672.

As a professional educator, Mr. McDonald is well aware of the benefits of a middle school system. If a K-12 system was the best, all the large districts would go that route. With no exceptions, all of them have age segregated facilities because that is the best system for the students. The Wykoff facility is very well suited to meet the needs of grades 4 thru 8. Plenty of classroom space. Tons of green space. 2 full Gymnasiums and 3 if needed. A configuration that promotes separation of age groups. Then why does Mr. McDonald want the K-12 facility when he knows full well it is not best for the ones that really matter: the students? Why should we spend more money to buy into a system that is proven time and again to be inferior to the system we already have…a set of facilities certainly not perfect but which are the envy of many a district in the state? Beats me. I think this topic deserves careful scrutiny. As responsible citizens, we owe our students nothing less.


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2:38:17, Jan 21st 2014

MNKelly says:
I don't think the needs or the best interest of the Kingsland students are any part of Mr. McDonald's grand vision. I think Mr. McDonald is trying to push this huge cost onto the taxpayers and follow through on his grand vision so that he can walk away from Kingsland and use this as a feather in his cap when he applies at another district. "Look what I did for the Kingsland School District", I think he's more concerned with how this will look on his professional resume.

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