Three Reasons to Vote Yes on Issue 9
To put it mildly, Parma has had some issues getting a new levy for its schools. My kids attend Shiloh and Thoreau Park, which means I’m involved in their education and extracurriculars (sports, student councils, FAST, etc). I speak with other parents about this issue. And I get it: parents feel burned. Recent memory reminds us of a prior administration who intentionally shrouded themselves in a cloud of secrecy before bankrupting the district. I saw the news, and I stood in line with other angry parents to try and figure out what had gone wrong.
Sensing a scathing aftermath, those few responsible had already left the district by the time the news broke, but by then the damage had been done. Trust plummeted, and the end result is that our teachers and students are suffering. But it’s not just them, it’s also our wallets. Here are three reasons that I would argue justify voting yes on Issue 9 this coming Tuesday, and I strongly urge you to take them into consideration before casting your vote:
1) Increasing Maintenance Costs.When I write increasing I really mean skyrocketing. In aging infrastructure (and Normandy is our youngest high school having been built during the Johnson administration in 1968—Parma High was built in 1953), the costs to simply maintain existing old buildings goes up annually. In our case, that means our city is on the hook for millions of dollars of maintenance needed just to allow students to step into the school, and every year that number, for three buildings that are all well over a half century old, grows. This is money that could otherwise be funding new books and programming, bolstering teacher salaries, and keeping class sizes low.
And unlike those other things we want our kids to have, maintenance is non-negotiable. It cannot be stripped from a budget. Instead, it is an unavoidable, swelling cost that is coming out of your pocket via taxes regardless—so we might as well make those taxes worth it.
2) The New Infrastructure is Accommodating. The new building will be updated for the times, and that statement goes beyond USB ports and better Wifi. The new buildings will include better HVAC system to prevent the spread of seasonal diseases like the flu, better safety measures, and quality facilities updated to better prepare science, programming, AP, and other students for the next stage of their learning career.
3) More Student Opportunities. Here’s a question: if students at three schools all want to take AP Biology to prepare themselves for college, but only Valley Forge has the lab equipment and the student volume to justify offering the class, what happens to the students at the other schools? The answer is that students at the other schools miss out. Unfortunately, this scenario is routine.
Computer programming and other STEM courses, advanced literature, and other interesting, higher-quality courses that improve critical thinking and better prepare students for college or the workplace are offered sporadically, and students across our three high schools suffer as a result. But it doesn’t have to be this way—a single high school allows students to better fortify their futures by offering a stronger course catalog. It also helps improve studying support and increase chances of finding friends with shared interests.
Again, I get the impulse to think that Parma’s schools squandered past opportunities. But the reality is that those few responsible are gone, and we need to rally together as a community to do the right thing. I don’t think forcing staff layoffs and mitigating student opportunities is the answer. And if your answer is “No” on Issue 9 because of the financial considerations—it makes economic sense, too! This school will have to happen sooner or later, and the longer we wait, the more expensive this will be. And until the city passes this levy, we’re setting a small fortune on fire with no benefit to the community every year.
Jeremy is the city of Parma's inaugural poet laureate and is the author of three books. He founded the Flamingo Writers Guild, a literature group aimed at connecting and promoting Parma area writers. He is the founder and host of Poetry Spotlight, the Ohio Poetry Association's podcast, as well as the West Side Poetry Workshop. He is also the philanthropy chair for the local nonprofit Young Professionals of Parma. To learn more, please visit jeremyjusek.com.