Ryan School supporters: speak up to Morgan County board
Since I can remember, there has been talk of closing Ryan School. Now, however, that possibility is more real than ever.
Two Morgan County School Board members are actively seeking its closure. The new superintendent, Bill Hopkins, has not told this writer what he plans to do.
Having dealt with politicians for a long time, the whole matter just does not look good. A "public hearing" is supposed to take place in the community "before a decision is made." The purpose of this public hearing, I have been told, is to see if the community still supports Ryan School.
Just to be plain, what foolish person who lives anywhere in the surrounding communities would want this historic school to be closed? Maybe someone who would want to hurt the community and its families - maybe - but who on earth would be that stupid? Who would want to hurt these children, the vast majority of whom are on free or reduced lunches.
The trend should be toward little community schools, not busing children many miles away.
Nevertheless, the Morgan County board is going to meet on April 7 to "get the numbers" on the costs of Ryan School and go from there. Apparently the next option will be this public hearing.
I cannot overstress how important it is for the friends of Ryan School to be at this public hearing, whenever it is to be held. Unless the superintendent and the board have already made up their minds to close the school, this public hearing will seal the school's fate. Once closed, probably always closed!
I know that The Arab Tribune will keep us informed about the public hearings date and time.
Instead of trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor students at Ryan through this "capital punishment," coming up with alternative solutions is a much better solution. I am told that the pupil-teacher ratio at Ryan School is just too low to keep the school operating, about 10 students to every teacher. The ratio of 10-1 is a goal for which almost every school system strives.
Closing the school and busing these students to the Union Hill school is a drastic step to take, one which no other school board has seriously considered. A fairly new board and a new superintendent should not come along and undo what generations of people, including our parents and grandparents, have worked hard to achieve.
Let us take the superintendent at his word, that his mind is not made up, that he is open-minded. Let us give him the benefit of any doubt. You and I would want the same thing.
This is an important decision for a lot of people. The decision is the superintendent's to make. The board cannot close the school unless he recommends it. I hope that his decision is to keep the school open, which I thoroughly believe is best for the 102 students currently enrolled in grades K-8.
The entire issue of possibly closing the school is disturbing and has upset a huge number of people and voters, but now the outcome will rest finally with those who love Ryan School.
Our parents provided the alumni of Ryan with good lives through our education there, which has brought to ourselves, our families and to our society many, many good things and moral rectitude. The issue, my friends, may very well rest in the hands of those who should be appreciative most of all: Those who love a little community school - like Ryan School, there since 1888 - where no child is left behind or ignored.
Ryan School, Class of 1967
On April 13, 2011, this response was published by The Tribune:
Drastic times, drastic measures: Nothing should be off the table
This letter is in response to Joe Cottle’s letter to you, published 4/6/11, regarding Ryan School.
Mr. Cottle’s letter is obviously meant with the best of intentions for Ryan School. All alumni should be so honorable to their schools. However, once it leaves the emotional realm, his argument falls far too short. He wants people of the Ryan community who love their school to reach out to the Morgan County Superintendent, Bill Hopkins, to keep Ryan School open because it is “where no child is left behind or ignored.” The letter brags on Ryan’s low student-teacher ratio.
One BIG problem here: Ryan’s test scores are lower than the Morgan County average.
The means for providing the best education for the children of Ryan may be more counter-intuitive and against his emotions than Mr. Cottle cares to discuss. But even those type arguments are exactly what Mr. Hopkins is wanting from the community during a meeting at Ryan on the evening of April 26th. But in the end, he and the board must do what is best for ALL the children of our county.
I don’t believe what is best for the children of one community is mutually exclusive with the benefit for all. But we must remember that Mr. Hopkins is charged with saving an entire SYSTEM, not one school. Yes, it is THAT bad.
AEA’s Joe Reed recently published an article wisely calling for even greater school consolidation, combining entire school systems, not just schools. Our communities are no longer as isolated as they once were and better educations can be offered on greater economies of scale.
It is great to hear Mr. Cottle bragging on his education from Ryan. However, it is without a doubt that his successors five years after 1967 and following received an immeasurably greater education and more opportunities at Brewer High School.
There are some tough questions to answer. I submit these for us all:
1. How many children living in Ryan’s district will return to Morgan County Schools from Arab or Parkside if they are redistricted to Union Hill, Cotaco, or Eva? The parents of these children need to be heard as well.
2. Do other schools need to be consolidated? Is Falkville not a high school version of Ryan?
3. With the successes at Brewer as a high school, would we not gain the same educational and economic benefit from consolidating the same middle schools?
We are in drastic times. These call for drastic measures. Nothing should be off the table. Times may be hard, but it is NOW that our leadership has the OPPORTUNITY to strengthen our position for the future. The obstacle won’t be the economy.
The only things that can prevent proper progress are emotions, improper politics, and pet projects. I am thankful to know that Bill Hopkins is without these things and I look forward to what he is able to lead the board to do. I am most confident in his motive to listen to all and act for all.