You probably don’t know, but Washington County is moving forward in defining the next generation of our school system. What do I mean? The Washington County School Board is in the process of selecting an architectural firm to help define our requirements and needs for our children and grandchildren.
Should we be concerned? Yes. We the parents and adults need to ask ourselves what type of education system and facilities we really want for the future. I have some ideas, and I am sure other adults and parents have some as well, but we all need to have an input. Why? Because the plan or vision of tomorrow as some have called it will lay out the direction, definition, scope and evolution of our educational system for the next 10 to 30 years from now.
First, we can all agree that “we will probably agree to disagree” on some of the ideas and needs we feel are important. Then again, after some discussion we can also agree on some fundamental principles or priorities that we also want for our children and grandchildren. This also includes adults who don’t have children.
Why? Because local county tax dollars are going to be spent with or without your comments, so I believe it is better for you to get involved and voice your opinion.
For example, when the military wants to build a new airplane, weapons system or facility, their first step is to work with the user/customer in defining the system requirements. This is critically important, since these requirements set into motion a sequence of events that ultimately defines the quality of the design to satisfy the users’ needs, the initial design/procurement costs, and finally the operational/maintenance costs to maintain the system. This is what we call life cycle costs.
Yes, it may be cheaper up front, but will it be affordable after it is built? Given the cost of energy today I might suggest that green facility designs focusing on minimizing future facility energy costs (electricity, lighting, air-conditioning, etc.) might be a good requirement. It is but one idea we should consider.
It is the same for the WC educational system in defining its requirements. What type of growth do we expect in WC over the next 10, 20 or 30 years?
Just this one answer can significantly influence our decisions, our facilities, numbers of teachers, and scope of our plans. What should our teacher-student ratio be? How do we retain the best teacher? What types of athletic facilities are needed? Should we build a new high school? Where should we build the new high school? These are a few questions we, the citizens of Washington County, have to wrestle with in the coming months.
A suggestion may be that we define a top 10 of priorities for our school system. That way we can track all of our decisions to those priorities. I suggest the first two priorities would be: (1) safety; and (2) education.
The next eight should be defined and prioritized by the majority of the parents, grandparents, and adults of Washington County.
What do we need or want? We will probably not be able to afford everything, but as the county grows and develops we can follow the plan/vision we lay out today. The plan is not stagnant. It evolves and changes as the needs change. We can influence tomorrow with actions today. Let us think, ask, talk, discuss, define, and then voice our comments to the school board about what we want. If we can get 60 percent of all Washington County adults responding we can get a broad level of support of what we would like to see in the future.
Please become involved, take time today to discussion with your spouse, family members, students (attending and graduates), friends, teachers, and co-workers what you think our top 10 educational priorities should be. This is a start in defining our foundational cornerstones for the future educational system. At the very least, the chosen architectural firm can use these priorities in their initial definition phase for the vision of tomorrow.
Picture a glass of pure water. Is it half full or half empty? Do we want to say in 2018, 2028 or 2038 that we made an input, a difference, and can see that future vision become a reality? Or will we just complain about the future educational system, claiming that we cannot change or influence our school system? The school board may or may not ask for your inputs, but we should present them anyway because it will work to influence their knowledge and understanding of what we all want in our K-12 schools.
I believe you know how I feel; standup, make your opinions heard, and make a difference. The only question is will others do the same? Now is the time to dream big and think about what we want.
Create some ideas, discuss and rank the priorities, and help us lay a solid foundation for tomorrow. Start today and make your voice heard!