Superintendent Gene Johnson and members of the Shawnee Mission School District administration spent an hour on Monday night framing the proposal to close Mission Valley Middle School as a move that would both save the district much-needed money, and provide students with a better experience by giving them access to more class choices.
The only problem: their audience had spent the past three weeks putting together a 25 page report refuting precisely that rationale.
Though it didn’t appear to attract a crowd quite as large as the meeting two weeks ago on the proposal to move Brookwood Elementary into the SM South attendance area, the community forum at SM East last night on the future of Mission Valley brought out a spirited and unified group of parents intent on keeping the school’s doors open.
In his opening remarks, Johnson presented the audience with a set of figures showing that, without cost cutting measures, the district would have an account balance of -$884,631 at the end of the next school year, and would be facing spending deficits of between $5 and $10 million for each of the next three years. (Click the image at the right to enlarge the slide).
But “Don’t Compromise: Save Mission Valley” campaign organizer Michelle Trouvé, in the first public comments of the evening, stressed that the $832,865 the district says it would save by closing the school amounts to just .38 percent of the annual budget of approximately $224 million.
“It doesn’t take a mathematician or a rocket scientist to understand that it is a very small number,” she said. “It’s peanuts. Not even a drop in the bucket.”
The audience gave loud and sustained applauses to speakers’ questions about the proposed cost savings of closing the school, and the supposed benefits of creating a larger school where more classes could be offered, but some of the biggest cheer lines of the evening came when parents brought up the $3.2 million in improvements the district had recently completed at Mission Valley.
“That’s the part of this that really got my blood going,” Marc Erickson, a member of the “Don’t Compromise” group, told the board members. “These are our tax dollars. Why would you walk away on $3 million in renovations paid for with taxpayers’ money?”
Erickson also pointed out that Mission Valley and Indian Hills are currently producing high math and reading test scores, and wondered whether student achievement would be affected by a merger.
“Yes, Mission Valley and Indian Hills are small middle schools,” he said. “Mission Valley and Indian Hills are also succeeding as small middle schools.”
To date, the “Save Mission Valley” online petition has attracted more than 1,300 signatures.
The board of eduction will vote on the proposal to close Mission Valley on Nov. 8.