As seen on 7/28/19 in the Midland Reporter Telegram op-ed article:
Do you remember the story of the Dutch boy who held his fingertip in the leak of a dyke, thus saving his community from certain flooding disaster and destruction?
We Midlanders have been plugging holes in the local dyke of MISD schools with the fingertips of children, teachers and campus administrators for as long as I can remember. As a child in Midland in the 1980s and ’90s, I attended Rusk Elementary, Lamar Elementary, Carver Center, San Jacinto Junior High School, Midland Freshman and Midland High School. Our school facilities were in need of expansion, repair and replacement even back then.
I went to kindergarten at Rusk in a classroom which was too small to suit the size of my class but my teacher, the wonderful Mrs. Sublett, made it work. She faithfully filled in the holes in our physical environment with expertise and graciousness.
Later on, in the fourth grade at Lamar Elementary, Mrs. Fleck was my fine arts teacher who, I now realize, likely used her own resources to teach me to sing harmony, to have compassion for the smelly boy in my classroom and to draw a beautifully contoured eyeball — all lessons I remember and treasure.
Mrs. Hooker, my beloved eighth grade English teacher at San Jacinto, allowed a group of us to eat lunch in her room each day because there were not enough seats in the small cafeteria. She used a facilities constraint as an opportunity to mentor us all to become effective writers and communicators.
At Midland Freshman, Mr. Horner taught me geometry in an aged room full of broken desks, with pieced-together curriculum and an old overhead projector. He made sure I learned the material, plugging in the holes of the classroom with reteaching and differentiated instruction.
Then later, at Midland High, I walked down Illinois Avenue during passing period, to an old office building we affectionately called “The Annex,” to attend a speech class which did not fit in the main campus of Midland High. I was, incidentally, late to Algebra II almost every day because of the length of the walk back from The Annex … and sweet Mrs. Arrell was not pleased.
You see, I learned what I needed to know because my teachers did what they had to do to teach me. I survived inadequate classrooms and limited resources, and I think I have become a reasonably productive citizen. But since I graduated from Midland High in 2000, district enrollment has grown by approximately 6,000 students even though we have only added classroom space for approximately 2,000 additional students, and we have remodeled very few of the spaces I sat in 20-plus years ago. The deficits my teachers were required to overcome are nothing compared to what is now asked of educators. And the toll this has taken on the morale of our teachers and students is such a significant factor in where our district performance stands today.
Midland has long been a community which prides itself on fiscal conservatism and its refusal to vote for frivolous local spending. I, myself, am a fiscal conservative who eschews frivolous spending. But in the case of the present condition of our local school system, we have a facilities dyke which is full of cracks and holes; we have officially run out of fingertips to hold all the leaks at bay.
New and remodeled facilities will not make up the entire new dyke which needs to be built to allow Midland ISD to thrive and grow into the future. But facilities initiatives do form a very necessary foundational component to a larger collaborative effort which must include teachers, volunteers, civic leadership and broad community buy-in.
You have likely seen the news of the proposed bond issue. I am not here to demand that the bond be adopted by the MISD board of trustees, nor am I here to tell voters how to vote, should the bond be placed on the November ballot.
Each Midland voter should visit our local schools to see conditions for yourself. Do not merely take the word of reporters and politicians about MISD facilities. Take the initiative to educate yourself and form an opinion based upon facts and firsthand knowledge of where we are asking teachers and students to spend their days.
Once you have seen an aging classroom or cafeteria with your own eyes, ask yourself if you would be willing to spend your own days in an MISD school, with your own fingertip plugging a hole in the facilities dyke. It is easy to sit in the comfort of our own homes or office buildings, saying that a massive bond is unnecessary or that we refuse to pay another penny in taxes. We must read the specifics of the bond for ourselves and visit the schools in person so that we can make the best possible decision for the future of our community.