Ed Monfort: Times have changed in how school systems are built

First Posted: 10/7/2014

Awhile back while at the YMCA a fellow graduate of LCC and I were talking about the recent name change of Lima Stadium to Spartan Stadium. We chuckled thinking about Father Herr and Earl McGovern sitting down over a cup of coffee and coming to an agreement.

At home while reading some emotionally charged letters to the editor, I came to the conclusion that even if those two icons were here today this would not be an issue easily resolved. Times have changed. In the days of these men there were clearer boundaries. The children who went to the parochial schools were funded by the parishes and when that was not sufficient, tuition was charged. My father was on the parish council at St. Gerard when that was decided. It was not a popular decision, but one that was followed by parents who wanted their children to have a Catholic education.

Those living in the city and wanting a public education went to the Lima City Schools. It was that simple. In this framework of educating children there was a need to cooperate. There has always been that perception that the north end Catholic community would support Lima City Schools’ levies. I don’t know if that was ever a factual situation and I don’t intend to look at past voting records to find out. Perception is reality.

In return the city schools would offer opportunities not provided by LCC. I recall while attending LCC there were several intellectually gifted students who were transported to Lima Senior to participate in honors classes. Until recently I never knew that until LCC built the Diane French, now FR. Herr Gym, they rented the Senior High gym for $50 an event. LCC played their home games there for several decades. I also learned there was a similar arrangement for the stadium for $50 a game. They also used the concession equipment belonging to LSH and kept all the proceeds, both at the gym and stadium. The Stadium fee was changed in 2009 to $100 for lighting and the hourly cost of a maintenance worker. A contract was signed between LCC and LCS laying out particulars

The auditorium was used free of charge for class plays. Now they pay the hourly wage of a stage worker. While that unspoken boundary existed it allowed for a sense of cooperation between the systems.

Then the state went to a standardized system to determine how students are progressing and ultimately if they receive a diploma. If you look around the state those schools that are failing are schools where the culture of poverty is pervasive. The Lima City Schools falls into that category. One-hundred percent of the children receive free breakfast and lunch because a staggering percentage of children live under the national guidelines for poverty. If you are curious about how insidious the culture of poverty is, read the book “Bridges out of Poverty” or ask Fr. David Ross as he is familiar with the subject and has spoken about it very eloquently.

About the same time this standardized testing and scoring came out it was determined by the state legislature that if a school system was not performing, then the child could leave that school and enroll in a private school. They would then take state education money with them for the remaining years in school. In theory that is not a bad idea but the legislators do not require private schools to take the same state tests that the public schools are required to take. So there is a measuring stick for the public schools but not the private schools. Does that seem fair to you? Were vouchers created to help educate children or keep private schools open? I guess you have to ask your state representative. The voucher system was born and those clear boundaries became a memory just like the edifice of Lima Stadium.

Everyone is now competing for some of the same kids. There are fewer children as the population inside the city continues to decline but the number in poverty is constant or increasing.

Despite perception, there are kids on the honor roll and succeeding in and out of the classroom in those schools that underachieve. Is it legal to recruit kids from these underachieving schools to take a voucher? It is, but let’s not be disingenuous to believe the kids being recruited are at the bottom of their class scholastically. If you cherry pick the best kids from the underachieving schools it stands to reason the school will continually falter. It does not seem right to have parents enroll their kids at an underachieving school in April so the next school year they can apply for a voucher and receive it for the rest of their primary and secondary education. Where do you think they find out about these loopholes?

Our state representative knows about this practice and has yet to prevent it from continuing. The recruiting of city schools’ athletes at the junior high level became so aggressive that the LCC athletic director was advised if the practice of recruiting was to continue on the sidelines of athletic contests the City Schools would terminate future athletic contests with LCC. These are some of the reasons there is so much emotion attached to vouchers. It’s like your best friend calling your ex-girlfriend after you just broke up. But it is what it is. We have to model moving on for our children.

How do you get children to want to leave their friends and go to a different school? One way is by having quality athletic and other extracurricular programs. LCC has proven that. LSH is re-emerging as having a quality athletic program. That brings increased pride in the school and it gives a reason for those athletes, cheerleaders and band members to keep coming to school. That is a factor in the culture of poverty: There needs to be some motivation for children to keep coming to school. The naming of the stadium to Spartan Stadium gives ownership to LSH students. They will walk to obtain their diplomas there. The Stadium has always been owned by the Lima City Schools, they have paid the maintenance cost of over $124,000 with no assistance from any other school or entity. The district found funding for the artificial field that allows for more games and times to be used.

Was the manner in which the name change came about the best way to handle it? Probably not. But with all due respect, no matter how it was done the emotions were going to be there.

I am 62 and am all about the memories of the past. I want to remember Lima Stadium, the glorious venue it was and the events that took place there like I do Crosley Field and Tiger Stadium.

For those men who talked about withholding levy votes at the board meeting and in the newspaper, I know you are both good men and I hope you rethink those comments as part of the emotionally charged issue.

New memories will be made at Spartan Stadium.

Go Spartans and T Birds.

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