To the Editor,
I am proud to be a Tecumseh High School student, athlete and performing artist. I think that Tecumseh High School’s athletic programs are great and the arts programs are second to none. I am also proud of the excellent academic traditions at THS, which, first and foremost, are why I chose to do school-of-choice here. So as a proud Tecumseh High School student, I am asking the members of this community, please DO NOT vote for the bond proposal. Here is why:
Tecumseh Public Schools, on the whole, needs certain maintenance and improvements, we can all agree on that. But what they do not need are improvements for the sake of improvements. Just because you spend a bunch of money to put half of a roof on a high school doesn’t mean that your football team will win any more games, your choirs will perform any better, or your students will get any better grades (in fact, the metal roof panels are loud and disruptive when we get heavy rains). What I am proposing is not that we ignore the current problems and shortcomings of our school district; I am proposing that we stop and think about how best to improve before we hand out blank checks.
The first problem I have with the current proposal is the movement of the football field to the new high school. Though our superintendent may think that people care more about seeing fancy football fields in front of schools than anything else, I speak from experience when I say he is wrong. There are a few reasons why moving the football field would be a bad idea. First, Indian Stadium is a place I remember vividly from my childhood. I don’t want to go to a football game anywhere else but there, and I love playing lacrosse there. People don’t stay away from the Big House just because traffic is insane in downtown Ann Arbor on fall Saturdays, and they won’t stay away from Tecumseh either. Second, whether we build a new field at the high school or we keep it at the middle school, Indian Stadium has to be renovated to host middle school games. Third, if the board does not intend to maintain this field, then what will it become? (A run-down eyesore in the heart of our city?)
Instead of building a new field, I propose that they keep the existing location, and simply renovate the facilities. If they were to rip out the existing stands, and build new ones with the press box centered on the 50 yard line, instead of the 35, that would be a superb start. Doing that would mean that the press box would be over that big gap in the hill. (You Tecumseh-ites know what I’m talking about.) That would leave space to build locker rooms for the teams under the stands, so that our team can rush the field from a tunnel on the 50, rather than the end zone. Instead of building the stands higher, I propose they build them wider, keeping the bowl feel that we all love. Of course, the addition of a turf field and new track would complete the field.
Another proposed field that is not well planned is the boy’s lacrosse/girls lacrosse/girls soccer field. For anyone who is not aware, these three sports share the same season. One field for three different sports is going to create a scheduling nightmare. Some may point to the boys and girls basketball teams as an example of how to share space; however, unlike basketball, all three of these sports have different nets and different field marking, which lead to confusion during the game when playing with another sport’s lines on your field.
The proposal to convert the current soccer field at the high school from grass to turf is another poorly researched decision. I am not a soccer player, but many of my friends are and if you talked to them for five minutes you would discover that playing soccer on Astroturf is like playing golf on Astroturf, it doesn’t work. That’s why all of the world-class soccer fields in Europe, Japan, and the US are covered with grass.
Another question about the current proposal is why every major sport except swimming is getting a brand new facility? If it is extremely important that we move all of our sports facilities to the high school, shouldn’t the pool be one of them? Our swimmers are amazing, consistently competing and placing at state and national events, they deserve a new facility too.
Bottom line is that we don’t need to fix something that’s not broken. The football field can double as a lacrosse field, just like most of the other high schools and colleges in this state do. Thanks to the soccer team’s fundraising, they have a field at the high school that they love and do not want changed. The only sport that absolutely needs a new playing facility is basketball (nobody wants the scheduling nightmare we experienced this year again).
On to the performing arts, the high school cafegymnasitorium does none of its intended purposes effectively. It is a mediocre cafeteria and a sub par performance hall. In the old days, we could walk across the street to the Civic (now Center for the Arts) whenever we needed to do a choir or band concert. Today, anytime the high school wants to go to an event there, there are excessive amounts of forms that have to be filled out and busses that have to be rented. This is extremely inconvenient and time consuming, why can’t we build one at the high school? Adrian just built one and they have already hosted State band festivals and numerous high school shows generating income for the school. Tecumseh could do the same, and could probably do it better just because of Tecumseh’s superior performing arts program (I might be a little bias). It is a fact that we have six choirs (more than almost every school in the state), and four bands (which are overflowing with students) in the high school alone. We also have a strings program that is looking to move to the high school in the next few years. Another advantage to hosting shows at the high school is that it lets our amazing art classes work on set pieces during class time or after school for free instead of hiring professionals to do it.
In all of this discussion I feel like I’m forgetting some important part of school… oh yeah, academics. Though it may seem that I hate the bond proposal on the whole, most of it has definite merit. I am glad we are focusing on our elementary schools and the times in children’s lives when learning the right values and information are most important because by high school, there’s usually no changing their minds. I am glad they are proposing to build a new wing on the music hall so we can expand our strings program to the high school. The Tecumseh High School Philharmonic Orchestra sounds like an amazing idea to me, and unique enough to make people want to pay to see it. I’m glad they want to replace the computers with new ones more suited to 2008; waiting for fifteen minutes for documents to load is rather inconvenient.
There is one thing that is keeping our students from getting good grades in their classes: ID cards. There will always be a fight between the noncoformist high school student and the administration over dress codes and ID cards, but when enforcement of rules prevents students from taking tests, attending class, or doing homework after school, administrators have gone too far. I can recall numerous instances of students (including myself) being pulled out of class in the middle of lectures, tests, or labs to go down to the main office to get their ID card or because they don’t have their ID on their immediate person. Every day, a good 20 students are called down for not having their ID on, and they are required to purchase a new one at the cost of $5 if they want to return to class. According to the folks in the main office, $3000 worth of these cards have been sold so far this school year alone (where is this money going?). I have a friend who told me a story of how he was given an after-school detention and a warning for suspension because he had his ID card in his pocket and not around his neck. This student later found out that the administrator who gave him the detention was just “making an example of him.”
If the opinion of those in charge of our district is accurately portrayed by Mr. McAran’s suggestion that GPA and ACT scores take a back seat to aesthetics, then our school will, indeed, progress to one of lower scores particularly due to the implementation and heavy enforcement of ID card. The state is not making it any easier for our students to graduate, the new requirements have led some school districts to believe that, if they continue to use their standard seven class a day two semester school year, that within three years there will be so many students retaking failed courses, all electives will have to be phased out. Fortunately the block schedule should keep our district from facing the same fate, but regardless, let’s not add fuel to the fire by making students feel like convicts. Students can’t learn well if they are constantly worried about the “Big Brother” hunching over their backs. In today’s crazy world it would seem that we cannot be too secure and that the additions of ID cards and security cameras are a good thing, but what is next? I want to leave you with a quote that I have been championing lately as a reminder of what this country is about: “Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither,” by Benjamin Franklin.
I call on the school board to make the next move. I ask them to reconsider the proposals, to research new ideas, to weigh the options, and possibly to interview the people who would be most affected by the changes: the students. If they do this I think they will find that it would not be that difficult to create a proposal that would keep Tecumseh Public Schools at the top of our region, without spending more money than is necessary.