We’re expecting a large crowd at Tuesday night’s board meeting including a number of residents who will complain that we did not agree to close a middle school for the upcoming school year. While their frustration is understandable, they must realize that the current financial crunch we find ourselves in didn’t just happen – this has been years in the making and has a trail of bad decisions in its wake. We cannot allow ourselves to be rushed into another bad choice.
The current teachers’ contract (the most expensive in Neshaminy history) and not building a new high school (which would have been finished this past summer) are very real examples of how our community’s inability to look even a few years down the road has come back to haunt us. Yes, the promise of saving money by closing a building is very tempting, but we must be absolutely sure that we’re making a good educational and financial decision.
Another example of bad decision-making came to light last week with the revelation that the previous board agreed to shelve the McKissick study for 6 months so that it was not made an election issue last November. While that may have made perfect political sense, it was an incredibly short-sighted move that deprived us of important information. Yet the very board members who put the McKissick study on a 6-month hiatus are now criticizing the other members for not being able to make a rush decision. Instead of having 6 months to consider this data, we had 6 days.
I still have many questions regarding the various options in the McKissick study, the benefits of grade realignment, the impact of redistricting, and the true cost savings associated with building closures. And without the opportunity to resolve these issues, it’s nearly impossible for me to make a fact-based decision to close a building now. I respect the opinions of those who seem to be able to make such choices based on faith rather than fact, but that’s not something I can do.
Regrettably I am out of town this week on business and cannot be at Tuesday’s meeting (I offered to participate by phone but was told that was not within Neshaminy’s bylaws, and the matter is under review by our solicitor). Since I cannot be there to speak for myself, I wanted you to understand that not closing a middle school was not an easy decision. If the McKissick study wasn’t delayed unnecessarily, perhaps my vote would have been different. But unfortunately that’s what happens when people don’t consider the long term implications of their actions, and ultimately it’s the children and the taxpayers who suffer.