Levy Kickoff launchs

Staff Writer

On Sunday evening, members of the community and the St. Marys City Schools District gathered at the high school auditorium for a levy kick off event. The event featured speakers from different aspects of the district, to gather support and volunteers as the vote for the 1 percent income tax levy comes closer.
The evening opened with Rev. Jim Kaiser, pastor at New Community Church and levy campaign co-chairmen, making a brief comment before leading a prayer.
“One of the main reasons I agreed to be on the committee this year was that the last time a vote came up I voted no, because I didn’t feel I had enough information to make a decision,” Kaiser said. “And this year I was determined that I was going to get enough information to be better informed and also play a bigger part in this community.”
Afterward, a former administrator with the St. Marys City Schools, Dan Griffin, spoke about some of the issues he’s witnessing with the with the levy. He said that a lot of what he was witnessing was a lot of “I” statements from both sides, and no one really listening to the opposing side. There is no conversation, just a lot of talking, trying to make either side look the best.
“I think the biggest change is we have great difficulty being able to work together,” Griffin said. “Both sides seem to only be interested in their point of view. They seem to only want to be, ‘me first,’ no one seems to care about working together for a successful passage for the benefit of the community.”
He went on to say that the use of social media, doesn’t help the problem of communicating. He said it’s easy to put your opinion out there when you’re not sitting face to face with someone and forced to work together.
“When you just sit typing away, you’re not working together, your simply working out ways to make your side look better,” Griffin said.
He discussed how, like any election, it is a popularity contest. There’s 40 percent for it, 40 percent against it and 20 percent that are somewhere in the middle. They could be waiting for someone to change their mind, aren’t registered to vote or don’t care, he added. He said it’s the middle 20 percent that campaign members should be focusing on, but the approach needs to be the right one.
“It’s our job that we make sure we seek out those 20 percent and make sure that they know, beyond the fact that we’re saying, ‘this is for the benefit of kids and I love kids,’” he said. “Well I do too but I think people need more substantial reasons then just glossing over saying, ‘I love kids.’ I think we need to make sure they know the importance of a full curriculum, designed to benefit the kids from top to bottom.”
He said he doesn’t like seeing the cuts that are being made at all levels of the district, elementary to high school. Griffin touched on how a community that often times, “rolls up their sleeves and goes to work,” cutting programs like vo-ag and industrial technologies doesn’t benefit children who don’t plan to attend college.
“It needs to be balanced … not all of us our cut out of the academic box,” Griffin said. “We need to be able to go into other areas so that we can be successful in our lives.”
He ended his portion by saying that people don’t care about what members on this side of the levy know. What it is more important, he said, is how they make people feel and feel about the school district.
Mike Reams, shop teacher at SMCS and one of the football coaches, also spoke at the event about the levy from his perspective. His job is one of many that will get cut if the levy doesn’t pass.
“I’m on the cut list, no big deal, it happens,” he said calmly. “I’m a shop teacher, I knew that’s how it was going to be. It’s not the first time we’ve been through this — I’ve been through this several times — but I know St. Marys has always come through for us, because you guys do care about our kids.”
He also talked about the importance of classes outside of core curriculum. For Reams, his talents don’t lie within a science setting or an English setting. For him, he’s best for assisting students create things with their hands, and that is important too, he said.
“We’ll build something with [our hands],” he said. “Because we have guys that are wired that way, we have gals that are wired that way.
“They’re not going to college — some of them do — some of them do it for a hobby, some of them want to come down and just hang out with Coach Reams, and that’s cool too because I love our kids.”
He also mentioned that anything man builds, referring to the school and the football stadium, can always fall down. They can crumble and they are not permanent.
“But what we build, as teachers, as a school system, as a community lasts forever,” he said. “No one can take our last names from us.”
Before the night wrapped up, Superintendent Bill Ruane spoke about the importance of staying positive when talking about the levy and the campaign. He also mentioned that if people don’t feel comfortable talking about the facts of the schools finances — something he knows is complicated — individuals can direct people to the schools levy website, SMCSLevy.com or let people know they can call members of the school to get clarification.
“We don’t have any secrets to hide,” Ruane said. “We don’t have a stash of money, if we did, we wouldn’t be in this situation. We have a performance audit that the state flagged us for because our levy failed and because we’re in deficit spending and we’re not going to have anything in our reserves.
“If you have a secret stash of money, the performance audit is going to find that secret stash of money.”
For more information about the levy the school can be reached at 419-394-1932.