What side of history will you be on?
Our Kids, Our Future-Greene County has a pleasantly optimistic ring to it.
That’s the name of the volunteer committee that has run the community’s savviest, most professional pro-school bond campaign to date.
As a name and as a slogan, I’ll concede that Our Kids, Our Future-Greene County is a lot more unifying, a lot more Up With People/“We Are the World,” than my idea for committee names:
Preventing the Extinction of Greene County and/or The Sixty Percent of Us Who Aren’t Bat-Guano Crazy.
No, I’ve never been the most diplomatic.
But the time for pleasantries has passed.
The plan now before voters of the Greene County Community School District is too good, too sound, too beneficial to the community as a whole to just keep asking people nicely to vote Yes.
It’s time for an ultimatum:
You either want to give Greene County a fighting chance to grow or you don’t.
You either believe kids with physical disabilities are second-class citizens or you don’t.
This is technically the third time in as many years that we’ve tried to bring our school district’s facilities into the current century.
However, this new plan simply isn’t the old plan in disguise. New people and new ideas entered the conversation, and what they devised represents a quantum leap forward from the previous two attempts.
The March 8 entry of Pillar Technology into the fray, with its offer of high-end tech jobs for the community, should have rendered complete and utter silence from the naysayers.
But no. Now they want to complain that it’s “only” 30 jobs.
Thirty jobs at $60,000 a year to start ($75,000 within three years) sounds pretty damn good to me, considering we’re only a county of 9,000 with a median household income of $47,264.
More than that, an office in downtown Jefferson full of software developers has the potential to bring an entirely new kind of culture to the community.
They’ll be informal, open-minded and capable of thinking outside the box.
If that’s just too scary, by all means vote No, and watch as our young graduates continue to flee Greene County for places that welcome new ideas and will support new ways of doing things.
Yes, Pillar’s offer is contingent on whether we can pass the $21.48 million school bond on April 3, which would fund construction of a new Greene County High School and a regional career academy.
That’s far from a demand, a bribe or a threat, as some have alleged.
It’s not every day that a tech company ventures into rural Iowa, and to do that, Pillar only wants a community college to partner with so that it won’t have to import its skilled workforce.
If approved, our regional career academy will be aligned with Iowa Central Community College.
We may very well end up creating more software developers than Pillar alone has jobs — but if the climate is right, what’s to stop another tech company from coming here as well?
What’s to stop a new generation of homegrown entrepreneurs from spreading out into Scranton, Grand Junction or Churdan?
The fact that Pillar is willing to wait for Jefferson to get its act together instead of locating now in Carroll or Boone says a lot about our community and its current leadership.
An offer like this to a rural Iowa community isn’t to be taken lightly. In fact, if I were running Our Kids, Our Future-Greene County, I’d pretty much be swinging it around like a battle ax.
More than just another selling point for the bond, it’s a line in the sand.
A letter to the editor in this week’s Herald against the proposed school project accuses local media of focusing almost solely on the regional career academy so that the school district can sneak a new school past voters.
Actually, the focus has been on the regional career academy because you were unmoved the last two times by the state of our school facilities alone.
A third try needed something to sweeten the deal, particularly since you don’t seem to care that kids with physical disabilities could be trapped on the third floor of the middle school in the event of a fire or tornado.
That sweetener is the regional career academy, which has already emerged as a job creator before it’s even built.
But as Sid Jones, CEO of Home State Bank, recently said, “The entire thing starts with the inadequacy of the middle school.”
What has driven the project from the very beginning is the fact that the 98-year-old middle school no longer cuts it as an educational facility — just as we no longer send our kids to one-room country schoolhouses.
Peg Raney, the co-chair of Our Kids, Our Future-Greene County, is a retired middle school teacher who knows just how dehumanizing it is to be a disabled middle schooler in Jefferson, whether that disability is temporary, as in a broken leg, or permanent, as in a birth condition.
“People say, ‘We didn’t have handicapped kids when I was in school,’ ” she said recently. “You know what? They didn’t get to go to school.
“That time is long gone.”
So let me say something else that the Our Kids, Our Future folks are too nice, too tactful, to say:
If you read comments like that, or if you saw the recent letter to the editor from school nurse Mary Pedersen on this topic, and you still shrug your shoulders, I question your decency.
I question your humanity.
The three-story middle school has only a lift for the physically disabled that can accommodate just one person at a time, and takes 10 to 15 minutes to ride at that.
Riding the lift requires a disabled student to leave one class early and enter the next class late.
God help us if a kid with a broken leg and a kid in a wheelchair both have to escape a burning school.
And while we’re on the topic of humanity, let me throw in a quick plug for Don Orris’ plight to build a new animal shelter.
If you still don’t think we need a new animal shelter after reading stories here in the Herald about a dog at the current shelter freezing to death (because the current shelter only has space heaters) or a dog having its paw chewed off by another dog in an adjacent cage, let me just gently remind everyone that cruelty to animals is generally regarded as the first sign of a psychopath.
We’re better than this. All of this.
Or at least we like to pretend we are.
We also say we want our kids to come back and make Greene County their home, but think about the message we keep sending them: You have no worth.
I’m not forking over 11 bucks a month for you.
What you have is good enough.
Mistreat your kid today and just see if they come back tomorrow.
If we want to die angry and alone, we’re well on our way.