School board president urges support of MNW referendum

To the editor:

I am writing to express my strong support for the Manson Northwest Webster School District referendum on Sept. 11. For over 20 years I’ve operated our family farm southwest of Clare with the confidence that my seven children would receive an excellent education at MNW. The upcoming referendum presents an important opportunity to invest in an even better future.

MNW District staff have put together a professional and well- thought-out plan worthy of our support. The proposed referendum recognizes the changing modern economy and proposes the facilities and programs necessary for our students to thrive. The primary projects covered by the referendum are listed.

Classroom Space and Updating: Over the past decade MNW has seen a steady and healthy increase in enrollment. As a result, additional space and a slate of renovations to address safety, modernization, and room to expand are needed to remain a top school community that attracts new families and businesses.

College and Career Readiness: Across the US school districts are making improvements to provide students with more hands on, real-world learning experiences to ready them for college or to ready them for an immediate career in computers, nursing, the industrial trades, welding, construction and much more. MNW has readied itself to move in this direction and explore innovative partnerships and concepts, but to do this, we need to expand and create facilities to mirror the requirements of today’s and tomorrow’s economy.

MNW cannot afford to push our facilities maintenance and expansion down the road and expect our teachers and students to perform at a high level. We also cannot ignore the fact that technology has changed education from what many of us experienced. It is important that we are providing environments and updates in our district that allow our children to blend the new with the old.

I’d also like to address some of the questions around the impact of open-enrolled non-resident students have had on the need for expanded facilities and building additions in the referendum. First, the state money generated for MNW by open enrollment is currently equivalent to almost 80 percent of the bonded debt payments in the referendum. MNW receives state aid and operating capital aid for each non-resident student. Because the basic costs of operation are already in place for resident students, each additional non-resident student adds valuable revenue that is used to maintain and/or improve district staffing levels and curriculum offerings, as well as helping to bolster other components of the District’s General Fund, allowing for the sustained and often improving fiscal health of the District. While these General Fund dollars cannot be used directly to make the G.O. Bond payments we should not make the mistake of underestimating the importance of those open enrollment revenues in holding down the tax levy rate that would otherwise be necessary to fund the same programming that would be necessary for our resident students anyway.

Secondly, open enrollment has not only helped MNW build a great district, but it has enabled us to make key investments, avoid making budget cuts, laying off staff, and closing schools over the past 10 years. These proposed programs and infrastructure improvements are for the benefit of our residents and will be available to them for decades to come.

As several of my children have graduated from Manson Northwest Webster Jr/Sr High School, I realize the impact a high quality education has had on the lives of my entire family. With my son still in school and my grandchildren entering in the coming years, this referendum will ensure they have the same high quality education we were provided. As a lifelong resident I also realize the positive impact this referendum can have on the community as a whole. Quality schools are the reason many families chose to live in the Manson Northwest Webster District, and this referendum is a big step toward keeping ours at the high level we are accustomed to.

Please be sure to vote “YES” on Sept. 11. Doing so will help improve our schools and community for years to come.

Steve Markert

Area farmer

MNW school board president