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Talks continue on school bond



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Clarkston Junior High student Carter Zielinski displays a pilot-program computer to demonstrate how technology can be used in school. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
February 15, 2012 - The school bond proposal is still on the table. Clarkston School Board members discussed ballot language, specific projects, and even moving the election to August or November at the Feb. 13 regular meeting.

School board President Cheryl McGinnis said she's willing to move the election if it makes school board members and voters more comfortable.

"(But) my first option is May," McGinnis said at Monday's meeting.

A May vote would be free of partisan politics and focused on the issue, she said.

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However, a later election would have a higher turnout, said Trustee Susan Boatman.

Opinions on the $20 million bond proposal for school technology and infrastructure are also split in the community.

Carter Zielinski, ninth grader at Clarkston Junior High School, contacted The Clarkston News to appeal for bond support.

"I've been staying up to date on this bond issue and in my opinion this is a great thing that needs to be passed," Zielinski said. "Many people are saying that money is more important than education and test scores and I completely disagree."

Having this bond issue passed would help student performance, he said.

"Last year and the years before that, I've been a lower than average student. I got C's and maybe a B. Thanks to the computer class, I'm at straight A's and my parents, my teachers and I couldn't be happier," he said.

Zielinski said it is worth the price.

"Can you truly put a price on education," he asked.

He is in a technology pilot program at the junior high. Students were issued HP laptop computers for use in the classroom and at home.

The pilot-program computers have proven vulnerable to students' handling, with a few screens shattering and hard drives breaking down, but the new machines would be better.

"The plan is to buy sturdier computers for the same price," he said.

One benefit of the technology for him will be organization.

"I can organize homework for the whole year – all my notes and assignments are right here," he said. "There's no paper to lose."

The teacher uses the technology by emailing homework assignments before the class takes place. Students download and complete assignments, then spend class discussing it.

However, economics remains an important consideration, said Betty Reilly, who is considering joining the newly formed anti-bond group Citizens for Responsible, Intelligent, Spending In Schools, or CRISIS.

"I think in today's economy, so many in the community are still hurting – this whole idea is wrong," said Reilly, Independence Township resident who has children in the school district.

The school district's debt is already more than $188 million, she said.

Technology is valuable, but is only one piece of a total curriculum, said school board Trustee Joan Patterson before the meeting.

"There are different ways to reach kids – we need to keep our options open," Patterson said.

More should be done to fund the projects using existing revenue, she said.

"Money spent to pay for it can't be used for something else that comes up – we have to look to the future and keep our options open," she said. "With technology, we don't need to be first. I'd rather see us take to time to put plan in place and make sure it's right."

For information on CRISIS, check csdbond.yolasite.com.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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