I’d like to talk today about a subject that has gotten a lot of discussion recently: the millage increase for the Sheridan (Arkansas) School District. But before I begin, I’d like to introduce myself and why I have any interest in this subject.
My name is Jacob Turner. I’m a sophomore attending Hendrix College, and a member of the Sheridan High School class of 2015. I attended Sheridan schools starting in 6th grade, after having been a student in the Pulaski County Special School District. I was a member of the Sheridan bands, jazz bands, FBLA, Quiz Bowl, and National Honor Society. I was also an AP Scholar for my last two years of high school, having taken 7 AP classes.
Now, I will come out and say this: I am a proponent of the millage increase. I voted for the first increase that failed to pass. If I were able to vote this time (I’m no longer a resident of Grant County), I would vote for the millage again. Why would I do this? One simple reason: the school district needs this money to provide a quality education for ALL of its students.
As I previously mentioned, I had the opportunity to be in multiple AP and extracurricular classes as a part of my high school education. I had teachers who did everything in their power to teach me all they could, and for that, I am eternally grateful. However, their teaching was on a shoestring budget (at best) in classrooms that didn’t always have the best or even adequate equipment. So much of what they did was with what little they had. Even with their passion and drive to teach us, they sometimes were given so little; they left the school district for our neighboring districts who were able to provide them with the resources and equipment necessary to teach students.
From a facilities perspective, I can relate other, more personal experiences. As a member of the Sheridan bands, I had the opportunity to perform on the stage of the McKenzie Hall. Not only that, but I also had the opportunity to run sound and lighting for school and community events. So what some people may not know is how the hall is in poor condition, and undersized for the purposes it serves. The equipment used to run events ranging from the Timberfest pageants to All-Region band concerts is very outdated and in some cases hanging on by threads and wires. The stage, in the later years I performed on it, had plywood over the holes in it to prevent kids and chairs from falling in it (and this was a stage that was used for regional contests, so these holes also helped to diminish the profile of the school as compared to neighboring districts of similar size that did not have these issues with their facilities). The band hall isn’t always suited to hold everyone in the band at the same time and be both safe and conducive to a good teaching environment. And this is just in McKenzie Hall, a small subset of the high school as a whole.
With all of these issues, it is imperative that the school district pass some sort of measure to fix and alleviate these issues. This isn’t an issue of the school spending outside of its means and needing to cut back so as not to increase the millage, because I’ve seen people in our district push each dollar as far as it could possibly go. This isn’t an issue of “it’s a new tax”, because not only is that a gross misstatement of what a millage is, it puts the value of money over the value of a child’s education. What it is, however, is a matter of providing the best education possible so that generations of students can continue to excel; to be not just “good,” but great citizens of the United States.
The best part of all of this is that there’s already a plan to use this money, if the millage is increased (a plan, I would point out, that also uses funding from other sources, which again shows the district looking to maximize every dollar possible). This plan includes all of what I’ve mentioned above (classroom improvements and facilities renovations) and more, and you can find it here. I implore you to read it and see what all the district wants to do.
So I ask, as a former student who has seen the schools from the inside, that you please vote yes for the millage increase on September 20th.