Legislative Update

27 October 2001
Number 01-14

Senator Rod Adair Supports Neighborhood Schools

(After my remarks on local radio on October 15, I have received a number of inquiries concerning my position on the Roswell Independent School District's plans for the construction of new schools and the closing of existing schools. This update is for the purpose of responding to those questions.)

First of all:

I am not addressing this issue as a state senator, because this is not a legislative matter. My role in this question is the same as any other Roswell citizen---that of a member of the local community, a parent of children enrolled in local schools, and that of any concerned resident of Roswell. The point being that my interest is that of a constituent of the local school board, lobbying them, and making my own views known, the same as everyone else should do. (While my name has been listed as a member of a committee set up by the R.I.S.D. to study this kind of issue, it was done without my consent and I have never attended a single meeting, nor played any role in the study of this issue.)

Point 2:

I have made my views known by calling, writing, and providing documentation of studies to both my local school board member as well as administration officials. I believe all Roswell residents should do the same. My position, going back two years, has been the same:

A number of studies show that school size has a direct correlation with student performance....that the smaller the school, the better the performance, especially in the elementary grades. The correlation in fact is stronger between school size and student performance than between class size and performance. (And class size, ironically, is the subject which gets all the attention.) I have provided this data to the school board and the administration.

Point 3:

A number of Roswell elementary schools are ideal in size, or are very close to the ideal. Such schools as Parkview and Washington Avenue for example, far from being marked for closing (there is no official word on this, but they have been named over the past two years as subjects of study) should be preserved precisely because of their ideal size. They are also popular with parents. (A consideration too often brushed aside.)

Point 4:

If you hire architects, contractors, or others involved in the building trade to conduct a study to determine if a need exists to build new buildings, you must expect a high probability that they will find the need for building construction. This appears to have happened in this instance.

Point 5:

Unless schools present hazards because of poor design, or are in need of removal of toxic building materials, or present other similar problems, then maintenance, repair and upgrading is vastly more economical than new construction.

Point 6:

It flat goes against the best science and the best studies we have available to tear down schools whose capacity is 250-400 and build new schools for 700-850 kids. It not only creates a less attractive environment for younger kids, it is very costly as well. This results in a double hit on the community: more tax money for a worse outcome.

Point 7:

As is probably obvious by now, I support the concept of the neighborhood school---as opposed to centrally located "mega-schools" with huge staffs, big administrations, hallways like shopping malls, and designs which tend to overwhelm young children.

Preserving smaller schools enhances opportunities for parental involvement, which is the single most important component of educational success. Truth be known, parents too, can be overwhelmed in settings involving 750 kids and perhaps 1,500 parents, grandparents, guardians et cetera. The smaller the school the better chance of a tighter-knit, more cohesive Parent Teacher Organization. It is more conducive to the kind of social setting in which individuals will feel less intimidated and more likely to step forward to volunteer and to get involved in helping the faculty. Additionally, the school may be just down the block and part of the neighborhood, which in and of itself creates more interest. Parents are more likely to know other children's parents.

Finally, I want to make clear that I realize no decisions have been announced yet. I also realize that reasonable people may disagree about matters of public policy. Our local board may reach different conclusions on each point I have made. In any case, this response is solely for the purpose of responding to questions I have received.

I support and pray for wisdom and insight for our school board, just as I do for all elected officials in my community. I also believe we should do the same for the legislature, congress and our national leaders. I certainly need prayer and am always grateful to those who intercede for me.

Rod Adair