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The Suburbanite
  • STEVE KING: Springfield schools got it right

  • An open letter to Springfield Schools Superintendent William Stauffer and the members of the Springfield Board of Education.

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  • An open letter to Springfield Schools Superintendent William Stauffer and the members of the Springfield Board of Education:
    Great job! Fantastic job!
    Back in the day, teachers would give you a gold star when you excelled. And you certainly excelled, so a star as wide as Canton Road is yours to pin on your shirt and wear home.
    Why all the praise?
    Because you listened to your “customers.” You granted their request and are going to allow the graduation class photos from the current Springfield High School to be hung on the walls of the new high school whenever it is opened.
    That’s a public relations coup the benefits of which you will reap for a long, long time. You hit the bullseye on that one – dead on.
    But a week or so ago, it seemed as if you might miss the mark altogether.
    You seemed lukewarm – at best – to the the request of Springfield alumni, including those from 50 Plus Association, to make sure the photos made it into the new building, not in some digitized form, as you suggested, but in the same tangible way they’ve been all these many years, on the walls.
    You said you would take their thoughts and wishes under advisement and would see if they could be carried out.
    It didn’t sound good, though. Too many times, school and governmental bodies in all areas say such things, but they really don’t mean them. It’s done only to appease the public – to make it look like they care. In reality, the decision usually has already been made to go in another direction, and the only issue left is how to couch it in such a way that it does not creat a public relations disaster.
    How refreshing it was to see that you really meant it. You meant every single word of what you said.
    You proved it by putting your actions behind your words.
    Words are cheap; Action isn’t.
    Your action looks like gold to the people who wanted the photos on the walls.
    Correctly so, you realized that those people are part of the group that finally passed a bond levy for the construction of a new high school, something that the school system has wanted not just for years, but decades. In this day and age, when the economy is still weak and money is tight for everybody, the fact that voters approved the measure is a major, major step. It is a sign that they believe in you and the system, and when they saw the need for a new school, they agreed to make the sacrifices on their end to make it happen.
    Page 2 of 3 - They went the extra mile.
    In this instance, all they wanted in return was a place for those photos in the new school. It meant so much to them.
    Correctly so, you saw their passion – and realized it really wasn’t an outlandish request at all, but a legitimate one. And so you said yes. You went the extra mile on your end.
    How refeshing. How unbelievably refreshing, particularly now when there’s more mistrust of public entities by taxpayers than ever before.
    You’ve restored a lot of people’s faith.
    That’s how things get done, with both sides figuring out an answer that works for everyone instead of agreeing to disagree, which benefits no one.That’s how communities grow together, stay together and move forward.
    The Springfield school system – the Springfield community – is better off for it, much better off, in fact.
    For those who don’t understand the Springfield schools and community, this all might seem a lot about nothing.
    But that’s not the case at all, and you recognize that.
    You know the history. You know it because many of you have lived it, are part of it.
    Springfield was one of the first truly suburban communities in the Greater Akron area, and as such, so was the Springfield school system.
    Back when many communities in the area were nothing more than a few houses on dirt roads in the midst of farm fields, there was a Springfield, and Springfield schools.
    Those graduation photos prove that. Those faces – those names – prove it.
    Understanding that, then, no school system has a prouder, longer, richer and more historic legacy than Springfield’s, or one that is more of a fabric of the community.
    To those who are – and to those on the outside looking in who are historically savvy when it comes to this region -- it means something to be a Springfield Spartan. It means a lot, really.
    Those photos represents that. Again, those names and faces – like that of the great Tom Pagna and so many others -- represent that. Though they don’t speak any words as they stare at you from their place on the wall, they tell a long and interesting story. They explain how Springfield – the school and the community --  got from then to now.
    To not have those photos in the new school would be, in essence, to wipe away those words, that story, Springfield’s history. It would be a slap in the face of everybody who has ever bled red and gray.
    You can’t do that.
    You can’t ignore 80, 90 years.
    The new school will be a composite of many things, including all that was good about the old school – and there was much that was good.
    Page 3 of 3 - You can’t open those school doors for the first time unless there’s a trail from the past leading into the building.
    The members of the 50 Plus Association say they have an army of people who are ready, willing and able to spruce up those old frames and photos so they fit in with the beautiful décor of the new school. They want those photos to blend in – but not too much.
    They can’t. They’re special. They have to stand out.
    In fact, if the truth be told, it might be better if the photos and the frames had just a twinge of a wear-and-tear look to them. They need to look like they’re from another time – The Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Fabulous ’50s, the ’60s that were so full of change, and so on and so forth.
    People will remember what you did by allowing those photos to be representations of a proud past. They’ll look back and say you did the right thing – the only thing you could do, really – by allowing all those graduates from all those years and decades to have front-row seats in this grand new classroom.
    Again, good job. Keep up the good work.
    Sincerely,
    Steve King