EDITORIAL:Â Survey a critical step toward future plans
What will the future of athletics and education at Freeman Public Schools look like as it relates to cooperation with a neighboring district? Those living in the Freeman Public School District might just have a significant say in the matter.
A task force comprised of administration, board members, staff, students and Freeman Public patrons has issued a survey to gauge interest in a possible partnership with another nearby district and say the results of the survey will play a big part in school leadership’s course of action — or inaction — going forward.
The survey was mailed to all who reside inside the district boundaries — just under 1,000 were sent out — with instructions on how to respond. There are four questions:
1. Would you like the Freeman Public School District to discuss potential sports cooperatives with area schools?
2. Would you support a sports cooperative that may lead into a school consolidation?
3. Would you like the Freeman Public School District to discuss potential school consolidation with area schools?
4. Would you support a sports cooperative if it moved our sports teams up from Class B to Class A?
Responses can be mailed to the school, dropped off at four designated locations in town or completed online. There’s even a QR code on the mailer that allows people to use the camera on their smartphone to be taken directly to the online survey. It’s pretty slick.
Given the number of ways afforded to complete the survey, the ease of which to do it and the importance of the issue, there’s no reason the number of those participating wouldn’t be strong. Frankly, anything short of a 50% response rate would be a disappointment.
There is much at stake.
Sports cooperatives and school consolidation have come up too many times to count in the past 20 years, and Freeman Public has failed to pull the trigger almost every time. Only a football partnership with Canistota established in 2017 — born out of absolute necessity for Freeman — and a wrestling cooperative with Marion established in 1991 have taken hold.
Over the course of all those years and throughout all those discussions, never was there an effort to survey the constituency in a way that is as robust and accessible as the one now underway. Those on the task force obviously value the opinion of district patrons, want to give them a real voice in the matter, and have spent both time and money to do so. Not only should the men and women of the district complete the survey, they should do so with a heartfelt “thanks for thinking of us.”
Everyone knows this is a sensitive matter that carries with it a variety of opinions — and many of them are strong. Earlier this year, when a vote to form a three-school sports cooperative with Freeman Academy and Marion fell short of approval from Freeman Public on a 3-2 vote, reactions were strong on both sides of the issue.
Those who were in favor of it said it was time.
Those opposed, at least many of them, felt like the board was rushing things.
That’s why this deliberate and inclusive effort to survey the district is so darn important. Information is power, and particularly if a high percentage of the patrons respond, Freeman Public should have a pretty good idea about where its people stand and what the next course of action is.
Of course, if there’s anywhere close to a 50/50 split on the issues presented to the people, the board will have to do what it is asked to do: Lead.
Freeman Public had gone through a host of iterations since it was organized all the way back in 1880. It is, in fact, this community’s oldest establishment. The changes that have taken place over the course of 140 years — from relocation to the evolution of school grounds, curriculum, athletics and other activities, to the development of programs and staff — have been exciting, controversial and, for the most part, forward-thinking.
Not to sound dramatic, but this may be the biggest crossroads Freeman Public has faced in generations.
In short, it’s too important for people to ignore.
Read the survey, take the survey and return the survey. Give the board something to work with. The final result might not be what you were hoping for, but at least you were given a chance to weigh in in a tangible way.
The administration, school board and task force deserve an abundance of credit for taking this important step. The Courier will be watching to see how this all turns out.
(And if you don’t return the survey, you forfeit your right to complain.)
Jeremy Waltner | Editor & Publisher