Override needs to pass

Devin Gilmore, Veritas Managing Editor

“What is the value of an education?” Rockland townspeople will consider this very question as they head to the polls for the town election on Saturday, April 12.

According to the pamphlet the Rockland Public School District released to explain next year’s budget, “This year the district has been hit with a ‘perfect storm’ of bad budget news,” including reduction in both state funding and federal grants and increased gas, electricity, and special education costs. The pamphlet explains that the rising costs of gas and electricity are due to the new school’s change in building codes and immense amount of new technology.

The question at hand is whether or not Rockland taxpayers are willing to pay an average of $71.57, or an increase equal to $5.96 more a month.

If the override fails, the schools could have to sacrifice up to ten teachers and support staff, as well as specialists. There could also be increased class sizes and a reduction in busing at the high school.

Cheryl Tappa has two children already in the Rockland school system and her youngest will soon enter the district as well. Tappa has joined a parent action group, named Moving Forward, that is dedicated to spreading awareness and support of the override.

“It is important that all the children receive the best education they can with small classroom sizes, options for a diverse range of classes that would become available to them as they grow in the school system,” explains Tappa.

She and the rest of the group attended a public meeting held on March 12 in the high school auditorium at which Superintendent John Retchless discussed the consequences of the override passing or not passing.

Retchless’s comments were not limited to the override. In the meetings he also discussed new classes for students in the business and engineering programs and an expansion of the music and art programs.

There were twenty to thirty people in attendance and they all seemed to be in support of the override,” concludes Tappa.

Junior Pearse McNally was so inspired by the meeting he took it upon himself to pass out voting registration forms to his classmates of age at RHS.

In regard to cuts in staff and the budget, “It just can’t happen,” says McNally. “We all have a teacher or teachers who have made an impact on our lives and it’s only right we help them when we can.”

When I spoke with Retchless, he continued to comment on the progress Rockland schools have made in the past several years, particularly the robotics program, the woodshop, and the increase in AP participation.

“We want to keep that going forward and if we have to cut staff throughout the district then that’s going to stop our progress or at least slow it down tremendously,” says Retchless.

Although Retchless urges voters to vote “yes,” he understands why the increase in taxes would be difficult for some of Rockland’s taxpayers to take on.

Retchless continues, “In the last two years they’ve approved an override for the library, a two million dollar override for the roads, and a two million dollar plus override for the senior center so their taxes are going up.”

He adds, “The taxpayers of the town support education and if they vote against it it’s because, I think, of their personal financial situations, not because they don’t support education.”

Although none were willing to speak out against the override on the record, some voters say they are frustrated with the fact that estimates of the cost of the new buildings were lower than the cost in reality. There are concerns that this money in question will not be enough and that more may be requested in the future.

As a student who has been in the Rockland school system for the last twelve years, I have seen Rockland blossom as a town and our innovation be further strengthened by the new buildings and programs we’ve acquired in the past several years.

It has always been my understanding that the town of Rockland prides itself on being invested in the education of its youth, and to lose momentum on this progress would affect the pride and enthusiasm our schools have experienced in these recent years. It would be a shame to have come so far and not be able to continue this progress.

With that being said, I myself am in favor of this override and, as a student at Rockland High School, I believe our progression as a community and especially in our schools is worth $5.96 more a month.

Overall, it seems that the majority of Rockland citizens understand the importance of the upcoming override and think the value of education runs high.

The decision will ultimately come down to whether or not taxpayers will be able to afford this increase in the costs of our schools, creating a positive and supportive atmosphere that will most likely be surrounding the polls on April 12.

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