Saturday, February 25, 2012

Investing in school the right move - Flathead Publishing Group

Investing in rebuilding the Whitefish High School is the right move to ensure the future health and growth of our wonderful community.

My decision to vote in support of the proposed bond reminds me of a decision that I made 11 years ago to relocate my business to a new facility. At the time, leaving our historic downtown location was a painful and controversial option. But when I evaluated my options as a business owner, I realized that my only means of growing the business was to invest in a new facility. While it would have been easier to stay with the status quo, I realized that fixing up the old location wouldn’t alleviate its fundamental shortcomings — lack of parking for our inventory and our customers, limited space for our service department and the fact that the old building was simply worn out.

Relocating and building new proved to be the right investment. Our sales went up. Our service business increased. And no less important, our employees felt that we had invested in them so they were willing to invest in us by committing their careers to the business and working hard to provide a quality customer experience.

The situation at our high school is remarkably similar. We have a worn-out building. No amount of lipstick can change the fact that it doesn’t work in today’s environment. It has served Whitefish families well for five decades but our kids today face a much more complex world than we did. They need the right technology and facilities to support their teachers in providing them the skills they need to compete. Many Whitefish families understand this problem and are making the decision to send their kids to Kalispell where they offer a facility that meets today’s needs. We need Whitefish students in Whitefish schools.

While we are talking about investing in a facility, I believe it’s really the people; in this case the teachers and students — that make the enterprise successful. But I believe it’s time that the owner of our schools, the people of Whitefish, invest in them for the long-run and prove to them that we are here to stay. Just as my employees did in my business, our teachers and our students will step up their performance and re-invest in our community with their time, energy and intelligence.

This time around, the school district has done a good job of making a business-like assessment of its needs. It’s a practical plan to provide a long-lasting solution. It is true that we could spend half as much to make it look a little better. But that would be a very short-term solution as it would not mitigate the current building’s functional, structural and code deficiencies, making it a waste of time and capital. Instead, the proposed plan for the building strikes the right balance between renovating the parts of the existing building that can be done cost effectively and replacing those that are both too expensive to fix and too difficult to re-work to meet our real needs.

Furthermore, the District has done something never before attempted or accomplished in Montana, it actually sought and secured other money before asking the voters for theirs, offering us the chance to buy a $19 million building for only $14 million.

Just as I realized 11 years ago in my own business, we can’t afford today to live in yesterday. I believe it’s now time to move forward by voting yes to fix our school.

— Don Kaltschmidt


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