I attended the special School Board meeting in Aurelia Monday night, and throughout the meeting, a certain phrase kept reverberating throughout the Aurelia gymnasium - scene of many exciting basketball, volleyball and wrestling moments through the last 50 years. No, it wasn't a traditional gymnasium phrase, such as "Go Dogs!", "Are you kidding, stripes?" or even "It's hot in here!"
The phrase was "It's a no-brainer," and it was used by several speakers, all of whom were advocating that the Aurelia School Board enter into a sharing agreement with the Alta District. I was a little offended by the phrase myself, because I am a product of the Aurelia Community School and two post-secondary institutions, and I do have a brain, and to me, the decision to go 8 miles east to share rather than 8 miles west doesn't seem to be such a "no-brainer." In fact, I've actually heard the same phrase expressed by some Cherokeans, only in their case they are referring to an Aurelia-Cherokee sharing agreement as the "no-brainer."
I've even talked to Cherokee people who can't figure out "what's so bad about Cherokee?" and felt hurt by theimplication that something IS wrong with Cherokee.
I've been involved in Aurelia sharing talks in one role or another for 25 years now, and as far as I can tell, the biggest fear about sharing with Cherokee - then and now - is that Cherokee is BIG - our kids will get swallowed up by the big school, we'll get treated like second-class citizens, etc., etc., etc.
You know what? I have worked in Cherokee for 37 years now, and 1) It's not that big of a town. It's certainly not a city. The enrollment in Washington High School is not all that different than it was in Aurelia back when I was a Bulldog. We had about 250 students in grades 9 - 12 then, and I sure didn't consider that a big school. Classes had about 30 students in a room, and we were free to participate in any extra-curricular activities we chose - of course, there were a lot fewer ones from which to choose in the 1960s.
Having worked in Cherokee all of these years, I can tell you that Cherokeans are not big city people, folks. Most have the same 'small town values' that Aurelians do. Of course, there are probably a few exceptions, but then again, Aurelia no doubt has a few exceptions as well.
I'm certainly not the only person with an Aurelia background who works, or has worked, in Cherokee, of course. Many other people with Aurelia backgrounds have been employed in the town of Cherokee for years . Their number includes business and professional people, MHI and Tyson's employees, and numerous current or retired school employees. We have all survived nicely, even done well in most cases, and a lot of us still live in the Aurelia School District and have continued to support the Aurelia school and its students and activities.
Most of us in Aurelia would prefer to keep our own TK -12 School District if we had our 'druthers,' and I think that has always been the preference of a great majority of Aurelia citizens. We are, as a community, justifiably proud of our students and their accomplishments through the years - be it in the classroom, band room, choir room, speech and drama, football, basketball, track and field, baseball, softball, wrestling, et. al. It has been a great school, with wonderful teachers, administration, students and parents, and many Aurelia High School graduates have gone on to accomplish great things in their adult years.
But now the time has come to make some changes to the Aurelia School District, for the good of those wonderful kids. I think that the community as a whole has come to that realization now. Though as has been said, it is awfully hard to predict the future of education in any of the districts concerned, it does seem to be highly unlikely that the town of Aurelia - and subsequently the enrollment in the School District - will increase to the point where we can maintain a quality independent TK - 12 District.
So what are our options? One option would be to dissolve the Aurelia School District and just allow all students to Open Enroll to whatever district they choose. I don't think there are many supporters for that idea. Another option is to share with the Alta District. And I must admit, the supporters of this choice have been very vocal and organized, making it appear that they are a vast majority. But are they? Most of the supporters I have seen have been a group which - admittedly - may be the most affected by the whole situation. Young people with young families.
While I hesitate to bring up the name of Spiro Agnew, the one-time Vice President did coin a phrase many years ago which we may - or may not - be able to apply to a group of Aurelia citizens who , for whatever reason, have chosen not to express their opinion about the future direction of the Aurelia School District. Does this group perhaps comprise a "Silent Majority," in the words of Mr. Agnew, who perhaps would prefer a sharing arrangement with the Cherokee District? I will say this. If this group remains silent, we will really never know if they are a majority or not, will we?
One more final thought. It was said at Monday's meeting that past history should not be the determining factor in making a decision about sharing.
I will throw in my two cents' worth here. Two cliches that one frequently hears are these: "history repeats itself," and "a wise man or woman learns from history."
Folks, cliches become cliches for a reason. It's called the ring of truth.