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Arness: District must provide most inclusive plan possible

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The citizens, businesses, and governmental entities involved in providing the public education system in our Borough make tremendous sacrifices to do that in the most effective way possible. As a result, it is incumbent upon the School District to provide the most inclusive, and expansive program possible with the resources available to it. While many people are, at best, suspicious of the public education system...it is arguably the only legal and practical method available today to educate all students in our society. As a cog in the machine that is the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, I find both hope and disappointment in the activities that constitute the day to day operations generally known as "school".

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Because we (the District) are a huge, far flung operation, we are uniquely in a position to suffer from the vagaries of individuals who have a complaint with the District, or school in general, and to bring the bane of vandalism to bear against the District and its various buildings. Those incidents seem, sometimes, to come in groups and are therefore related. However, sometimes they are individual incidents which don't seem to have any real explanation beyond mere boredom or "thrill-seeking". Just over a week ago we suffered such an incident at Nikiski Middle/High School. While the specifics of the incident and the details of the motives of the individuals involved will become public over the course of the next weeks and or months, there are some things which we already know. Those things give us reason for a bit of a positive outlook on the issue of vandalism...and for our students in general.

The first positive is the fact that the District and the Borough have installed closed circuit cameras at several of our more outlying facilities. Those cameras worked. The District and the police were able to utilize those "films" to help to identify the individuals involved. A school building can be a large facility which makes it difficult to provide coverage with cameras, however in this case the record created was fairly conclusive and complete.

The next positive was the reaction of the staff and Borough maintenance to the situation. The vandals chose to not only deface...but also defile with images which were, by any measure, disgusting. The on site staff were able to appropriately cover those portions of the damage which were most disturbing prior to the arrival of any students on the site. Then, Borough maintenance was good enough to provide a crew of painters on the morning of the damage to remove the paint which it was possible to remove and paint over the balance. The efforts of the maintenance department are very much appreciated.

However, in all this the real story is in fact the response of the students themselves. Without invitation or coercion a group in excess of 25 students volunteered to pick up buckets and brushes to help mitigate the damage to "their" building. In that response I find tremendous satisfaction. We all know that it is easy to find fault with your own school, and even to find happiness when something untoward happens to it. In this case, however, the students responded with a sense of ownership and outrage to the damage that was done.

As a community we can debate the appropriate way to provide education and what that education should look like. As a community we can have very legitimate differences in how much we should spend and how we should approach the mystery that is educating the next generation. What we all need to do, however, is to recognize that in fact there are moments which are, by any measure, positive and constructive to our community. We are now in a place where your Doctor may be a local graduate, your pilot, the policeman you are talking with...many, many, many of the people you encounter on a daily basis are products of our system. I know that anyone can anecdotally find the exceptions...the students who "didn't get it", or who fell through the cracks. By and large, however, our students continue to step up and make themselves valuable parts of our community...and those 25 at Nikiski Middle/High are a wonderful reminder that the positive/productive citizens of tomorrow can now be found in our schools.

We should all celebrate that!!

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