|This is a letter from a concerned citizen that is being sent
to the News Herald Editor and also all of the Loudon County
In response to Commissioner Nancy Marcus’ remarks made to the Loudon County Commission on February 16, I would similarly like to address the County Commission regarding the building program that is currently under consideration.
Like Mrs. Marcus, I am prompted to write because of my own confusion. However, unlike Mrs. Marcus, I do not question the need for capital improvements with regard to the Greenback School. Frankly, I fail to believe that any dispassionate observer would not heartily recommend a new structure for Greenback.
Mrs. Marcus’ address was revealing for two reasons. First, she implies her lifetime residency and her Loudon County Schools matriculation unequally qualify her to lodge her opinions. I do not take issue with her right to state her case. But the insinuation that her opinion is of higher quality in part due to her long-term residency is hogwash.
I have lived in this county for 14 years. I too have three children in the Loudon County School system. I am satisfactorily educated, although I am not a teacher or an administrator. And with that, my qualifications for weighing my opinions with Loudon County School Board are of no less quality than Mrs. Marcus’. I hope she can appreciate that inalienable right to air grievances.
Second, Mrs. Marcus calls into question the legitimacy of reports that recommend a new structure for Greenback. She says “all of this information has made it sound as if this school is in such horrible, irreparable condition, it could be in some third-world country…”
I hasten to point out, these reports were offered by licensed engineers and architects, a field in which Mrs. Marcus is certainly not qualified. Over the years, the school board has hired independent professionals to verify the condition of the school structure, and to recommend replacement versus repair. After hearing these recommendations, the school board decided to pursue the building of a new school. I believe the economics involved were weighed heavily in making that decision, and Mrs. Marcus has had every opportunity to hear, first hand, those recommendations and question the validity.
Unlike Mrs. Marcus’ characterization, “this information” has not come solely from the voices of Greenback parents, but from independent professionals who were tasked with finding a cost-effective solution to an ongoing problem.
Further, Mrs. Marcus makes the recommendation that a proposed $30 million be divided three ways:
a) Renovate Loudon High School
b) Build a new 6-8 facility for Eaton, North Middle and Highland Park, and
c) Renovate the current Greenback facility and build a new Greenback PK-6 facility
Ostensibly, then, each of these projects would receive approximately $10 million. However, a new Greenback facility would cost far more than $10 million. And so, I would guess, would three new middle school facilities. Mrs. Marcus’ suggestion simply doesn’t add up.
Mrs. Marcus says she agrees with “the decision made to correct the dire needs at Loudon Elementary, Fort Loudon Middle and Philadelphia.” I find it revealing that Greenback does not make her list. What then, I ask of Mrs. Marcus, convinced her of the dire needs at these schools? Why have Greenback’s needs not met Mrs. Marcus’ criteria? What does Greenback have to do to provide equal access to quality facilities and amenities for the children of Eastern Loudon County?
Overcrowding is indeed a problem at Greenback. Why else has the school installed four new mobile classrooms in recent years? Why was the auditorium converted to needed classroom space? Quite simply, these changes were made to handle the student population. The school sacrificed an auditorium for a greater need: to better educate its students.
I ask Mrs. Marcus to consider the likelihood that Greenback’s student population would increase even more if the school offered facilities similar to other county schools. Would not an increased number of surrounding neighborhoods be more enticed to send their children to Greenback if they felt the opportunities there were equal to that of the county’s other schools?
Perhaps a solid indicator of student preference can be revealed in student population numbers. As Mrs. Marcus stated, Greenback High School has approximately 230 students. Loudon High School has 800. I submit that much of that disparity can be explained by the differences in facility quality in these two schools. Today, how many students will opt for Loudon or Lenoir City High Schools in favor of Greenback despite geographic proximity. Perhaps an improved Greenback School could help relieve some of the overcrowding at other county schools.
Mrs. Marcus suggests that the professional recommendations for a new Greenback School are now outdated because much of the maintenance issues have been, in her opinion, resolved. So, because the School Board and County Commission dragged their feet for two years, we no longer need a new school because we installed some new HVAC units, and we unclogged the boy’s locker room drains.
Her attempt to restate the Greenback request for a new school was nothing more than a straw-man argument she built before the county commission and then blew over with her own logic.
Finally, her baseless implication that the people of Greenback are involved in an organized propaganda campaign is reckless and beneath the dignity of her seat on the Loudon Commission.
It is imperative that the citizens of this county are represented by fair minded commissioners and board members who will uphold the equality of the county’s education system. Our county officials must have a vision for the future—to anticipate the needs of our citizens and deliver workable solutions. I do not discount the needs of our other county schools, but similarly, I recognize the needs of Greenback. I am concerned that Commissioner Marcus may not share an unbiased opinion in this matter.
Robert W. Fox