By now, most are well aware of the results of our bond election last night. We suffered another narrow defeat - a margin of 101 votes amidst a larger turnout with over 3200 votes cast. But there are no "moral victories" in elections. These issues either pass or don't, and the voters have spoken.
That said - I will continue to repeat what I have said since the beginning of this process. Our school district has real needs for upgrades. Needs that were identified after professional study, input from community, and careful consideration by stakeholders from all around the district. And the simple fact is this - these needs are not going away.
I know many who read this already believe that Benzie is worth the investment. But if you don't count yourself among those who believe this - consider the following...
We are financially responsible: Benzie Central is ranked 554th in the state in our per pupil overall funding out of 825 public and charter schools. We are on the bottom tier. We are surrounded by districts that are "out of formula" and receive FAR more per pupil than we do (Glen Lake is ranked 27th and Frankfort 57th). Despite these challenges, we have taken steps to cut overhead spending, and have established a balanced budget and a healthy fund balance. Indeed, we also rank a lean 578th in administrative spending per pupil as well. Our financial practices have been consistently praised by outside auditors.
Yet we offer amazing opportunities: Benzie outpaces most other regional districts of similar and smaller size with regard to what we offer our students. We not only offer many AP courses, our students consistently score well on AP tests granting them college credit. We are also one of the only schools in our region with our own early college program (newly started in 2019) in partnership with Baker College. We have more elective, arts, and enrichment opportunities than many schools far larger than us with thriving vocal music, instrumental music (including marching and jazz bands), theatre, visual arts, robotics, and much much more. And our athletic programs are wide and varied providing participation opportunities for virtually any child in our school system.
We are committed to improvement: Benzie Central staff have been working extremely hard alongside our leadership team to seek means of improving upon our teaching and instruction that forms the foundation of what we do every day. We have partnered with MiExcel and the TBAISD organizations to challenge our status quo and become more "systems oriented" in our work every day. Our board of education has committed to this work as well, engaging deeply in training and planning to be more strategic and intentional in our approach. We have been recognized at the state level for this work and have been invited to present at statewide conferences to share our successes with others looking to duplicate our efforts.
We live in the most beautiful part of the most beautiful state in the USA. We need to make sure that our community will continue to thrive and reach for a better future.
I believe in Benzie Central. Let's get back to work and find that path forward.