School Changes: Situation brings optimism 2013.06.05

Written by David Green.

Talk to someone from another city and you might get the impression that Morenci schools are in turmoil. All three administrators are leaving and it must be horrible. It seems to be a rather unique situation until you look across the county to Clinton where the same thing has happened, but for different reasons.

Clinton has solved part of its problem by creating one for Morenci—hiring elementary school principal Mary Fisher—who will be missed by staff, students and parents alike. The standing ovation she received at the board meeting Monday was a testament to her service.

What many people outside the community don't realize is that the district's administrative situation isn't viewed by everybody as a terrible thing. Instead, it's seen as an opportunity. Even the loss of a beloved principal such as Fisher will open new possibilities for the district.

The changes are an opportunity because the district's administrative structure must be rebuilt. The days of working with a full-time superintendent and a principal in all three buildings has long passed. Cuts have been made over the years, and it's remarkable to look back at the staffing changes from 10 years ago. The changes from 20 years ago are rather startling, however, the changes in enrollment over those years are also startling, along with changes in revenue.

Discussions about the situation with school staff members and a broad range of district residents often points in the same direction. A unifying force is needed, someone to heal the wounds that have arisen and to pull staff members together despite continuing financial adversity. 

The name generally mentioned is retired teacher and administrator Kay Johnson. We're pleased to hear that she's still willing to help—despite being passed by in two earlier offers—and we hope board of education members think seriously about finding a role for her in the new administration. We know that many school staff members are optimistic about the district's future and they like the idea of a familiar, proven administrator such as Johnson. It's no secret that staff members are also worried about what the board might decide.

Administrative turmoil probably gives the district a bad reputation around the county, but readers of this paper should be well aware of the many achievements of Morenci students, led by a competent staff.

These aren't terrible times for the school district; they're exciting times. Challenging, for sure, but full of opportunity. Now it's up to school board members to make the opportunity a good one.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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