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.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.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in 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.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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