New high school not the answer
Longmeadow High School (LHS) is not a private prep school. It is part of an education system of public schools, funded primarily by the taxes paid by all of the property owners in the town. The one-third of households in town that have children in our schools are subsidized by the two-thirds of households that do not. Education in Longmeadow, as we know it, could not exist without the contribution of the two-thirds of households that no longer have, or never had, children in our system. And it is the property tax dollars of every household in Longmeadow that will continue to provide the major portion of financial support for education and for all of the other town departments, functions, services, amenities and obligations.
The Longmeadow School Committee (SC) claims that their ill-conceived LHS demolition project, and resulting higher taxes, will produce a better education for our children and higher property values for the rest of us. But the increment of education improvement gained from additional spending is not linear. There is a law of diminishing returns. Given the reality of our current level of education excellence, further pursuit of the pay more to achieve less cycle, demanded by the SC, is an irrational, specious program. And higher taxes have never made anyone wealthy.
Our town is presently caught up in an escalating fiscal crisis that is unrelated to the proposed LHS project; most of the crisis has been of our own making, and the School Committee folly only exacerbates an already desperate situation. Eventually, unless we aggressively address the myopic leadership and chronic mismanagement of our elected officials, Longmeadow will be forced to surrender independence and seek some sort of regional arrangement with another town that might be willing to have us. We will assume their problems, they will assume our problems, and they will dictate our quality of life and standards of education. The children of Longmeadow, who were used as the School Committee's excuse for creating an agenda of never ending wants and debt, will become the unintended victims of voter apathy and fiscal profligacy.
The town and the students of LHS are being poorly served by a School Committee and its supporters. In concert with certain Select Board members, they demean the quality of education currently provided and claim that a new building is essential to rescue and revitalize a deteriorating educational product. But the truth is, that 10 years into the 21st century, today's LHS graduates receive an education competitive with any other. Most graduates go on to successful completion of higher education in the best institutions America has to offer. At this time, the shabby condition of LHS is not significantly impacting the quality of education delivered to our young people. Certainly, we must not allow ourselves to become complacent about the condition of our high school. But neither is there reason to assume that we must authorize immediate demolition and new construction, which we cannot afford, in order to maintain standards of which most of us are justifiably proud.
With facts separated from fiction and emotion, it is appropriate for us to step back and consider how learning will be delivered in the future, how that relates to the rehab needs of all of our schools, and how we deal with all of the other pressing needs, obligations, and the fiscal crisis facing Longmeadow. The School Committee agenda would shackle taxpayers with the largest mortgage in our history, sacrifice Storrs Library, the Adult Center and most of our remaining assets and services, in favor of what would be, at best, an obsolescent example of yesterday's facilities and methods of education. It is more than likely that, in the very near future, technological capability and its adaptation to new concepts of learning will leave us with crushing debt for an obsolete white elephant designed and built to accommodate yesterday's programs and delivery systems. It is imperative that we reject the School Committee rush to judgement and start over with a new vision of the future and a generous application of caution and common sense.
Philip B. Fregeau