New buildings and latest technology don’t guarantee academic success

Abraham Lincoln said, “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.” I can honestly say that I could not be prouder of the fact I was born, raised, and educated in Poland. It’s not a “snobby thing” or a “better than you thing”, it’s a “Poland thing.” It’s the things that attract transplants from Campbell, Struthers, Boardman, and elsewhere. It’s the things that keep generations of families here. From the small town atmosphere to the low crime rate to the community activities, the list goes on and on. However, there is one thing in particular that has helped define our community over the years, and that is our school system. Poland Local School District has been at or near the top for many years. In fact, Poland Seminary High School was recently ranked in the top 10 percent of all U.S. high schools.

I’ve had the pleasure of working as a substitute teacher in Poland for parts of the last two school years. I’ve also, as part of my coursework at YSU, had the chance to spend some time in several other local schools. Based on my experiences I’ve come to a few realizations. First, there are some beautiful newer school buildings in the area. Second, there are some beautiful older school buildings in the area. Third, the age of a school building has nothing to do with academic performance.

Case in point, compared to the other schools I have been in, Poland lacks the technology, aesthetically pleasing classrooms, and overall up-to-date amenities. However, despite being on the wrong side of the education funding equation, Poland students continue to perform at a higher level. So, why is money continually being spent to solve a problem that has nothing to with school buildings, materials, supplies, and technology?

The majority of teachers I’ve talked to say half the battle in educating a child is already won if education is a priority in that child’s life. With that said, I believe the one defining characteristic that separates our schools is the district’s population. I spent time talking to students in several districts, and their views on the importance of education were in sharp contrast. Mine would have been too if I grew up in these other districts and lived the life of some of these children. I was stunned and saddened by the hardships endured by many of these children. Poverty, violent crimes, single parent households, and foster care ,to name a few.

That being said, who honestly believes that the construction of new schools in impoverished and underperforming districts is going to counteract the adversity faced by its occupants?

So, with open enrollment on the horizon in Poland I want to extend a few welcome greetings. First, welcome to those parents who value their child’s education enough to abandon the new school buildings in their local school district. Second, welcome to those students who will help rescue our dwindling enrollment and balance sheet. Finally, welcome to the new generation of Poland Local Schools.

Bill Hegarty, Poland