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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments


The story in last night's paper about Fort Wayne Community Schools' proposed building plans contains an important lesson about presenting and defending arguments. When you make a causal claim, like this,

Jeff Lackney, an educational planner and architect for Wisconsin-based Fielding Nair International, studied the link between the quality of education and older buildings. “If I was to generalize, there is usually a 5 percent lower test score in buildings with lower quality ratings.”

Locally, the numbers support his findings. Standardized test scores in FWCS, whose 53 buildings average 52 years old, fall 10 percent below the state average. The average age of school buildings in the United States is 40 years old, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

Then you have to be able to account for the exceptions to the claim, like this:

But Kevin Brown, FWCS board member-elect, questions how the district can justify spending millions on buildings instead of learning.

“In the last 10 years, we've thrown over $100 million into high schools, and both schools are on academic probation,” Brown said, referring to renovations at North Side and South Side high schools.

Brown's exception is a tough one to answer. You might say, well, there are other factors in play at these schools, such as the poverty level of the students or the education level of their parents or whatever, but that would just further undercut your argument that building quality is so important. And if this whole thing is more complicated than we might imagine, with building quality and a lot of other factors at work, then you should have said so in the first place.

Posted in: Our town


brian stouder
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 6:13am

As a proud graduate of South Side High School (class of '79), here is what I object to

"In the last 10 years, WE'VE THROWN [emphasis added] over $100 million into high schools, and both schools are on academic probation,

Jon Olinger
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 7:10am

Jeff Lackney provides absolutely no data that backs up his point. In fact there is no data that is presented by a disinterested third party. All of the "data" linking cushy buildings with test scores comes from architects who, as in Lackney

tim zank
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 7:41am

I think it is fair to say a buildings' condition may in fact hinder the learning process, for example...The windows are cracked and leaking so in January it's (normally) freezing inside thus a distraction to studying.
On the other hand, having to take classes on tile floors instead of carpet shouldn't hinder anyones test scores.
My point is, there is a huge difference between functionality and largess.
No offense to FWCS, but I don't think your schools need to be that nice, they need to be safe, clean and functional.

Jon Olinger
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 8:09am


You hit the nail on the head. My kids go to FWCS. I want them to be safe. I want the buildings to be clean, but most importantly I want them to read.

Jeff Pruitt
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 8:12am


What's your take on the board's support for this right now?

Bob G.
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 8:32am

It's not an "aesthetics" issue one bit, nor can it be convincingly argued that it's a "poverty" issue....it's about a RESPONSIBILITY issue...the PARENTS being responsible enough to be involved with the schools AND their child's education. "Poor" kids learn AS WELL as "rich" kids...with the proper motivation. That's just common sense.

For DECADES, the educational system has had one serious "flaw" attached to it, buildings aside. And it is that the "system"
has played to the whole "self-esteem" aspect of the child's growth. That should be the realm of the PARENTS. The schools are there to ED-U-CATE!

I would re-emphasize (as others have said) that "if" you have safe, clean buildings for the kids, learned educators with a passion for teaching, and parents who hold themselves and their kids accountable for the learning process, THEN the self-esteem issue takes care of itself.

But as long as kids go to school looking like slobs and acting like fools, they're just going to feel and behave as such.

Getting back to BASICS is what it should be all about...THEN you'd have a lot more money for repairs, maintenance, and upgrades.

The solution has been in front of everyone all the time..at a lot less cost.


Jon Olinger
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 10:57am

Jeff my gut feeling is that the Yellow Ribbon task force will recommend an amount between 500 and 750 million. The superintendent will pass the recommendation through to the board and the majority of the board will pass it. Probably on a 4-3 vote or a 5-2 vote.

I think there will be a remonstrance and I think it will loose because the superintendent and the majority of the board will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in an ad campaign to defeat it.

I also think in two years some current members of the board who voted for it may loose their seat and new board members may reign in the spending.

Steve Towsley
Fri, 01/05/2007 - 7:59pm

Rich/poor has nothing whatsoever to do with whether young people are excited about a given subject. I don't expect any teacher to be a performer, but I do expect that if they have a passion for teaching, they can go in front of a group and teach passionately, wide-eyed, and communicate the fascination of the matter at hand.

If you plan to drone on in a faux-intellectual monotone from some lesson plan (even the best of lesson plans), please spare us a misplaced teaching career.

Kids can get inspired and learn in an open park pavilion in deep snow if the leader of the discussion has a talent for communicating his or her depth of knowledge and fascination for the subject. Without a talent for communicating to the target audience, I know for a stone-cold fact that you can be a teacher of anything from typing to physics and screw kids out of the essential knowledge they deserved to get from the class to succeed later in life.

I am in favor of upgrading lousy school environments. But let's not forget what our kids deserve and require from us in order to perceive their class subjects as relevant and fascinating. We should be looking for great teachers -- they can succeed with a class in parkas on a frozen white school parking lot -- if they really had to.

Mon, 01/08/2007 - 8:18am

I agree with BG. I think we should fix the maintenance that is in immediate need such as heating, windows etc. No AC. It's only hot in school maybe a few months. I never had AC when I was in school. Parents need to be help accountable. If a kid has a lousy environment at home it won't matter how fancy the school is, they still won't learn. We need to have more oversight over FWCS since the schools should have never been allowed to get this bad to start with. Where has all our property tax money from the past went to? It's not being managed properly. How in the world can FWCS board justify a huge property tax increase for this project?? I think before we allow anything to go forward, there needs to be some type of accountability put in place over how FWCS is spending our money. Then do the projects a little at a time and cut some salaries to pay for it!

Bob G.
Mon, 01/08/2007 - 8:24am

One thing I would LOVE to see, would be to change the current nomenclature from PROPERTY TAX to "PROPERLY" TAX....seems Laura's onto something here...!



Jon Olinger
Mon, 01/08/2007 - 9:11am
Emily Brown
Mon, 02/19/2007 - 3:18pm

Does anyone know the website, or whom to contact for signing up the petition against the building project?
Thank you