Tuesday, February 03, 2004


Shawn Boyd, 28, moved his family last year out of the City of Lincoln, away from the state’s second-largest school district, the Lincoln Public Schools. They settled near the tiny Cheney (Neb.) School southeast of Lincoln. Purpose: when his daughters, now 2 and 4, go to school, he wants it to be in that Class I school.

“I want my kids to get more one-on-one interaction with teachers,” Boyd said, “a chance to have a better foundation for their learning experience, and hopefully, to not have to put up with those circumstances that you see in larger public schools, because it’s easier for teachers and parents to control things in the smaller environment.”

Boyd is one who puts his time and money where his mouth is: although brand new to the community, he has already joined the school board. And he has lobbied hard against LB 1048, which will be on public hearing in the Unicameral’s education committee this afternoon.

Boyd opposes the bill, which would force merger of the 241 elementary-only districts into larger K-12 districts, effectively killing the country schools, Boyd says. He believes the bill won’t get out of committee, but wishes more Nebraskans understood the issue better. It’s a question of quality, he said, pointing to statistics such as far fewer dropouts, better test scores and better relations between school staff and the community in the smaller setting.

“Everywhere you look, even in New York City, the big push is to make schools smaller and get teachers and students to know each other better and feel like more of a community,” Boyd said. “That’s what we were after when we moved here.”

He said that a neighbor’s problems dealing with the public school his daughters would have attended in Lincoln prompted his family’s move. Boyd said the school staff concealed the fact that there were brown recluse spiders in the building, until a teacher “leaked” word late in the year. The principal’s reason for not telling the parents is that the spiders are nocturnal, so he didn’t figure kids were in danger. Boyd said that was totally unacceptable to him, as a parent.

In addition, he said, there was a problem with a boy exposing himself to a little girl at the school. The neighbor again called the principal, and was told that it wasn’t the principal’s responsibility to make sure that every child was safe. “We couldn’t believe it,” Boyd said.

Rather than doing away with small, country schools, Boyd said the state’s school financing formulas ought to be fixed to make funding equitable for each child, no matter where their school is located in Nebraska. He also said he strongly favors charter school and school-choice voucher legislation.

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