Thursday, August 26, 2004


The three public elementary schools in Blair hosted “Boo Hoo Breakfasts” this week for parents of new kindergarteners. Tissues were provided along with a warm welcome to the parents’ organization and an invitation to attend upcoming meetings and open houses. What a fun way to recruit new members for Blair Parents for Education. Good job.

Tissues might need to be provided to Blair taxpayers, though, to catch their tears of pain as the bills come in this school year. Sources say there’s conflict about a recent spending decision to put telephones in every room in the Blair district, which could have been handled by voice mail for much less money. The sources said the district recently re-carpeted the high school at a cost of $92,000, including a Blair Bear logo to the tune of $5,600.00. There’s pressure to give each teacher a laptop and a PDA, as well.

A glance through the school-board minutes for this month, published in The Pilot-Tribune, shows an array of non-teaching school-district expenditures such as:

$49,887.22, Huntel Communications, phones
$70,228.00, Floors Inc., carpet
$84,4121.25, McKinnis Roofing, roofs
$94,990.81 for the monthly payment to the Nebraska Retirement System
$89,742.00 to Blue Cross Blue Shield

And on it went: $1,607.12 for trash pickup . . . $258.75 for a compressor belt . . . $7,369.75 for contracted counseling services . . . $2,000 for tree service . . . $1,784.47 for tile . . . $923.41 for soap for a bus barn washer . . . $6,033.08 for school agendas . . . $324.90 for mulch . . . $2,199.00 for bleacher repairs and maintenance . . . $540.55 for custodial uniforms . . . .
Taxpayers might want to hand tissues back to staff and union folks next time they cry that there’s not enough money to pay teachers. Well, there WAS. . . .

Blair parents might need those tissues, too: Blair was recently rocked by news that its teens drank alcohol and used drugs such as marijuana at a rate much higher than other communities, and beginning at the sixth-grade level. Use of inhalants and methamphetamines was reported on the increase among sophomores and seniors, according to survey results. An unusual amount of substance abuse signifies that something’s out of whack, whether in a family or a school system. At least part of the blame goes to counter-productive drug education programs like D.A.R.E. that are provided in schools at taxpayer expense, which have been shown to increase substance abuse, not deter it, and everybody seems to know that except the schools.

But there’s good news, too. Blair students recently posted above-average scores on the ACT exam, with an average score of 22.6 out of 36, compared to the Nebraska average of 21.7. Neither of those averages are anything to write home about, but at least Blair wasn’t below the statewide score.

The best news of all is that Blair resident Brook Matthews will represent the state as Miss Nebraska at the Miss America pageant early next month. Hey! She’s very pretty! And those tissues will be needed to wipe tears of joy if she wins the crown.

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