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Letters to the Editor

To the Editor:


        In the June 18th issue of the Westerville News and Public Opinion, Roger Johnson poses the question:  "And why protect the magnet schools?  We should be appalled that the board would maintain an elite educational program..."


        Sure, these schools have proven that they are stimulating learning environments which work for the children who attend them.  We know that there are children who, due to their learning styles and needs, flourish in a magnet school setting after failing to thrive in a standard school setting.  We know that magnet schools provide an opportunity for a positive educational experience to children who otherwise may be at risk and fall through the cracks.  But perhaps times are so tough financially that we need to set aside individual benefits and think about the district as a whole.  What possible benefit could there be for the district as a whole to invest in the magnet schools?  The answer?  A lot.  Since the Magnet Schools are often a misunderstood component of our school district, I asked several people to help me come up with a list of ways in which the magnet schools benefit not only the children who attend them, but the entire district - even people who may not have children in the Westerville City Schools.


1. Magnet schools allow the district to make efficient use of it's space.  The magnet schools attract children from all areas of the district into buildings which are already owned by the school system.  These buildings rank at the bottom of our facilities in terms of amenities and are not well suited for uses other than as schools.  Our district has found innovative, creative ways to make these spaces appealing educational centers thus allowing for lower class size in the home schools and reducing the need for yet another new elementary school in the district. 


2. Magnet schools serve as laboratory test sites for improvements in the district's curriculum and teaching strategies.  Magnet schools and the children who attend these schools are often ideal candidates to study new teaching delivery methods which can later be adopted by the district as a whole.  The literature based reading program which is used throughout the district today came from the magnet schools.  Magnet Schools were also the first to test computer networking which later was implemented in all of the schools across the district.


3. Magnet Schools improve district test scores.  The magnet schools accept children of varying ability through a lottery process.  They are not elite, cream of the crop schools and yet, the 2002 Sixth grade OPT testing results, broken down into elementary attendance showed the Magnets to be the highest achieving schools across the district in all categories.  Good test scores bode well for the district as a whole in terms of marketing Westerville and in terms of bringing more funds into the school district.  Good test scores are also indicative of sound teaching strategies and materials which in turn can filter out across the district.


4. Magnet Schools improve marketability in the housing industry.  Offering schools of choice and smaller learning communities are magnets for new home buyers.  When potential residents are looking at Westerville and the surrounding areas, Westerville clearly stands out as having a school district where one size does not fit all, where individual children's needs can be met.  The magnet schools help make Westerville a desirable community in which to live and to educate children and that has a direct, positive

effect on all our home values.


5. Magnet Schools are cost effective.  Each one of the magnet schools has contributed to cost savings for the district.  Facilities as well as staff are shared with other buildings.  The magnet schools also operate at the highest teacher to student ratio.  This past year magnet class size was reduced and yet it is still 1 student higher per teacher than in the home schools.  Magnet Schools also do not spend any more than any other school within the district on curriculum needs.  Magnet schools may use different resources, but they spend no more.


        The effects of the elementary magnet programs reach much further into the district than the schools themselves.  This is also true for many other programs throughout the district which may, on first glance, appear to benefit but a few children - Fine Arts, Sports, A&T, IB & AP, Reading Specialists, Special Education, and on and on.  It's all beneficial, not only for the children these programs serve, but for our community as a whole.  We all benefit from these programs.  And we all stand to lose if we do not fight for the survival of these programs - if we do not fight for the survival of our community.  Contrary to being "appalled," we should be proud that we have a board of education that is working very hard to save as much of what benefits our community and our children as they possibly can.


Betsy Binnig

WEsterville Voters On Target for Education