Gainesville student responds to the ‘vote no’ letter

Editor’s note: this letter by Gainesville High School senior Jacob Overturf, edited by the Times, was written in response to Gainesville resident Bob Warrick’s letter “Vote no on the school levy increase” published in the Aug. 1 edition of the Times. Although the election is over and the levy proposal was defeated, it’s anticipated that the Gainesville school board will put the issue back on the ballot soon, giving Jacob’s comments continued relevance: 


Warrick wrote, “At some point we have to say Enough! Every single time we have an election, we’re being asked by this group or that to increase our taxes. The school district is now asking to increase our property taxes a whopping 27 percent so they can raise teacher salaries, build a greenhouse, build an unnecessary storm shelter and remove perfectly good classroom doors to install stronger ones, among other things.”


Jacob responds: Maybe it’s because we’ve really needed more funding for the past decade or two. ... Our school is laughable compared with other schools’ building quality and the quality of materials for learning. Our community is asked for more taxes “every single time we have an election” because our school has been making its budget by the skin of their teeth, and because of that, the students are suffering from cuts to their education and learning environment. We have the same infrastructure from 1962, and some textbooks are still being used from the 1980s. We need the increase to catch up with the world in the sense of learning and growth. Education is the foundation for success and a happy, fruitful life. To have that necessity, we might have to shell out an extra little bit of tax to assure it actually happens. If you put good in, you get good out.


Warrick wrote, “The school district is now asking to increase our property taxes a whopping 27 percent so they can raise teacher salaries, build a greenhouse, build an unnecessary storm shelter and remove perfectly good classroom doors to install stronger ones, among other things. While it has high emotional value, the probability of a gunman taking over the school is extremely low. For those concerned, instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars on unnecessary new doors, let’s do something much more practical like spending $200 putting a sign out front saying, ‘Our teachers are ARMED. Make our day, Punk!’”


No matter how low the possibility of a gunman at our school is, we have to take defense against it. I agree that having an armed person on our school grounds would stop a shooter faster than anything else; a door will only slow the assault. But we are not getting armed teachers anytime soon, and we are not getting a better chance to defend our students anytime sooner than this tax. Arming teachers would cost much more than you’re anticipating through the training they would have to receive, the weapons/ammunition they would have to carry, and the certification process they need would to carry on the school grounds. We can’t just strap handguns on teachers and send them on their way. An on-duty police officer would protect us students as well as or more than an armed teacher. As soon as a shot is heard, an officer can report the situation without a lengthy 911 process, and his known presence would decrease the odds of a shooting astronomically, more than arming an teacher.

Warrick wrote: “The idea of a storm striking the school that is strong enough to require a shelter is also high emotion but has a very, very low probability of occurring. Please, let’s not waste our money this way.”


The storm shelter would be a public shelter. As of now, our storm drill consists of lining the open halls in an almost fetal position and covering our heads. You’re placing a value on our community’s lives and our students’ safety. We have a trailer park across the airport that could utilize the shelter more than you’re considering. ... Our current storm protocol is pathetic, and we need to have extra assurance for our children and community.


Warrick wrote: “As far as a greenhouse goes, it’s just more expensive non-necessities the taxpayer has to fund. I spent my working career in the commercial greenhouse industry and not only are greenhouses costly upfront, they are also very expensive to heat and cool since they have no insulation to speak of. This is another very bad idea budget-wise and will only increase the school’s heating and cooling bills.”


I completely agree. A new greenhouse is unnecessary when we already have one in working order. Now, I have not entered the greenhouse or seen its condition since I was in grade school, but from what I can tell, the cost-to-advantage ratio is too low to justify the addition of one from my perspective. 


Warrick wrote: “Finally, increasing teacher salaries is just downright unfair to the rest of us. Not only do teachers already make more money that the average wage earner in Ozark County, they only work nine months of the year, plus they get a fat pension to boot when they retire. Please, vote NO on the tax levy increase!”


Why do you think that is? Why do teachers earn more  than the rest of Ozark County? Maybe it’s because a teaching job requires a college education and the vast majority of Ozarkians work entry-level jobs? We’re losing teachers as fast as we can get them. We need to make reasons for them to stay other than our sense of community. We have teachers come in and leave after their first year ... so they can land a better job somewhere else because our school can’t afford to pay our educators enough to keep them around.

Our school is left in the Stone Age. We need to catch up with the rest of the nation when it comes to our building and our learning supplies. Our school has suffered in the past from lack of funding, and this is what it comes down to now: a heavy increase of tax to give our children and community something we absolutely have to have to even be considered a modern school system. A yes vote will better our education immensely.


Jacob Overturf, junior

Gainesville High School

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423