The state of our schools matters

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Dear Editor,

Not long ago, I was a new resident to Glendive. My memory is still clear as to my first impressions with the town and specifically, the high school.

Before moving here, I interviewed for a teaching position at Sidney High School and then at Dawson County High School. There was a stark contrast in the appearance of the schools during my interviews. Sidney’s high school was beautifully remodeled to an almost new appearance. The classrooms were updated with the latest technology and boasted new computers, new workstations, and an abundance of supplies and equipment. In comparison, DCHS appeared outdated and the asbestos signage hanging from the walls around the main office was a bit ominous. While I know I would’ve been supported by great administration in both positions, I ultimately decided to travel 100 miles a day to work for Sidney.

As a teacher, we relied heavily on evidence-based research to design classrooms, teach effectively, and provide a safe environment for our students. You will find a large amount of proven scientific research online that reveals a profound relationship between the quality of physical infrastructure and student achievement. These include inadequate lighting, fluctuating temperature, air quality, acoustics, accessibility, decor and everyday objects, among others. I believe most teachers will agree that the integrity of a building’s structural facilities significantly influences learning.

Fast forward two years, I took a position with Glendive Medical Center as their Marketing Director. One of my job duties is to provide community tours to prospective providers. Providers include medical doctors, mid-levels, and nurses. I love giving these tours because I have a tremendous heart for this town. A question that comes up almost every time, especially if the provider has children, is, “what are the schools like?”. I always speak highly of our teachers and administration and on several occasions, we have arranged tours of the schools.

Last year, we had a prospective medical doctor who brought his teenage son along on our community tour. Education is important to providers and on this particular day, we were able to arrange a nice tour of the high school.

Unfortunately, he made it known to me afterward that he felt our school system might not be the right fit. He mentioned the outdated appearance and lack of technology as the two key factors. Ultimately, he passed on the opportunity to work here.

I feel compelled to share my own personal experience along with what I encounter regularly with potential employees. From these experiences, the state of our school buildings really does matter in recruiting and keeping new employees and residents. More importantly, it matters to our children and their success in learning.

Respectfully submitted,

Jaime Shanks