Rhinelander voters have seldom faced a more important decision regarding education than they will on Feb. 19.
Should voters choose to vote down the referendum, one of the many devastating effects would be a bare bones offering of vocational electives. Students in the district would lose the opportunity to enroll in approximately 25 percent of the courses currently offered in the Technology Education Department. This would be on top of the repercussions of a shrinking budget over the past ten years, making it even more difficult to prepare tomorrow’s working class for real-world challenges.
Previous to this vote, the Rhinelander community reaped the benefits of the professionalism, passion and selflessness of teachers like Tom Davis, John Hammer, Tim Schult, Rod Stein and Bob LeFebvre, excellent educators and outstanding mentors to students and colleagues alike. Among so many other things, they taught us that the more quality vocational education we can offer Rhinelander students, the more likely they are to become contributing members of this community we proudly call home.
We can’t lose sight of how important it is to keep educating our own, especially the ones who are most likely to stay here in Rhinelander, send their children to our schools and make this town what it is. One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching technology education is the opportunity to visit Rhinelander manufacturing facilities and see former students who are now valuable employees, making their living using skills learned at Rhinelander High School.
The news of the paper mill sale is very unfortunate. The Rhinelander paper mill bleeds Hodag green and black, and the loss of the people, the pride, and the revenue it provides this community would be heartbreaking. However, though it can be scary to commit tax dollars when income is in jeopardy, we have to take steps to change our fate. Similar to when a valuable ship cracks its hull, it is asked if it is best just to let it sink or if necessary measures should be taken to fix it. We have to prepare and plan in ways that will attract buyers to keep making Rhinelander paper.
By voting “Yes” to the school referendum, we can show Rhinelander’s commitment to the value of vocational education. We can also demonstrate the community’s acceptance of the responsibility of training a workforce of blue-collared youngsters who make Rhinelander vital and a great place to live and work.
Mike Wojtusik, Rhinelander