I strongly support great education. Our society prospers when we have well educated citizens. Currently, Lakeland enjoys great public schools in partnership with Arlington. Since public schools need to be large enough to support the best programs, Lakeland and Arlington need each other to ensure the finest education for all of our children. Our current partnership with Arlington provides the critical number of students needed to ensure that all of our children enjoy the classes and activities not possible in a smaller public school.
While Arlington officials understand the obvious benefits of cooperation, Lakeland officials now claim that we need to compete against Arlington by building our own schools that are even better. By doing this, they claim Lakeland will grow and prosper. But how can this be true? How can they provide all of the programs offered by Arlington with a fraction of the number of students needed for the programs? If Lakeland builds “Lakeland Prep,” neither Lakeland nor Arlington will have the required number of students needed to support these programs. In fact, Arlington is already starting to plan for cuts! We will all loose.
And what will be the cost for this? $50,000,000! Or so they claim, but the real cost will likely be more. Assuming that they actually can build a middle/high school for less than 60% of the cost that Collierville is planning for their new high school, the amount of debt per person in Lakeland is staggeringly large because we have a very small population (12,500) in comparison to Collierville (46,800). Collierville has the population, revenue and students needed to support a high school, and debt that goes with it. We do not. We have Arlington who wants to work with us.
Arlington wants a long-term agreement with Lakeland. They sincerely want to work with Lakeland to ensure the best education for all of our children. If you don’t believe it, just ask Ms. Tammy Mason, the Superintendent of Arlington Schools, who is also a Lakeland resident! She can help you understand Arlington school’s current capacity, along with some of the implications of Lakeland’s reckless plan for both Lakeland and Arlington.
We need to sign a fifteen-year agreement with Arlington, perform a joint needs assessment to determine where and how to best expand schools in both Lakeland and in Arlington for the benefit of all of our children. Arlington High School has plenty of capacity to handle both Arlington and Lakeland for a long time into the future. Perhaps then, it might make sense for Lakeland to have a high school. But for now, it might make more sense to expand Lakeland Elementary school in the short-term, and plan for a new middle school in the mid-term. The joint needs assessment will help determine the actual requirements, and the required planning and costs. But none of this will happen unless we all vote NO! This is why I will vote NO.