Wednesday, February 17, 2016

NANCE COUNTY DISTRICT 12, BIG CUT

The day before I started kindergarten, the building blew up. They had just remodeled Big Cut, District 12, and the soft copper that connected the tank to the basement leaked (that's why they now have laws and regulations about that), the propane is heavier than air and deposited a layer in the basement. When the water well pump kicked on, the spark ignited it and kablooie.

So we (there were four of us that year) started in one of the abandoned houses that would become even more numerous in the 1950's as people failed at farming and moved to California or Oregon. Think about that one for a moment--California and the left coast are populated to some degree by the failures from the Midwest in the 1930's and on.

Off topic, sorry. That was the last time I had a classmate until the 8th grade when Tom moved in. Tom's family had a set of values that were not well-accepted by society. His older brothers were in prison and the last I heard, if I were to have an 8th grade reunion, it would be in the Michigan penitentiary.

Big Cut was named for an excavation the Union Pacific railroad made through a loess bluff near the school and near our farm. The family story is that my great grandfather, Samuel Peterson, bought an additional farm after he and his team of oxen proved better and more productive than the horse-drawn equipment. Workin' for the man.

I have no idea how much it cost to run that school, but I do know that there were many highly productive citizens who were pupils there. The smart kid in our high school graduating class was a National Merit scholar (there were two alternates as well that year out of the 17 graduates) was a product of another Nance County country school, the Skeedee if I remember correctly. About 10 years ago, living in Kansas City, I investigated the economics of that horrible school district and found that they were spending about $18,000 per pupil per year, not counting any expenses for facilities. Give me $18,000 per pupil, 15 pupils (about what we averaged) and I will give you a high-quality education, facilities included.

Kansas City had more administrators and special ed personnel than classroom teachers. At that time they were being run by the state under orders from the court, a fairly constant state of affairs since the court took over in the 1980's.

I have never understood the whole hair-on-fire urge to consolidate. Read a recent article about the high-performing schools in Nebraska, and most of them were the small town schools. Wonder if anybody looks at results? My view is probably not acceptable, though.

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