Superintendent welcomes two-sided conversation on auditorium

To the editor:

This letter is in response to a previously submitted letter to the editor from D.J. Rotkowski.

I too, like D.J., congratulate Mrs. Kathleen Eardley on her election to the Mehlville Board of Education. I look forward to working with her, Mr. Ron Fedorchak and the other current board members.

Regarding D.J.’s auditorium comments, I would welcome a discussion via the phone or a visit to engage in a two-sided conversation on these thoughts. On numerous occasions I have published my office phone number — (314) 467-5001 — and invited questions, comments or suggestions regarding the Mehlville School District. Besides inviting visits to my office, I have made myself available to the public through my town-hall meetings.

While many have taken advantage of my offerings, I have never received a correspondence from D.J.

This auditorium project is still in the due diligence stage. I have listened carefully to our community, including our critics, and I have understood a frustration over a perceived lack of due diligence regarding past projects. I am committed to due diligence and I have clearly stated my intent, followed by the board’s approval, to construct a long-overdue auditorium at one of our schools for a maximum of $6 million.

Preliminary numbers and time lines within the due diligence phase of a project will most definitely vary until we zero in on hard numbers relating to the specs we create for the construction phase. We are carefully exploring all feasible options for this auditorium, and you can rest assured we will appropriately take the time to study this effort and do it right or not do it at all.

I also want to reiterate how we created the funding for this project. The auditorium will not be built with money that is sitting in reserves or otherwise earmarked for classroom furnishings, supplies, teaching positions or bailing us out of state-funding shortfalls.

The district received significant savings through the refunding of existing certificates of participation, allowing new certificates to be purchased without hindering our current budget needs and without asking the community for additional tax revenue. I work with a fiscally minded board consisting of members who carefully analyze our budget and spending recommendations. These are board members elected by our community who have agreed to the appropriateness of this project.

Do we really consider a curricular space such as an auditorium a “want” instead of a need? If the metric for measuring wants versus needs in our community is based upon things we’ve always been able to get by without, then I suppose you would be correct.

Otherwise, what else would be considered a want instead of a need? Transportation? Gymnasiums? Technology? Science labs?

For a school district to be successful, complacency must be non-existent while forward motion must be perpetual.

My stated vision for the Mehlville School District consists of numerous carefully gauged efforts to keep our schools moving forward. Project ENGAGE, attainable facility plans, Schools of Character, alternative education programs, increased student achievement, increased technology, responsible stewardship and a district united with the community are just some of the components of this vision already being realized. I sincerely ask for your help as we continue to forge this new and exciting path.

Superintendent Eric D. Knost

Mehlville School District