As we wrote the headline for our front page story announcing the school board's decision to pursue a bond, we were careful not to use the words "tax" or "taxpayer."
From past bonds, we know that one word, "tax," closes minds, fast. With this issue, we can't afford to have closed minds.
The issues raised by the school district in its decision to approach taxpayers are important, and we wanted readers to make it past the headline, to read on into an understanding of what we are facing as a community.
Historically, the Payson Unified School District has struggled with salaries. We are far behind other districts in what we can offer teachers and, by extension, have a difficult time attracting bright, young teachers to our community. Aware of the problem, any money the school district has had for improvements has gone into salary adjustments.
Meanwhile, the paint peels at Julia Randall Elementary. Tiles mold at Rim Country Middle School. The roof leaks at Payson High School.
At first, it would seem that the problem is a trivial, cosmetic one, but in our culture, appearances are everything.
In Tom Peters' book, "A Passion for Excellence," he gives an illustration to make this point. He describes the average airplane passenger pulling down the tray table to see a coffee stain still left from the previous flight.
The passenger's mind makes a leap from the stained tray table to the engine of the plane. If the flight crew is so careless about this small thing, where else have they cut corners? Peters makes the point that we naturally connect things that are sloppy to the way things are run.
Though the thought process may not be logical, it still has power.
Imagine a talented teaching candidate touring a Payson school. Even if salaries are competitive, any teacher will question the quality of the working environment if they see wires holding chairs together and cracks in the window glass.
Any parent of school-age children will question the quality of education available to their children if they see buildings that are deteriorating.
Taxpayers already struggling on a limited income might question why they should pay for maintenance of school facilities, but the effects of a cracked wall ripple through the minds of students, teachers and through the quality of the education provided within those cracked walls.
And the quality of the education available in the community ripples through the entire fabric of the town.
Because we believe this to be true, we will support the Payson Unified School District as they go forward to research their financial needs and propose a bond to the taxpayers of Payson.