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home : opinions : opinions May 29, 2016

3/11/2014 1:41:00 PM
Sisters faces a crisis
By Carey Tosello

The enrollment numbers of our schools have been heading south for years now. Shortening the school week or laying off teachers is but a temporary fix. It won't be long until we end up consolidating the middle and high schools into one building, or do what we used to do prior to building the high school - bus the kids to Redmond. This will of course cause enrollment numbers to drop even faster at the middle and elementary schools. Without a change in the trends (none foreseen), the truth is that the path we are on will result in the closure of the high school. This is not an opinion, as the numbers are there for anyone to see. Now is the time for ACTION.

This town revolves around its outstanding schools. When those go away we will become a town of vacation homes and old folks (no disrespect to my 85-year-old uncle who lives here). What will Sisters look like without a high school? No more basketball, volleyball, track, and lacrosse tournaments that draw hundreds to town. No more students and teachers buying lunches in town. No events of any kind in the high school auditorium. Ask a Realtor how big a draw our schools are (were?) for selling homes. Local art or music done by students who went through the Americana Project - gone.

While losing Multnomah Publishing and their jobs years ago was painful, losing the high school would be a nail in the coffin of our local economy.

According to Superintendent Jim Golden, the school district needs 100 more students to fix the budget. That would be 50 families (average two kids each). Want to ensure that our schools don't close/consolidate, or lose their well-deserved reputation for excellence? Get 50 families to move to Sisters. We don't need a "summit" or a "vision statement" for this, we just need to do it. Right now.

It is time for ALL of us to rally together around the one thing that will make a difference for the future of our community - saving our schools! Here is a way to make that happen.

There are over 3 million people who telecommute to work, and that number is growing quickly each year. The average telecommuter is a 40-year-old male with a college degree. Safe bet that a lot of them have school-age kids, too. Most of them can work literally from anywhere, so why not from Sisters? We only need 50 of them.

It is estimated that as many as 1 out of 3 small businesses operate from a home-office with no employees. Many of them could operate their business from anywhere, so why not from Sisters? I can name dozens of these people who already live here. We only need 50 more of them to move here with their kids.

We can reach out to these people through their trade associations, targeted Internet ads, Facebook and Twitter, blogs, direct mail, etc. There are SEO experts living in Sisters to guide us. We need to hire someone to manage this effort NOW, give them a $100,000 marketing budget and a one-year contract for say $50,000. The city is prepared to spend thousands of dollars on an amphitheater or campground that will draw people to town for a few days, how much will they spend to draw people to live here all year? The Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce spends thousands on marketing to tourists, how much will they spend to get people to move here and support local merchants every day, all year long? Everyone in town has a stake in this, and I mean EVERYONE. So we should ALL be willing to contribute to fixing it, right?

Or we can sit around and talk about what a cool place Sisters used to be.

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