If there is a petition to show support for the Bowlus, then the first seven names on that petition need to be ours—the Bowlus Trustees. We are afraid that there is a big misunderstanding about what the Bowlus Trustees are doing with the Bowlus petition and asking the judge for guidance. It has nothing to do with the defeat of the school bond — the Bowlus is NOT our scapegoat. The whole reason the Trustees are doing this is because we support the Bowlus and want to ensure that it continues to be the treasure and benefit it has been for the last 50 years for the coming 150 years plus. We are asking for guidance to direct the Bowlus to ensure that it is a Fine Arts Center for more than 150 years from now. The world has changed a lot in the last 50 years, and as we move forward it is sure to change more. Any entity that wants to be successful in the future must be able to adapt and change. The future years of the Bowlus may not look like the last 50 years, but in order for it to thrive that change may be necessary. We are positioning ourselves to make informed decisions in the future, not simply to resign as Trustees and abandon the Bowlus.
In preparing the current Bowlus petition, Trustees had meetings with the community and several Trustees met repeatedly with the Bowlus Commission and Bowlus Director Susan Raines over the last year to get their input and support. We had a meeting with city and county officials that was open to the public. In all of those meetings it was made very clear that with the uncertainty in Topeka over school finance that it would be in everyone’s best interest to simply know the facts as to what the “rules” are in regard to the Bowlus so as not to put the Bowlus in jeopardy. The Trustees did not want to do anything that would go against the will of Thomas Bowlus. If the Trustees did not care about the Bowlus, then they could have just taken whatever action they wanted to and tried to interpret their duties on their own. However, the smarter and best approach is for the Bowlus Trustees to ask the court to give them and future Trustees direction and guidance so that the Trustees are acting in and properly carrying out their fiduciary obligation to the trust and its beneficiaries. Additionally the court, when the trust was initially litigated in the 60’s, anticipated that there may be a time when future interpretation may be needed. That is what we, as Trustees, are doing.
Are the current trustees, who are unpaid volunteers and also school board members, supporters of the Bowlus? Yes, and that is why we have taken the huge amount of time, effort, and expense to put a petition before the judge to ask for guidance on the Bowlus. As elected officials it is our responsibility to do the best we can for now and to provide for the future. In presenting the petition we feel we are doing the very best we can to get guidance and direction for the future of the Bowlus to ensure that it remains the wonderful asset that it is.
In your editorial on this subject on September 2, 2016 you stated:
“NO MATTER how the court rules, it’s time for the broader community to assume funding for the Bowlus and to look at it not so much as a schoolhouse but as a municipal auditorium.”
We support that view and greatly appreciate the City’s contribution as well as Allen County’s — who currently have only agreed to one year for $100,000, but we hope they can continue to provide the Bowlus with that funding.
We would hope that the community would appreciate our foresight and effort in looking forward and doing the best to provide for the future. We have the same goals, we live in the same community, we are your neighbors and friends, and we want what is best for our kids, the schools, the Bowlus, our community, and our future. In doing this, we are trying to better prepare and provide for the Bowlus and its future.
The Bowlus Trustees/USD257 Board of Education Members
Tony Leavitt, President
Doug Dunlap, Vice President