My name is Matt Kleopfer, and I have had the great privilege of teaching the students of Iola for the last three years in the high school and middle school bands. This town feels like a home away from home for me, and I want to invest my heart and soul into serving this community with my best teaching day in and day out.
Over the past three years, God has given me the opportunity to grow new friends and relationships with amazing students and teachers that will be with me for the rest of my life. It didn’t take long to figure out that Iola has a history that is as rich as they come. The unfortunate part to towns like this is that when change stares them in the face they usually tend to dwell on the past. Luckily Iola is not like this. In the 1930s the community of Iola pulled together to build new schools and invest in their children’s future in the middle of the most challenging financial times in our nation’s history. Well guess what? We are in the same shoes that those hard-working citizens were in some 80 years ago.
So I ask you Iola, if we do not build new schools now, then when and how?
Iola is at a fork in the road where we decide one of two things. Either invest in our children, their future, and infrastructure with new schools so we grow with the rest of the world, or vote no and continue dwindling as graduates don’t come back home, and new families don’t move to Iola.
In my opinion, the time is now. We have a great opportunity at our disposal with the state paying 51 percent of the bond. This state program has been in place for the past 21 years. Which means we have been paying taxes to help other towns just like us build new schools. Currently 89 percent of the school districts in Kansas have taken advantage of this program with our money. Which means we are of the 11 percent that have done nothing thus far to take advantage of this opportunity.
The unfortunate part to this decision is that the 51 percent of state aid has been on the chopping blocks for the last four years, and every time the House and Senate meet it comes closer and closer to being abolished. The next time for this meeting is this January, and what we can almost bank on is this state bond aid isn’t going to be around forever. If the bond issue and sales tax don’t pass and the state aid gets abolished Iola will most likely never be able to afford $50 million for new schools.
I say this not to spread fear, but rather because it is reality. I have read comments and conversed with many people who have asked some very intelligent questions of our school board and nearly all of them who were not in favor are now voting yes. My concern for those who do not get the right information and pass along rumors and crazy scenarios is that spreading negative banter does no good for this town.
To this date I have yet to hear someone who is not in favor of this bond issue come up with a scenario that our school board has not yet discussed and researched. That goes from remodeling to every possible scenario of using any part of the current schools.
Folks, I really hope you can come to a community forum meeting and at least listen to what has been researched and discussed. Even if you are not in favor, at least get educated on the issue. For the growing population of people who are voting “yes,” thank you for your support of the youth of Iola. It is an investment that you will not regret and one that will pay dividends for this town for years to come.
The Time Is Now!
Iola High School and Middle School band director
Friday night was delightful in Iola at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center 50th Anniversary Celebration concert. People like me who were there in 1964 to hear the KC Philharmonic play the first concert in the auditorium, saw lots of visiting friends and alumni who turned out for the fun evening. And from the Mozart Overture at the beginning to the Bizet-Carmen suite at the end, the sellout crowd at the KC Symphony concert was treated to an evening of familiar melodies and tunes played beautifully.
The reason I am writing this letter is to thank the members of the board of education and the school administrators — particularly for the high school and middle school — for making it possible for all the band students to attend the event. Through a scheduling mix-up, IHS homecoming was originally on the calendar for Friday, Sept. 26, which would have involved the marching band members and, of course, their parents, as well as many other high school students and sports fans. Thanks to the recent extraordinary efforts of school administrators and the gracious cooperation of the opposing team, Osawatomie High School, homecoming was moved to a Friday night earlier in September and the normal Friday night game was played on Thursday.
Like a lot of rescheduling moves on a busy sports calendar, one change produced a domino effect triggering other scheduling changes. I understand at least one middle school event had to be moved from Thursday night last week to accommodate the switch, as well. For all those affected by this effort to allow the band students to attend the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Bowlus, I would like to say “thank you for enduring the inconvenience and confusion.” Listening to and watching a live performance by a group of 80 professional musicians was a rare and valuable opportunity for our student musicians.
Again, the school leaders, under the direction of Superintendent Jack Koehn and IHS Principal Stacey Fager, took care of the scheduling mix-up and made possible a very special evening for those students and parents who attended. On behalf of those able to attend the concert, thank you very much!