When pride becomes a problem

As I begin my third year as a reporter for the Aurora News-Register, I have taken a step back to look at all of the experience I've gained from being a part of so many events that have shaped and molded Hamilton County over that time. A significant number of these events include the various village, city and school board meetings I attend throughout each year that have allowed me to gain perspective on how residents handle pressing issues in their respective communities.
While anybody in my position may have an opinion on the topics being discussed, I try to leave those thoughts at the door when reporting -- just like any good news writer should do. Yet, a recent discussion between my former high school's board members and concerned parents sparked a fire in me due to the blatant disregard for the history of High Plains Community Schools and what that name means to hundreds of individuals who came before it.
The discussion, which quickly became an argument during the Aug. 14 school board meeting, stemmed from a 3-3 vote to deny the request for a two-year merger of the High Plains and Osceola football teams during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. With 14 players out for the sport this year and possibly less in upcoming years, the worry was for the safety of the students, which could translate into forfeits if just a few players are injured during the season. Parents were upset, to say the least, to find out the decision that so many community members were in support of was denied.
While board members who denied the merger gave their reasons, I didn't see them being representatives of the people, but rather representatives of themselves. Board members mentioned having too much High Plains pride and one board member cited that “we've done it before” at Clarks, which spoke volumes to the lack of awareness to the problem laid out before them.
I'd like to take those no voters back 17 years when High Plains Community Schools didn't exist and Wildcat/Blue Bomber pride did.
I remember first hearing about a possible merger with Clarks during my sophomore year at Polk-Hordville. I can't speak for all the students, but I can say that most were upset we were going to lose our school and have to join up with a third community.
I can say the reaction from the Blue Bomber students at that time was similar. They didn't want to combine with the likes of us and wanted their school history to continue as long as it possibly could.
Yet, neither side was allowed to let their own school pride determine their fate. A decision made solely on pride and not facts is a decision that will never stand on its own merits.
My junior year began and while I was happy to meet all of my new classmates, I still had this sinking feeling of losing playing time or spots in other activities now that these other kids were added to the mix. How wrong I was.
Instead of it being the way I saw it in my head, I ended up learning a great deal from those fellow classmates and students in my new school. I worked harder than I ever did to ensure I didn't lose a place on the field, the court, the stage or the classroom. Instead of accepting my “deserved” position, I was forced to earn it and learned a valuable lesson on how my pride almost got in the way of what would make me a better person overall.
I have to admit that seeing the recent use of the word pride got me a little upset. Polk-Hordville students had pride in being a Wildcat and Clarks students had pride in being Blue Bombers, but we had to put those two aside to make it better for everyone. Looking back further those Polk Cubs and Hordville Bulldogs had to sweep away years of rivalry and their own pride to join forces in order to save their own communities. In total, four schools have paved the way for the Storm community and those who ignore this fact are doing a disservice to the people who made this school possible.
I am not upset that people have pride in the High Plains school, in fact it's a wonderful thing to hear. I too am very happy to be part of the Storm's growing history, but we have to look past our own emotions when making significant decisions; especially when they affect the most important thing in all of this, the students.
TRAVIS BLASE can be reached at features@hamilton.net

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