Written by David Vogel Tuesday, 28 February 2012 16:02
My column two weeks ago about merging Hillsboro and Marion into one city received mixed reviews. Some were pleased. Others worded it this way: “What are you trying to do? Stir up trouble?”
While previously discussed economic and cultural benefits might be easy to imagine, there are some items that would require a bit more planning: The public school systems.
Marion and Hillsboro schools engage in a rivalry that often stoops to sub-belt hitting. I’ve never understood the animosity that exists between the students, teams and communities, but it’s not ignorable.
Yet, if the cities were to merge, it would be silly to have a population of 5,000 people with two school districts. My solution: consolidate USD 410 and 408 and continue the use of all campuses and facilities.
(“USD 409” seems like an appropriately averaged compromise, but Atchison already took it.)
As far as attendance, students would continue to attend their most local campus, allowing the district to retain all current employees, and basic curriculum would be maintained.
But in the upper levels—and this is just me spit balling—multiple teachers teaching the same subjects might allow for a greater educational diversity.
An example: Instead of taking the cookie-cutter freshman, sophomore, junior and senior English classes, students could choose from options that best fit their interests, such as Shakespearian literature, contemporary fiction, creative writing, etc.
To streamline this variety through both the Hillsboro and Marion campuses, teachers might rotate back and forth by semester or year.
Meanwhile, students in music, art theater and athletics from both campuses would meet in combined groups. Benefits abound here.
First, with a doubled staff in all extracurricular arenas, students would have greater access to one-on-one vocal lessons, art critique, theatrical training and athletic coaching. More personalized improvement equals more success.
Also, the combined district could assemble higher quality teams and ensembles from the larger pool of students. In one fell swoop, Marion County could present the best of the best in varsity and junior varsity teams, theatrical productions and musical ensembles, dominating competition and giving the school and community statewide recognition.
Not to mention, state-of-the-art facilities such as Marion’s performing arts center and Hillsboro’s football stadium would house greater successes and wider utilization.
The mascots and brandings of each district, meanwhile, would be changed to neutralize loyalty tensions. Eliminating team and community rivalry will encourage goodwill and unity to follow quickly.
I must conclude, merging two cities with such distinct identities and histories would be difficult, and intense planning would be required for future advancement.
What I’ve outlined in these two columns are items that are already available and—hypothetically—possible in merging Marion and Hillsboro. Development to map out the years ahead would need to be done carefully and enthusiastically.
Bringing both the Hillsboro and Marion communities together in the geographical sense would be an imperative to keep in mind.
I would envision that, with decent planning, in 25 years we might be able to see progress in developing the land along U.S. Highway 56 to gradually build from both ends until the middle is met. The center of town, by my calculations, would be near the intersection of 190th and Nighthawk roads.
(Incidentally, by merging Hillsboro and Marion we might also aid in repopulating the community of Canada, which would be an excellent tourist-oriented fishing and game district for our newly formed city.)
So that’s my brainstorm. The biggest challenge in all of this is simple: Us.
Could we—having lived as separate and competitive cities for so long—be able to set aside our differences and pride in order to realize the potential for success that teamwork and brotherhood offer? I think our Chambers of Commerce have already laid the groundwork. Can we follow their lead?
I agree with what you’re thinking: merging Hillsboro and Marion is an outlandish idea that is so implausible it would never work. If it wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t have bothered this much.
But I do think it’s exterior-box thinking that will keep Marion and Hillsboro on the map and thriving for the next 50, 100 and 500 years.
And if we ever did decide to merge Marion and Hillsboro into one, we’d need to come up with a good, solid name.
I would suggest a combination of both, but Marlboro just doesn’t seem appropriate.