Millage increase would benefit students, entire community

I’m writing in support of the upcoming millage vote for Huntsville Schools.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I work for the district as a teacher at the high school. However, I haven’t always been a teacher. I spent the first 20 years of my career as an engineer running paper mills. I remember being amazed at the earnings potential of the machine operators, skilled mechanics and technicians I worked with. They earned more than a starting engineer and they still do. That’s why I believe the focus on CTE education included in this project is one of the most important things we can do for our students.

The demand for students with technical and mechanical skills is clearly outpacing nearly every other job category, including many of those that require college degrees. These jobs fit many of our students like a glove. A good portion of our kids are farm kids, used to working with their hands and their minds, and used to working hard. The market is waiting on them and we should do all we can to prepare them well and to help them take advantage of those opportunities.

The truth is that our school’s facilities and programs have fallen far behind those of our neighbors. You can visit any other school in the area (or the state) and it’s plain to see.

Our kids sit on the cafeteria floor at the high school when they attend programs and plays. We have one of the lowest millage rates in the state and haven’t had a millage increase in over 30 years. No one likes tax increases, but folks, it’s time we step up to the plate and start to close the gap. Our kids deserve better and the facilities included in the project will benefit them greatly, as well as the community at large. Even if approved, our millage rate will still be well below the state average so the district is not asking for the moon – just to be able to begin to close the gap and do right by our kids.

As the owner of a cattle farm, my taxes will increase along with other landowners who might be reluctant to support this issue. But I also know that the value of my property is tied to demand. The quality and condition of the local school district’s programs and facilities is an increasingly important factor when people are looking to buy property.

I believe these improvements will ultimately benefit landowners by preserving and increasing the value of their property more than the cost of this modest tax increase.

I urge everyone to support this issue. This is a special election so please make a special effort to get out and vote for the future of our kids and our community.

- Phillip Baker


A message to our local graduates

Last year, I was given the opportunity to start an Alumni Mentor Group at St. Paul High School.

Dozens of successful St. Paul graduates have donated their time and energy to mentor and guide the juniors and seniors toward their future endeavors. We are blessed with numerous PHDs, MDs, attorneys, college professors, successful military officers and enlisted, welders, mechanics, electricians, business owners and countless other very successful people. They all have one thing in common: at one point in their lives, they walked across the St. Paul Gym floor to receive a diploma, culminating their hard work and the dedication of some of the finest educators, in the country.

I expect no less from this year’s graduating class. Whether you’re graduating from Huntsville, Kingston, St. Paul or Elkins, you come from a community full of people who will do absolutely anything they can to help you succeed. Whether you know it or not, you are incredibly privileged to have lived and learned in our little piece of paradise. You’ve been taught and coached through every major decision and most of the minor ones. I expect you will prove you’re all worth the investment.

I agree with Robert Frost when he recommended we take “The Road Not Taken.” Whichever path you take, make it yours. Some of you will succeed with the help of your family; others will succeed in spite of them. They do not define your worth – you do. Set short, mid, and long-term goals. Then, accomplish them. When you get knocked down, get back up. You will make mistakes. Do not dwell on them – learn from them and push through. When you need a hand, ask. Find a mentor (or a couple), people you can trust to help you through your decisions. This might be someone at school, work, church or a family member.

Perhaps my best advice is to always have a backup plan to the backup plan. Live by the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.” Be prepared for a flat tire, getting laid off, not getting the job you wanted, etc., but also be prepared to take advantage of opportunities that come your way, because shots not taken are opportunities missed.

I’ll end with congratulations to all the Eagles, Yellow Jackets, Elks and Saints. Now, go forth, and make us proud.

Semper Fidelis.

- Billy Gregory


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