In the early 1960s, my dad had a dream. He was in his 40s, and he had always dreamed of owning a Cadillac. He was the sole "breadwinner" in our family, and he did not earn an income which would allow him to own a new Cadillac and support a wife and four children.
Because he was the district manager of a burglar alarm company, my dad had many friends in business and industry. One of his friends was the owner of Barrett Cadillac, an auto dealership on Wick Avenue in Youngstown. My father was quite the negotiator, and he "worked out" a deal to purchase a used, 1958 blue on blue Cadillac Sedan Deville (with fins and everything).
He could barely make the payments, and the family sacrificed "luxury" items like visits to Idora Park or treats at Isaly's so dad could have his luxury car. After about a year, dear old Dad had to face reality: while he could just afford the monthly bills, he could not afford the unexpected bills which followed the "Blue Behemoth's" visits to Barrett Cadillac for repairs. He traded in the car of his dreams at Barrett's and humbly returned home with our new family vehicle, a used, 1958 pink Nash Rambler (yes, bright pink).
I share this bit of family history, not in nostalgia, but because current events in Hubbard have reminded me of this lesson learned.
This month, Hubbard schools athletes have begun using new sports facilities which are spectacular venues. The feature purchase is the installation of artificial turf at the venerable Hubbard Memorial Stadium. Also, a new pavilion at the stadium will shelter the marching band's musicians as they raise the spirits of the home team and its fans.
It could be said that the schools have purchased a "Cadillac" for the display of our young people's prowess in physical feats from football to soccer to music. Part of me shares "Eagle Pride" when I behold these amazing facilities, but another part of my mind asks, "At what cost have we done this?"
The pricetag, we have been told, is $2.5 million. The present superintendent has been recognized in the media for his own contribution to this effort; he has forgone all but one dollar of his current salary to make this dream a reality. (This newspaper "awarded" him an orchid on the editorial page.) However, my practical side recognizes that the multi-million dollar expenditure must have consequences. What other educational endeavors in the Hubbard schools might have benefited from this money?
For example, I know that an effective program at the high school, which served at-risk students, has been eliminated because it costs a few thousand dollars more than the school system wanted to spend. The replacement program is untried and does not serve the same population in the same way.
Additionally, I have heard that despite the newness of our campus, there are problems in the buildings; "things go wrong," so unexpected repairs must be made. In Hubbard, these situations are either not being addressed, or being solved in ways that may be cost effective but not "quality" effective.
The old saying seems applicable: we are "robbing Peter to pay Paul."
Several years ago, the Hubbard schools invited Dr. Randy Hoover, a noted professor of YSU's Beeghly College of Education, to address the faculty about the implications of state testing for school children and the scoring of those assessment instruments. In his presentation, Dr. Hoover explained the relationship between test scores and local demographics. He mentioned that Hubbard's per capita income placed us in the lower half of middle class.
In that way, Hubbard's economic picture is much like my dad's financial situation. While we want the "best" for our children, should we buy a Cadillac to drive, but "pinch pennies" after the purchase to pay for necessities?
In one very important way, my father's aged tale differs from Hubbard's present story. My dad was able to trade in the ostentatious automobile and still have basic (albeit ugly) transportation. Sadly, Hubbard cannot "trade in" our purchases if we have erred.
Williams is a Hubbard resident. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org