Saturday, May 12, 2012


Washington Island -

Although it may seem like old news in today's 24-hour news cycle, the birth of twins April 22 to the Gunnlaugsson family is still big island news.

Shown above is a proud  dad, Joel Gunnlaugsson, with daughter Tillie Ann.  Tug Allen is in the family car behind him with his mom, Krista, and big sister, Greta, age four.  Paternal grandparents are Jeanie and Kirby Gunnlaugsson, who were in Green Bay for the arrival of the twins.

This was already second or third ferry ride for the twins who, besides their initial homecoming, required several health check-ups in their first ten days.  The newborns each weighed over five pounds at birth, and they are healthy and doing well.

The name Tillie is from a relative of Joel's, Aunt Tillie, and Tug is Scandinavian for "strong," a unique name with a likable sound.  It is not hard to imagine Tug with a career on the water.

Joel is a ferry captain, the Town of Washington Chairman and County Board Supervisor for northernmost Door County, in addition to his duties as father of three.  Krista, always smiling, even when running, as she often did along Main Road in recent years, is now fully engaged again as a mom.

Congratulations to the Gunnlaugssons on their new additions.

What's in store for island children and families?

Tug and Tillie join an elite, dwindling group of island youngsters approaching school age - a group that has grown smaller with each recent decade.  An aging population is a hallmark of this community as much as a declining school enrollment.  The cost of education per pupil is already high, with 65-70 students in K through 12, despite the doubled-up classes in each room.   The traditional island model that employs a full-time teaching staff for a handful of children at some point approaches one-on-one tutoring.   Even classes that, for the most part, have already doubled-up for efficiency, have declining numbers of students per teacher.  For that reason, new ways of looking at island education are being considered by the school district and staff.   It has led educators to consider the declining class size as an asset - rather than a disappointing yardstick - for future learning opportunities.

At a recent school board meeting, the sentiment "go forth and multiply" was expressed, in so many words, by an enthusiastic audience member.  But this edict would be a tall order for young, married couples, and maybe, an unfair pressure to place upon them!   Wishing for population increases also presumes there will be employment opportunities and the means required to raise children.

Population, economic health, and job stability are among the key challenges impacting the island community's health looking ahead.  Would diminished educational opportunities discourage those same young families with children who could help to bolster the island's school system?

It is like the old adage, Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?    Increasing family size may enlarge the school, making local education more efficient.  A balanced population could also help the island economy to grow over time, provide young business leaders and the necessary skilled service providers.  However, good jobs and job opportunities, a challenge in any community much less one with sharp seasonal swings in activity, remain elusive for families who might otherwise relocate here if those opportunities were present.

The island community needs to be supportive of the young families we do have by listening to their needs and goals, and by providing resources when possible to encourage and include them as part of the larger island family.
  -  Dick Purinton

1 comment:

Tom B said...

Congratulations on the twins.