Friday, March 28, 2008

Ok, all better

I just have those days sometimes where I sit on my pity pot for a while. Then, when that's no longer doing anything for me I eat a rediculous amount of chocolate and immerse myself into the atrocities of the world and the pity turns into pissed-off-edness and then that eventually settles into a bigger understanding of my world and my place in it.

Deep huh?

So anyway. What pulled me out of last night's slump was the recent school board referendum going on here. I know, It's silly that heated issues make me feel better....

So first the rererendum issue (what a stupid word, isn't it? I dunno it just rubs me funny) I will sadly admit that I don't understand all the big stupid words they use when they talk about this stuff, I think they make some of them up or something. But I do think I understand most of it on a basic level anyway so here goes.

Our school board very recently has been forced to make some hard choices. The school district is facing the same challenges school disctricts have faced since like, the beginning of time or something. Not enough money.

I personally feel like our school district has spent a lot of time getting themselves into the predicament (that's not right?) they are in right now, where the entire community is up in arms and houses are getting egged. Ok so I don't know of anyones house getting egged, but I thought I'd say it anyway.... (disclaimer: if anyone's house gets egged it was NOT me)

So. At the very basic level of this problem within our district, at least the way I see it, is a decline in enrollment. School officials adress this issue often citing declines in birth rates within the community and agressive marketing of nearby districts taking kids out of this district with open enrollment.

Granted there are lower birth rates. I mean the population of the United States as a whole is dwindling (hey, i'm doing my part people..... the rest of you need more kids) so although I don't know the numbers for this community in particular, I would have to concede that it is safe to agree that there are less children being born in this community nowadays.

But the issue that is often overlooked is that agressive marketing from other districts is not what is stealing our schools children away. A good school district speaks for itself and parents don't drive kids 20 miles to school because of agressive marketing, they drive their kids 30 miles to school because they want their children to go to good schools. If they had that in their own backyard, do you think they would choose to drive 30 miles everyday? I don't.

Our district is failing. Plain and simple. When my children began attending school here 9 years ago our elementary school was a SAGE school (look it up, i'm too tired to link) There were very small classrooms allowing children to get more individualized attention. A recent something I read from the principal of our elementary school stated that our largest classroom in the elementary is now 1:19. I think that is a bit low as one of my children's classroom has 24 students in it, one teacher...... my math aint that great but that isn't 1:19....... right? Anyway

So we pack these kids into classrooms like sardines and put this workload on the teachers. What happens? Well it's gotta be difficult teaching 24 (or 19) children by yourself, no? There aren't enough hours in the school day to be sure every child is understanding what they are taught. Which leads me to my next point.

No child left behind. There has long been an issue with this in our district because it doesn't give leniency for children in Special education. While I see the point in this, I mean a child with significant mental retardation just isn't going to learn algebra in a state or federally mandated timeframe. They aren't. Yet they deserve to be in school, they deserve to interact with other "non-impaired" peers. Well our school seems to have used this ideal about special education and No child left behind to make themselves look like the good guys.

Our district has an INSANE amount of children with IEP's in special education. Anytime a child may be learning a little differently, or at a slower curve than whoever arbitrarily decided they should be, they are tested and if they are found to be 25% behind they get a sticker slapped on their forehead and a tag in their file reading "learning disability". Honestly, in this small community if an outsider looked at the percentage of our student population with learning disabililties you would start testing the water, something is out of whack. What is going on in this community that so many of our children are learning disabled? It's alarming and I think we need Erin Brockovich in here to find out why our kids are all behind....

But wait. What isn't being looked at here? Is it really fair to say that these children have the problem? Who's problem is it? Could it be that these children really DON'T have anything wrong with their brains preventing them from learning in a regular classroom? Could it be that maybe the classrooms are failing THEM? Do I dare speak those words?

I think this is precisely the problem myself. When so many kids are failing I find it hard to beleive we have a community full of ignorant children. We need to look at the one common denominator (lol, a math term! woohoo!).... they all go to the same classrooms. But we wouldn't do that, we wouldn't question what is working. Putting all these children in special education is serving a great purpose for our school district. Not only is it giving them a "reason" for not meeting No child left behind standards, but each child in special education brings a nice chunk of federal money in every year all by themself. BONUS!

I think the proof is in the peanuts (what's that phrase?) our children in special education (and I know quite a few of them, since so many kids in this community are) are not thriving in these classrooms. They are remaining consistantly 2+ grade levels behind their peers. A lot of them dropping off further as the years go on. If it were working they would be moving ahead? no? Well no! We can't let them move ahead because then they would have to be removed and the district would lose the excuse and the money they provide!

Add to it some bad budgeting choices such as the gorgeous windows newly installed in the middle school a couple years ago, etc and you have quite a deficit of money being provided this school district. So what do you do?

Well, you could put a daycare into the school to use up the rooms that aren't being used because of declining enrollment (read as: packing kids into rooms like sardines), that would surely bring in some revenue. So we did that.

But there's STILL not enough money. What is a community to do? Raise taxes! That's it! But wait, that won't work because the property taxes in this community are already ginormous. And the taxpayers simply don't want to shell out more of their hard earned money to have the district throw it to the wind as they have in the past. So that won't work, can't raise taxes.

So, at the end of the day we have to cut programs and terminate staff. Ok, I get that. We need to do something. And there are definitely some school staff here that have forgotten why they are here, who have either lost their passion for teaching or who are so out of the loop with newer, more effective ways to teach that the they aren't do the kids much of a service. That would be GREAT. If we got ride of some of this dead weight we could improve our schools, bring our test scores up, and ultimately get more funding from the government! INGENIUS!

But no, lets not do that. That wouldn't work. These older teachers fit in with our "deal with everything internally" agenda. They don't speak up for the children, they don't cause us any trouble. So lets get rid of some of the staff members who care about our children instead...... because they are more likely to give us trouble.

So that's what we do. Our district likes the fact that it governs itself. That drugs, violence, etc are dealt with "internally" (brushed under the rug). We like having ultimate control over this community, and we certainly like to bitch and whine about other schools stealing our kids rather than admit to ourselves that the problem is with US, and not them.

It seems though that people in this community are finally saying we've had enough. School board members are resigning, school staff members are resigning, the people aren't happy. I will say that I understand that the school board is in a bit of a tough place. They have policies and laws and what-not to follow. But those board members have been in this a long time and have helped make most of the decisions that have led this district down this dangerous path....... and our children are paying the price.

Afterthought: To clarify, there are some older teachers in this district that DO care about the children and DO havve the passion, I didn't mean to insinuate that all the older teachers weren't doing a good job.

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