Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It's what's inside that counts...

Note: This is a letter to the editor that I submitted to a local newspaper. It may or may not be published, but I wanted to share it either way.

I am an educator, and I believe that our schools need more money to be rigorous, effective, and more successful. However, I will NOT be voting in favor of the increased millage for school funding.

I am not generally one to project my political opinions, [and that is certainly not what I intend the purpose of this blog to be,] but I thought it important for it to be known that not all educators are in favor of this tax increase.

One of the biggest arguments that I've seen against this increase is that the funds are being requested without a plan in place for how they will be used. There is, in fact, a plan for the funds on the school district’s Web site. It is rather vague, listing items such as "all schools--renovate/remodel" and "expand the arts in elementary schools". More than that, I just don't think the plan has proper priorities.

The plan seems to focus on remodeling current school buildings as well as building at least two new schools entirely. My first concern is this: I already see empty school buildings across Terrebonne Parish. I have no idea what the building is now used for, but I drive past the empty Andrew Price Alternative School daily. Building new schools and leaving old ones vacant does not seem like the most efficient way to improve our community. Certainly a pristine new building would be easier on the eyes and the maintenance staff, but isn't it what is inside these buildings that truly affect our children? Some of the most successful and rigorous schools I have worked in and visited across the state have also been some of the oldest buildings with less than current architecture and decor. We should be focusing on our programs, our resources and our technology before we pull out the wrecking balls and wallpaper.

For example, why does our district, so rich in French culture, not consistently offer French in its elementary and middle schools? Why don't we take one of the several empty school buildings and implement a French immersion program? This idea has been recurring in this parish for years, consistently brought up by people who realize the importance of second-language acquisition and  the continuation of French in an area where it is steadily fading away and consistently ignored by our school board and leaders.

Furthermore, how many of our schools have classrooms with one-to-one technology, ensuring that our children are prepared to enter into a world where technology is no longer an option but a necessity for survival and success?

Sure, we need the brick and mortar to keep the rain off our children's heads, but their heads are dry now. We have schools for them to learn in. Before I will agree to drastically increase a tax on our property-owners, let’s see a plan for improvement inside our schools, not just the buildings themselves. This is what will make our schools rival others schools in the state and the country. This is what will make our students stand out. 

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