Yesterday was a full day for me, in other words, a typical Saturday. The only difference, I actually had the day off which meant I finally get to spend some time with my daughters. Because of my involvement with the school board election, I have become more involved in the activities in the school district from attending not only district meetings, but school functions like musicals, athletic events, fundraisers, and like yesterday, a competition called the Odyssey Of The Mind.
I am still much too unfamiliar to give it the proper description that it deserves, but from the small bit that I was able to catch, the competition is clearly and example of the good things that can come from a public education. Teams of students from elementary to middle schools compete in teams with creative problems, find solutions, and then act them out. Some problems are planned out, some are impromptu. Some have props, other problems the children are given the tools or props to work or solve their problems.
Last year, two of our district teams went on from the competition, to compete at the state level, and one of those teams went on to the World competition.
This was the first time that I had attended the event, and was completely overwhelmed by the thousands in attendance. There were so many schools, so many children. I got to speak with some of our schools’ children, parents and coaches. And that is when I heard the sad part. This particular event, the Odyssey Of The Mind is not supported or sponsored by our school district. Of all of the things that our district and school board approve to fund, this educational learning challenge is not funded at all by the district. The money for these competitions come completely from the parents who participate or if lucky, a principal who believes in this experience for the children. These expenses can hit the thousands of dollars when all is said and done. Please note, I am not speaking about the other schools that are represented.
I do not know the results of the competition just yet, and I am waiting for the phone call. But I did want to recognize the efforts of the children and the parents for the hard work for the last six months in preparation for this competition. And one of the things that I would like to do if elected, is to make sure that our schools are supported in these scholastic efforts.
Listed below, are the platforms that my fellow candidates and I wrote to be our main talking points during the election. Of course, there are so many other issues to cover, but will not possibly fit on a postcard when mailed out, and to be honest, I cannot think of many people that want to hear any of us drone on for hours about all of the problems that we have become aware of since our first runs for this office.
- Progress for ALL students
Equip all students with better resources for success. The measure of our students is stated in AYP – Adequate Yearly Progress. The district has been fond of making the claim that our schools make AYP every year. But what the district does not tell you, is that when the scores are broken down, too many of our individual subgroups do not even come close to making AYP. Minorities, economically disadvantaged, and special ed students are multiple victims of this misrepresentation of facts in reading and math results.
- Straight talk, open doors
Promote community involvement through active dialogue. Average attendance of a school board meeting 3-5 people, out of over 12,000 families, not including taxpayers. If you want to find something out from our district, you will not get an answer without going through the tedious, burdensome, and if necessary to pursue a denied appeal, costly process.
- Maximize our district’s potential
Invest in success with new resources. No-bid processes hamper this effort, such as with our district’s architect who just this, was called out by a new board member, when the board recommended the architect’s approval without having gone to bid.
- Advocate for world class public education
Provide a stronger voice in Harrisburg. We rely on our local representatives to fight for the sixth largest school district. Yet one example is the charter school process in our district. Our district is in no need of a charter school, has plenty of private and Catholic schools, and given the current funding formula of the charter schools, would devastate our district and taxpayers. Our school board did the right thing, but three of our four local legislators support our governor’s charter school agenda at all costs, one legislator even being a founder of one charter school. The appeal is expected to be a joke and overturned, throwing the burden back on our district. Our district needs to make a presence in Harrisburg.
- Support those who make our district work
Recognition and fair treatment of all personnel. Verbal attacks and criticisms of teachers, by the administration and board must stop. The demoralization of the secretaries and support staff such as maintenance, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers must stop. For those who vocalize against unions, the last section of workers do not belong to a union, and their reward is one of constant “take away”. The district is doing what it can to reduce hours of a bus driver to eliminate the health benefits. The cafeteria staff is continuing to dwindle in numbers creating a very unsafe situation. There are more examples. This cannot continue to happen which ultimately will have an impact on the children.
- Embrace the diversity of the NPSD
Identify and build its cultural wealth encouraging respect for all. If I recall, our district has the challenge of dealing with over 75 languages (without checking my notes, I believe that number is much higher). And all of our cultures have so much to offer the district, yet that resource clearly remains untapped.
So after visiting the Odyssey Of The Mind Competition, the above statements were what I was working on next, actually the entire campaign effort. I have three other awesome candidates with each of us offering something unique. And even stronger, we have a great campaign staff who is doing the leg work and muscle to make sure that we have the support and opportunity to spread the word, that we hear the concerns of the people of the district, and we want to help. But we need the help come May 21st, Primary Election Day in Pennsylvania.