THE RED ARMY GOES INTO BATTLE
It was a long night on Wednesday when hundreds packed the meeting room to provide testimony to the BOS about the needs of the schools and the county.
Supporters of the tax increase outweighed the anti tax folks by a close margin. Teachers, parents, students, and business leaders came to the lectern to speak in support of students and funding. You can read more details and follow all the speeches.
The County Council of PTA's submitted the first list of petitions, over 1000 signatories, and will keep the site open to garner more support.
Passionate stories help to make more concrete the changes we are seeing in the schools. An example from Jill Burke, a veteran teacher of English, at Manchester High School is a great example.
Thank you for the opportunity to be heard on this issue that is so vitally important to our schools.
I am Jill Burke, and I am a seventeen-year veteran teacher of ninth grade Honors English and Applied Reading at Manchester High School. I myself am a product of CCPS, as is my husband and my oldest two children. My youngest child enters kindergarten at Clover Hill Elementary this Fall. In short, I am invested in Chesterfield for many reasons.
I am here tonight because I am urging the Board to approve the tax rate increase for the next fiscal year, and I have two very personal illustrations as how this affects my students and my ability to meet their needs.
First, I’d like to tell you about a ninth grade honors student I teach this year; I’ll refer to her as “Sarah.” Sarah, up until this fall, was an active athlete and a diligent student who was accustomed to making excellent grades until she suffered a traumatic brain injury during the last week of the first marking period. She was treated at the Chippenham Hospital Traumatic Brain Injury Center; upon release, she was put on three weeks of complete cognitive rest, which meant no reading, writing, TV, phone, computer, etc.--a significant hardship for any teenager.
Already woefully behind in her studies, Sarah was finally able to begin home-bound instruction. She was in all honors classes, and at Manchester, the workload--in and out of class--is intense. Without home-bound instruction, I am absolutely certain she would have failed my class. Because of the severity of her brain injury, she ended up missing the entire second nine weeks marking period; and even when she initially returned, it was only on a part time basis as she slowly eased back into the rigor of a full school day.
She remained on part-time home-bound until February 4th. She continues to suffer from post-concussion syndrome and debilitating headaches, and her battles are far from over.
While adjusting to her new limitations, she refused, however, to drop my honors class. She’s not a quitter. I admire that in a student. She isn't the A/B student she once was, but she’s getting there, thanks to the help of the home-bound instruction she received. If home-bound services are cut or eliminated altogether, what’s to become of students like Sarah?
At the other end of my teaching spectrum are the Applied Reading classes I've taught for the last three years. This class is for students who have failed either their Reading or Writing End-of-Course SOLs or have been flagged as likely to fail. I am charged with remediating them based on their own individual academic weaknesses so that they can pass the state-mandated tests and graduate on-time. All students in this class have IEPs or 504s--special education students, and many of them present significant classroom management concerns. There is no curriculum for this class; I come up with materials all on my own.
My first year teaching this class was a fantastic success because I had a special education, collaborative teacher in class with me, Mrs. Tina Simmons. We could divide and conquer and do individualized or small-group instruction. By the end of that school year, we had almost a 100% success rate! For the past two years, however, there hasn't been the funding to have a special ed teacher co-teach with me.
As a result, my pass rate has dropped and kids who are under-served are falling through the cracks. I had a student last year who didn't pass his SOLs even with the support of my class, so he had to take it again this year. No one was happy about that situation.
I can only do the work of one person, and teaching this class definitely requires two. Again, please don’t cut funding for special education.
To fail to pass the tax rate increase would affect kids like Shannon at the top of the academic pyramid and kids who are subsisting at a much lower level. Both are entitled to more than they are currently getting.
I’m not asking for you to make my job easier; it’s one of the most difficult jobs there is, and I knew that going in. I actually rather like the challenge of it. What I’m asking is that you increase the tax rate so that doing my job as it needs to be done is POSSIBLE. Don’t clip my wings or those of the students I love. Thank you.
WE'RE NOT DONE YET
The BOS will vote a finalized budget and tax rate on April 9, 2014.
What can you do to influence the outcome? Contact members directly. Host a meeting at your school, church or neighborhood and discuss what you think sustains a community that YOU want to live in. Invite your district representative to attend. Use your social networks and contacts to bring more signatures to the petition.
For more information or resources contact the CEA at 804-897-1756 or contact a PTA leader at your neighborhood school.