Karma or Dharma? Part II...

10:15 AM Edit This 0 Comments »
Okay...so you have the history. We are now at the beginning of this school year. I am PTO President, have started a new job, have two children in school instead of one and the Hubs has started his new job with lots o' travelling involved. Way to jump in with both feet right?

My responsibilities include being a liason between the parents and the Administration, bringing enrichment programs into the school, such as SOL (Standards of Learning) based shows like The Maryland Science Center or Barefoot Puppets or Touched By the Sea. We also use the money to purchase educational materials for our kids like The Handwriting Without Tears Series. Not such a big deal right?

Right...for the most part. The exception, of course, had to come this year with the turmoil of combining two schools then separating them again. When it came time to decide which kids would go to what school, the County needed a committee to help make these initial decisions and lay the ground work for the coming year. Who was the first person my principal called?

Me. "Will this take a lot of time?" I asked. "Yes. Evening's mostly." she responded.

Did I accept? Nope. Should I have? Hmmmmm....There inlies the Dharma.

My neighbor, did however, accept what turned out to be a very pivital role in our community.

In a nutshell, our county is longer than it is wide. The Northern end has all of the (what I like to call) the "old money horse farms" in it, a lot of single homes with acreage (the ding-dang woods) with a few neighborhoods dispersed throughout with lots an acre or bigger (this is where I live). The first in this list, generally send their children to the private schools in the area. They usually take no interest in the public school system and usually abstain or vote "No" on the Bonds and Referendum's that would benefit our schools ( and yes, I have asked at least 5 families..who have either agreed or know of those who feel this way). What does this mean for us? No money.

The Central part of the County contains the most families. It's what I call Suburbia. Neighborhoods with houses on a 1/2 acre or less surrounding one town. This is where our High school is located and currently operating at 203% capacity (do we need a new highschool? Me thinks YES!!) This is also where the ONLY SCHOOL IN THE COUNTY holds our special needs population. They have 5 elementary schools, all of which are overcrowded or on the verge of being so.
The Southern end of the County is holding it's own as of now, as they have their own highschool and are slow growing.

The charge of the committee was to alleviate some the overcrowding in the Central Schools and fill up the Northern Schools, leaving all with room for growth. Sound easy? Ha! The Central Schools opted for trailers...all will be opening at 98% capacity or higher!

That leaves us at 70% and 72% capacity...again, no money. Money comes from this state based on per child basis. And this is what made me so angry a week or so ago.

We will be opening up next year, bare bones and under staffed. I had a conversation with the Principal at the height of my emotional state...probably not the best idea...but I was nice.

I started firing questions...and I got a lot of "should's" and "hopefully's". When she told me her staffing requests were turned down her exacts words were "I couldn't talk to anyone for 3 days because I was so upset."

THREE DAYS??? Three days that parents could've been contacting our county chairman, writing letters to the Superintendent, and/or making phone calls. As it stood now, I had Friday, Sat and Sun to calm down because Monday I was writing a letter to our county representative on the School Board seeing as how Tuesday he was presenting our budget requests for next year to the Board of Supervisors.

Some of the major issues...We currently have 5 Kindergarden classes and 6 1st grade classes. The K classes have between 21 and 25 children in them with 2 teachers (an aide and a teacher) when those kids move to 1st grade that 6th class alleviates the numbers leaving each class between 14 and 19 children. When we move into the new school...we will have 2 classes of each grade level. Worst case scenario 25-30 student capacity in the K classes..what happens when they move to 1st grade? Same numbers minus a second teacher. Not good.

*Our "town" has a high percentage of ESL and low income families, they will ALL be at our school now because of the redistricting decisions (here's where the Karma comes in..explanation to follow in a later post;0). This means, more paperwork for things like free and reduced lunch and simple clothing needs. Every ESL student needs an IEP (Individualized Education Program) which requires Principal involvements at the parent meetings (also we only have a part time Special Education Teacher to service not only these students but also the other students with learning and emotional disabilities) and time involved for an already overworked principal. We do not have enough students to justify an Assitant Principal ( the magic number is 300 we will have 230 with a projected 290 in the next 2-5 years IF the new developement goes in in town IF the water problem gets fixed..if ..if...if...!!!. ) So the Secretary ends up doing a lot of the paperwork, she is also answering the phones, dealing with general office stuff and disciplining children who are "sent to the Principal's office" for whatever reason, but she can't be there because she's doing the work of 10 people. Often the school nurse is answering the phone, doing lunch duty or covering other "duties" of our Secretary.

Okay off my soapbox now...more condensed version of issues in my letter to the District Chairman.


Tomorrow" The Letter "and the results of one voice ;0)