Imagine Your Children And Grandchildren

Published 3:22 pm Thursday, April 26, 2012

Editor, The Herald:

To the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors.

I am writing to encourage your continued thoughtful consideration of ways you can support the best possible educational experiences for students in the Prince Edward County Public Schools during the fiscal constraints caused by the county's slow recovery from recession. I realize there are a number of important responsibilities to other agencies for which you are also responsible. Please do consider the following factors as you weigh your response to the proposed school board budget request:
• The additional funds that will be provided by the state budget will not make up the shortfall between the school board's request and the amount likely to be funded. It may provide enough assistance that a small increase in property taxes could make up the difference needed to increase the budget and cover the $1.1 million additional dollars widely agreed upon by parents and teachers as most important. I support a modest tax increase that recognizes the hardships local families are facing, but makes a good faith attempt to increase funding for the schools.

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• Maintaining the instructional program through continuation of personnel positions is the most direct way to provide assurance that students receive the quality of education they need and deserve. As positions are considered for continuation, the protection of core services for children must be central. This means there should be no cuts in teaching positions that serve elementary and middle school students. Prioritize as well the additional classroom support provided by instructional aides. Well-trained aides make it possible for classroom teachers to serve the widely varied needs of general education students as well as the needs of mainstreamed special needs students. Identified gifted students also need challenges that force them to stretch and work hard and that encourage them to use their gifts responsibly.

• Recognize that today's world and tomorrow's job market demand more than a narrow “basic skills” curriculum for students to reach their potential and become contributing citizens. Foreign languages, music, and the visual arts all support overall school achievement. The attached report from the National Endowment for the Arts documents the academic gains made by students with intensive arts training. Participation in the arts is a strong predictor of college completion for students from all income brackets. Early grades study of foreign language when language acquisition occurs easily, followed by strong high school instruction, prepares children for a globally competitive world. Recent research on learning is confirming what many educators understand. When a child is exposed to a rich curriculum, including active participation in challenging math, reading, writing, science, social studies, foreign languages and the arts, the child's brain makes new neuron connections. Our human ability to think and make decisions is supported by the richness and complexity of our daily experience. Each child may learn in a slightly different way, but children benefit from the opportunity to make connections between the known and the new. Psychologists now understand that human beings are not born with a fixed I.Q. We can continue to learn and improve our ability throughout life but the first years of schooling are critical for meeting our potential.

Please imagine what you would want for your own children and grandchildren and make the tough decisions you face with that in mind.

Nancy Iverson

Prince Edward

(Nancy Iverson, Ed.D, is the retired Assistant Dean and Director of the Center for K-12 Education at the University of Virginia School of Continuing & Professional Studies. From 1978 to 1994 she served the Prince Edward County Public Schools as K-12 Curriculum Coordinator, Director of Gifted Education, Elementary School Principal, and Director of Instruction.)