School Supporters Are Ready To Vote In Prince Edward Supervisors Election

Published 2:48 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Editor, The Herald:

In the May 1st edition of The Farmville Herald, your editorial voiced concern over the fact that no one spoke at the public hearing portion of the April Board of Supervisors meeting, when 2013-2014 PECPS funding was the topic of discussion. You were essentially asking, “Where were all the advocates for public education?”

Any attempt to answer that question concisely will fall necessarily short, because there are so many of us involved parents – and because we are such a diverse group of people, with varied talents and interests. It must also be said that we are quick learners: rest assured, we haven't stopped fighting for public education; we've just learned to fight smart. As Barbara Arieti eloquently asserted in her May 24th letter to the Editor, “we were there [April, 2012], telling you that we were in favor of raising taxes . . . but the Board of Supervisors chose not to listen.” As soon as it became clear that several of our County Supervisors were up for re-election this November, we knew that the children of the county would be once again thrown under the proverbial bus at the meeting in April – how many politicians vote to raise taxes when their jobs are on the line in an election year?

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But, while we didn't turn out at the BOS meeting in April 2013, here is a short list – by no means exhaustive – of places where we did turn out, working to make a difference in our schools:

• We served on the Elementary School PTA, which raised over $4,000 for Art Department and Physical Education Department needs.

• We collected, organized and redeemed $1,000 worth of Boxtops for Education.

• We volunteered time at the elementary school to refurbish a water garden; to help in classrooms with reading, remediating and supervision; to staff the annual Scholastic book fair.

• We organized and implemented the “Books for Buses” campaign, wherein donated books are carried on school buses so the children have a productive activity at their disposal, and coordinated an end-of-the-year book drive to provide summer reading to each child at the elementary school.

• Our companies sponsored athletic teams so they could afford much-needed equipment; our volunteer hours made fun field days at the elementary school possible.

• We served on committees – for Talented and Gifted, for Special Education, for the Superintendent's Advisory, for the Prince Edward Public Schools Endowment.

• We planned and chaperoned the high school's after-prom party.

• We offered patient, expert instruction to middle school jazz band members.

• We helped to interview candidates for administrative and school board positions, and contributed to focus group discussions led by outside accreditation agencies.

• We created an active presence on social media, with our “Support Prince Edward County Schools” Facebook site.

• We advocated, both publicly and privately, to keep excellent international teachers in our schools, and in support of a continued strong Advanced Placement program – one of the few unique programs which might make PECPS the local “school of choice,” as stated in the schools' new vision statement – which, yes, as members of the Long-Range Plan team, we helped to craft.

Rather than ask, “Where were all the advocates for public education?,” the more important question to ask is, “Where were our Supervisors?”

• They were not in the middle school band room, where many students need to wear multiple layers of clothes all year to stay warm.

• They were not holding the buckets which must be placed in the elementary hallways and middle school bathrooms to catch drips of water that come through ceiling panels on rainy days.

• They were not covering the 8th grade Physical Science classroom, where for the entire school year a parade of short-term substitutes replaced an excellent international teacher who was forced to leave.

• They were not trying on their own to keep order in an elementary classroom crammed with 25 students, including those with special learning needs.

• They were not at high school football games, sitting in painfully uncomfortable stands, watching talented boys trip over ruts in the field.

• They did not have to look into the eyes of a young child who had recently suffered physical or emotional abuse at home and tell her, “No, I'm sorry; your school counselor no longer has time to speak with you.”

• Neither were they driving on the overgrown and unkempt Rt. 628, the road to nowhere, the road designed to make Eagle Drive safer for students; apparently nobody is.

Had the Supervisors been in any of these places, surely they would know that there are many valid ways for additional tax dollars to be spent in our schools. At last year's budget hearing, parents were essentially told that the programs being cut were nothing of consequence – that, in one Supervisor's words, “the kids will be fine;” that current teachers didn't really need to be adequately compensated; and that outstanding prospective teachers would accept underpaid positions if their commitment to teaching was strong enough.

We are, indeed, “saddened by the failure of the leadership in this county to listen and respond to rational arguments from its citizens,” as Ms. Arieti explained. But, good advocates for public education never give up on their local children. We have excellent memories. And we will be voting in November.

Heather Edwards