Thursday, October 19, 2006

PLEASE READ!

This is very long, but please take the time to read it. I wrote this in response to a letter that Virginia Parker emailed to the PTA Council yahoo group. Virginia is on the Friends of Wake County Board and President elect of the Wake Education Partnership. Her original email follows mine.

-----Original Message-----
From: Louise C. Lee
Sent: Tuesday, October 17, 2006 1:50 PM
To: wakeptacouncil@yahoogroups.com; 'Virginia Parker'
Subject: RE: [wakeptacouncil] The Bond and Year Round Schools.....

Thanks, Virginia. You knew when you sent this email out that I would have a lot to say! :^) This is more than I intended and I apologize for the length! I do believe that these points need to be made, however, so please bear with me! You and I have already discussed some of what I have to say----

As you know, I have fought against the forcing of year-round school attendance for at least six years. You also know that my opinion is based largely on irrefutable facts which I have consistently presented in a reasonable manner. I make it a practice not to divulge how I vote, and not to tell others how they must vote. I trust that Wake citizens are savvy enough to, after hearing all of the facts, make up their own minds. Part of the problem, however, and a major source of my frustration, is that there is selective fact-sharing taking place and/or misperceptions due to fact omissions. Cost is one example. Another is the failure by bond proponents (from where I sit) to point out to the public that all except two of the newly constructed schools will be mandatory year-round. Without that vital piece of information, people could jump to the conclusion that all of those who oppose the mandatory year-round plans are against building badly-needed new schools. That would just be flat-out deception. At the very least such practices are a disservice to both sides. They are also insults to the decision-making capabilities of the citizens in Wake County.

Part of the confusion with this entire issue lies in the fact that there are no clear-cut lines. The subject of mandatory year-round school attendance is so much more involved and complicated than most people realize. At the same time, the very mention of "bond referendum" brings questions to mind that call for detailed discussion. Mandatory year-round opponents are speaking out for and against the bond. The same holds true for YR supporters. Generalizations don't work here, and only create more friction when utilized. Your letter mentions misperceptions that surround a "yes" bond vote. I contend that there are even greater misperceptions about those who are opposed to mandatory year-round school attendance. Consider the following statements - in my opinion, not a one of them holds true for most MYR opponents.---

-- Mandatory year-round school opponents are out to destroy all year-round schools. The word "mandatory" is there for a reason!

-- MYR opponents are just uninformed. What an insult! We were the ones who first presented vital facts to the Administration and the School Board - in fact, they solicited information from some of us. I oppose MYR schools because I AM informed! Most supporters of MYR schools that I know were not, and are still not, familiar with these facts.

--MYR opponents are afraid of change. This one is almost laughable, and has no merit whatsoever. I was a new teacher the year that the Wake County School System merged with the Raleigh City schools. Talk to me about change!

--MYR opponents would like year-round schools if they would only try them. That might be true - IF we were there by choice. Otherwise, the "try-it-you'll-like-it" notion might apply to a few families, but not to most. I know very well why I oppose MYR schools, and the reasons have nothing to do with some imaginary fear of the unknown.

--MYR opponents are against the bond, therefore they are anti-education. First of all, there are many anti-mandatory year-round folks who support the bond. Secondly, those who do not support the bond for the sole reason of the forced year-round plans would be some of the most vocal bond advocates if those plans were dropped. In other words, they support education and want to vote in favor of new school construction and renovations. Groups such as Friends of Wake County should, in my opinion, be calling on the School Board to remove conversion language and drop plans to designate mandatory year-round status for every new elementary and middle school being built. Then the bond would have a greater chance of passing. Isn't that the goal?

--MYR opponents are being selfish. Is it selfish to want to preserve year-round schools for those who choose to go there, and still allow families to choose a traditional schedule if they know that works best for their particular situation? What about those of us who have put everything we have into fighting the forcing of year-round schools, yet have no children who will be directly affected? I am certainly not doing this out of boredom, or because I enjoy it! Every citizen of Wake County will face the repercussions that forced year-round school attendance will bring. History proves that such a move will affect much more than education, and that the "ripple effect" will negatively impact our county.

Virginia, you know I have great respect for your devotion to the goal of "bettering" Wake County. You also know that my comments are never meant in a personal manner, so please keep that in mind as I continue!

I couldn't help but notice that your letter focused on numbers - the number of seats for our students, the dollar number, the "cheapest and most accountable way to provide funding", etc. Since numbers are what the bond is all about, it stands to reason that you would need to highlight them. Plus, we all know that enrollment numbers are currently the impetus behind our School Board's decisions. However, while I am more than aware of the reality at hand, and have certainly done my part to suggest solutions to Wake County's seating challenges, I am disturbed by the observation that the numbers game is overshadowing more important considerations - namely, providing the best possible education for the children of Wake County.

I could spend days expounding on this topic, but this letter is already too long! Suffice it to say that I see little benefit in placing a child in a seat when:

a) A teacher shortage could very well keep him/her from having a highly-qualified instructor (we all know how short on teachers we were when school opened this year - even some first-graders were welcomed on Day 1 by a substitute)

b) Employee morale is low at schools where year-round schedules have been forced against majority preference.

c) Learning disabilities and/or learning styles dictate the need for a traditional calendar for optimal success - regardless of what certain educational leaders are saying, year-round school schedules are, in fact, harmful to the education of many children, and I doubt very seriously that Wake County will be able to honor all transfer requests.

d) The family is experiencing the sadness and stress of being torn apart as siblings are forced into different schedules

e) There is no neighborhood unity anymore, and a sense of "ownership" and pride in one's school has been stripped away

The list could go on, but you get my point....

Virginia, I want the bond to pass. I want new school construction and needed renovations to take place. These things have a good chance of happening too, IF the Wake County Board of Education will commit to solving our growth challenges through more reasonable and educationally sound means. Many combinations of other options have been suggested, so I am not asking for the impossible. No, there are no good or easy answers, but the one they have chosen is one of the most harmful. I cannot for the life of me comprehend how bond advocates could expect any individual to support a venture that propagates the very object of their aversion. There are many things that I would urge, and have urged, folks to compromise on. But I cannot, and will not, encourage someone to betray their principles, sacrifice what they know is best for their child, and turn against everything that is near and dear to their heart.

Just the discussion of and early planning stages for massive mandatory year-round school attendance have driven deep wedges between individuals and groups, pitting parents against parents, teachers against teachers, school against school, and on and on. Our teachers and students are already experiencing negative repercussions. Serious wounds have been inflicted, and matters will only get worse unless we unite to come up with a new growth plan that will bind citizens together, not rip them apart. It is not too late, but time is running short. With powerful groups lobbying against the bond for reasons of their own, how can bond advocates support the School Board's decision to include plans that alienate multiple thousands of potential "yes" voters?

I apologize for the lengthiness of this email, but I believe strongly in the validity and timeliness of my comments. Thanks in advance for actually taking the time to "hear me out"!

Respectfully---

Louise


From: wakeptacouncil@yahoogroups.com [mailto:wakeptacouncil@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Virginia Parker
Sent: Friday, October 13, 2006 7:14 PM
To: wakeptacouncil@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [wakeptacouncil] The Bond and Year Round Schools.....

There seems to be a misperception in this community that if you are in favor of passing the bond on November 7th, that you are taking a stand either "for" or "against" year round. No one knows which one - it is just assumed that you are taking a stand regarding year round.

There are those who believe that if you vote "yes" for the bond that you are voting "for" year round schools. The current bond amount is based on school capacity numbers that includes year round schools - therefore, you must be for year round schools.

However, there are others who believe that if you vote "yes" for the bond, you are voting "against" year round schools. These folks believe that if you bring the needed funding to the county, less year round schools are needed.

Who is right? The answer is neither.

The real answer is that a vote of "yes" for the bond has very little to do with year round schools - but has everything to do with the most equitable, economincal and accountable way to finance the building of needed schools. A vote of "yes" for the bond means that you want to have the cheapest and most accountable way to provide funding for the seats that we need in this rapidly growing county. Seats for our kids are needed now - and the county - by law - must provide them.

Please don't use the bond issue as a means to "vote your conscious" on all the different issues that the school board debates. Use the bond issue as a means to demonstrate your commitment to the most economical way to pay for our schools.

If you've got a beef with all the other issues that the school board deals with (year-round schools, reassignment, AG classes, etc.) - be bold and courageous and face the school board with those issues. Don't hide behind the bond as a means to "voice" what you have to say. Your message will get lost. Use the right means to advocate - and use the right means to ensure that all children in this county have a seat in which they can sit when they come to school every morning. Vote "yes" on November 7th!

Virginia Parker

PTA Member

Sanderson HS, Carroll MS

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