Pamela Jones: We’ve Pulled All The Tricks Out Of The Bag – October 31, 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Children enter this world full of hope and promise. Their minds are fresh and pure, just waiting to be filled from endless sources of knowledge with information that has the potential to transform them into the next Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Thomas Edison, Rachel Carson or Ludwig van Beethoven. It is the responsibility (actually privilege) of every living adult, whether a parent or not, to ensure that every child has access to those sources of knowledge, regardless of their family’s social or financial status.

In the United States, apart from their home experiences, most children access knowledge through their local public school system, the beginnings of which go back to the 1840s. Recent statistics show that approximately 50 million children are enrolled in our public school system.

As the adults of the world, we must step up to the plate and ensure those 50 million children don’t fall through the cracks into oblivion, perhaps robbing us all of a potential creator of a cure for cancer, the person who discovers a renewable, clean and free energy source or the world’s greatest writer who inspires us all with their written words.

California is a leader in all things technology-related, academic research, the film and television industry, environmental research and the arts. As recently as 2011, California was ranked as the eighth largest economy in the world. On the other hand, even though it has our country’s largest student population, when it comes to educating our children, California ranked 47th in per pupil spending and was given a “C” by Education Week in January of 2012 on overall policy efforts and outcomes.

We have to question how we have arrived at a place in time where so much disparity seemingly exists between our ability to achieve great things and our willingness to protect, nurture and help our most precious resources, our children, reach their full potential.

In Humboldt County, each of our 32 school districts has felt the devastating impact and absolute reality of what the ranking of 47th means when linked to the faces of our classroom teachers and, more importantly, the children, who depend on us to help them discover their highest calling and enable them to enrich the world in which we all live, inextricably attached to one another, whether we like it or not.

Administrators worry about how to keep buses running, textbooks bought, computers up-to-date, sewage systems repaired, electrical systems up to code and, most of all, teachers in reasonably populated classrooms. Teachers and administrators worry about how we will be able to enrich our children’s lives with music, art, physical activity and plenty of hands-on experiences.

Every year, we consider whether or not to close the doors of our libraries, lay off teachers, shut down bus routes or eliminate counseling for our truly at-risk children.

We pound the streets on precinct walks and man the phone bank lines in hopes of convincing our friends, families and neighbors to vote for our local tax initiatives in an effort to hang on just a few years more.

At Arcata School District, we have faced all of the above and more. We are currently wrapping up our latest round of pavement pounding and phone calling in the hopes that the passage of Measures E and F, our bond and parcel tax measures appearing on the November ballot, will help pull us out of the tailspin in which we have been placed by the latest rounds of cuts and deferrals of promised revenues by the State of California.

We love our children. We want them to have the support needed to keep them from falling through the cracks but, without some immediate and substantial help, the prospects of doing so are growing slimmer by the year.

We have pulled all the tricks out of the bag that we, as teachers and administrators, have gotten so good at doing over the last decade. Simply put, we need help. We need your help. Contact your legislators, write them, call them, e-mail them until you see positive results.

Make your voices heard, so we can all know that the richly vibrant educations our precious children deserve will not be stolen from them by the relentless and repeated duplicity and gimmicks in which our state government seems to be so well-versed.

When you see Measures E and F on your ballot in November you will be considering whether or not to lend your support for a cause that will provide the children of our community with school facilities that are in good repair, classrooms that are a reasonable size and exposure to a wide and varied array of art, music, dance and technology programs.

You will also be helping in the effort to “green” our schools by installing solar panels at all sites, updating other electrical systems and replacing failing sewage systems. When you put your pencil to your ballot on Nov. 6, please consider that the average homeowner, for the cost of less than 50 cents a day, can make a difference in the lives of children that is priceless. Senior citizens, those receiving SSI benefits and non-property owners are exempted, so there is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

English writer, Gilbert Chesteron, once said, “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”

Arcata has a soul driven by generosity, kindness, social justice and a highly evolved appreciation for knowledge. Her citizens certainly have something worthy to pass to the next generation.

Pamela Jones is superintendent of the Arcata School District.