I began teaching in the state of Washington 27 years ago.
When I moved into the state, and after a year, moving to the west side of the state, I had a professional goal of teaching in the Kent School District. The district had a state-wide reputation for providing quality education and, as a music teacher, a commitment to music education as part of a comprehensive, whole-child approach to what students need to succeed.
My professional goal was realized 11 years ago and I have been in a school where I love the students, the families and my colleagues. As an educator, my passion for teaching and my love of sharing music has been beyond rewarding.
In the past five years, the decisions made by administrators and board members, people that have no direct impact on students, their achievement and their learning success – have continually moved school district philosophy away from what is good for kids. Their latest decision to remove music and physical education from the elementaries only underscores their commitment to mediocrity.
The powers-that-be that developed the list of cuts this year will tell you that they have no intention of eliminating music and physical education from the elementary level. They are only eliminating the qualified, endorsed teachers that, by state law, are required to teach these two specialized curriculums. The expectations are that the classroom teachers will teach them. Between the national, state and district expectations that continue to add more to teach and to continually and formally assess, the elementary classroom teacher cannot find the time to sufficiently teach all of the subjects assigned to the classroom presently. How can they add the state mandated 100 minutes per week of physical and health education? And I haven’t even touched on having the time they need to sufficiently plan, which a majority occurs while their students are at the specialist.
The District is asking for input from the community through an online survey and community forums. An analysis of the survey shows that nearly all proposed cuts are direct student impact items. Where is the elimination of upper-level administrators? (Kent School District has more than like districts.) Where are the reductions in upper-level administrator salaries? (Kent School District pays more than like districts.) It seems to me that if the Kent School District is in such dire fiscal straits, everything should be done to reduce expenditures from which students are most insulated.
This is the third year the Kent School District has hosted community forums in order to hear about the will of the people, the desires of the parents. An analysis of the outcomes of past forum input by examining the expenditure cuts show that the decision makers either had made up their minds before the community spoke or grossly misinterpreted what was communicated. Is anyone really listening?
I encourage everyone who values quality education and lives or works for the Kent School District to take the online survey, unless the survey does not make you feel empowered to be heard. If the choices on their survey do not speak to you, let the school board and Dr. (Edward Lee) Vargas know what would make sense to you. Be empowered to move the Kent School District back to a place of educational excellence and away from resigned educational mediocrity.
Karen A. Martin
Unincorporated King County