Every student deserves the supports necessary to ensure their academic success. Every student deserves the time to learn and our teachers need the time to teach. Every student deserves a first-class education regardless of zip code. One could ask anyone, without regard for political persuasion or personal beliefs, if students deserve these things and the answer would always be yes. So why is it so darn hard to make these things happen if everyone believes them? There are a whole host of answers and theories to that question ranging from money interest in politics and education to people wanting these things for our kids but refusing to pay for them with taxes. This all may be true, but on May 4th teachers at Heritage High School and Mill Plain Elementary School invited not just EEA members, but the community, parents, principals, students, and anyone else who has an interest in public education to participate in a “Walk-in,” where all interested people could celebrate what is great about our public schools, talk about the needs our schools have, commit to doing their part to better our schools, and walk into the building together.
At Heritage High School, about 100 people gathered at 6:55am to talk about how great their school is as well as point out that there are some tools that are missing and a program being cut that denies the first class education the students at HHS deserve. Heritage High School had traditionally been an AVID school. AVID programs throughout the country help the typical student, who with a little push, succeed in school and go on to earn a college degree. AVID was funded by a grant that dried up. In an effort to provide this service to students, a new program was formed at HHS called Gateway to College. Unfortunately, with that program being grant funded as well, and not funded by the district or the state, a decision was made to end the Gateway to College program at HHS. Dozens of students were at the Walk-in with signs asking to save the program. A couple students took to the mic, asking the district to step up and fund this program, meeting their needs as students.
Not just programs, but additional tools are needed to give Heritage students the education they deserve. Right now there are around 1,800 students at HHS but only five counselors. In addition to counseling students thus improving their mental wellbeing so school can be a priority, these same counselors are asked to do everything from monitoring grades, making sure graduation requirements are met, helping students with their college applications, writing letters of recommendation, covering classes when there are no substitutes, and even proctoring standardized tests. We simply don’t have enough of these individuals to help our students succeed.
Similar messages of love for their school but the need for improvement were expressed at Mill Plain Elementary school. Right now it is “testing season” and Rachel, a 5th grade student at Mill Plain, took to the mic and explained that she does not need more testing, she instead needs the time that is used for testing to be educated by her teacher and to have more access to the arts. Furthermore she expressed that every child should have access to a fully stocked library and to a high quality librarian.
Everyone has to decide what role they are going to play in helping our students get the first-class education they deserve, regardless of their zip code. For our part at EEA, being a bargaining year, we have proposed several bargaining proposals that we think will aid in this endeavor. A few examples include:
- We ask the district to commit to providing quality curriculum for every class.
- Additional counselors in our schools
- We ask the district to commit to maintaining the current practices we have around Librarian staffing.
- Additional Nurses
- Smaller caseloads for our special education teachers.
- A guarantee that if a severe special education student needs a staff assistant to help him/her, one will be employed.
- Additional non-teaching staff to work with special needs students who transition into the everyday classroom.
- An end to unnecessary assessments
- We ask the district to commit to providing equitable resources in each building for our PE, Music, and Library programs.
We all love our schools here in the Evergreen School District and we all must do our part to protect and promote public education and to continue to work toward giving our students the first class education they deserve!