You are six years old and it’s your first day of school. Your parents wave goodbye as you get on the bus. You are excited, thinking of all the new things in store, all the friends you’ll make.
At first, everything seems great! But then you go to your classroom. It’s tiny and it doesn’t have any windows. You feel your heart sink.
You have been looking forward to meeting your teacher, but she doesn’t seem to have time for you. There are too many other kids, and most of them need a lot of attention. When you ask your teacher for help, she seems distracted, even a little angry.
School is not the way you thought it would be. You want to go home.
This is the reality when a school is “over capacity.” That dry, bureaucratic word doesn’t begin to describe the real impact on our young students.
But is redistricting the solution? Or is it a simple, unimaginative quick fix?
Now, consider this scenario:
You are 14 and it’s your first day of high school. All your life you’ve known what a big step you are taking. You’re excited, nervous and a little afraid. But you’re looking forward to growing up with your friends, taking part in activities, and being part of the neighborhood community. But it’s still dark when you wake up on that first morning, and you’re still sleepy when you climb onto the bus.
The ride takes almost 90 minutes. You don’t recognize anyone getting picked up along the way. In fact, no one seems to know anyone. During the bumpy ride in the dark surrounded by strangers, you realize the trip home will be just as long, and it will be like this every day. This is not what growing up in your community was supposed to be!
This is the reality of “balancing” school populations by transporting students further from their homes and neighborhoods than necessary.
Clearly, the proposals put forward for rectifying problems of planning and process in Howard County’s schools have a way of punishing the innocent: the students whose educational well-being is the entire point.
Instead of the same old Band-Aids slapped on problems of our making, our young people deserve commitment and imagination.
It’s a matter of leadership.
If our students had age-appropriate technology that made learning intuitive and fun, we might see more enthusiasm and success in their lives. Maybe we’d find new ways to educate them that relies less on who goes to school where.
If we ask ourselves every day how to lessen – not increase – the burden on our classroom teachers, perhaps students will discover teachers have the extra time that can make all the difference.
These are just two examples of tactical and visionary possibilities our Board has failed to consider. It’s not because they don’t care about our students. I firmly believe they do.
It’s about a lack of leadership.
Electing new board members and making a change in the superintendent’s office are significant steps in the right direction, but the change is not complete. We also need leadership on the Board so that we open the door to imagination and consider bold new solutions. We need a visionary approach so that in the midst of challenge, we see opportunities for fresh approaches.
During my campaign for the Board of Education, I intend to demonstrate leadership and respect all voices wanting change that improves the lives of our children.
Redistricting is just one of many important issues we need to address together.
I welcome your thoughts and ideas.