I have shied away from using ‘What’s Your Plan’ to promote a specific agenda, especially when running for a seat on the school board last Fall hoping that my voice would be heard if elected. Today, I threw it to the wind. Please forgive the shameful plug, albeit it is my opinion column. It is not my desire to fuel contention, but I do continue in the spirit of unity and cooperation.
It will not be Students First! (District Motto) if Juan Castaneda (Music teacher) and Katherine Grote (Math teacher) are not allowed to return in the Fall.
In these unprecedented times during my lifetime presented by COVID-19, Pierce Joint Unified School District looks to be going against the best interest of their students and eliminating music from the curriculum. Music programs have taken a larger share of cuts as educational spending has declined over the last few decades contrary to increased taxes and lottery money earmarked for educational dollars. Band was reintroduced into Pierce High School’s class schedule during the 2015-2016 school year. The lack of band at the high school level was surprising considering a high aptitude for music at Arbuckle Elementary and Grand Island Elementary. Many students share pleasant memories of time spent with Donna Green and Ron Rector outside reading and arithmetic.
The program has been a difficult one apart from student involvement as it has experienced music teacher turnover on par with as many years as it has been in existence. The level of commitment of administration is brought into question. Students at the Junior High have no 6th grade access to instruments or instruction and opportunities to have any additional time given to JJH students for band is non-existent. The general consensus among the musicians and their parents is that there is a lack of understanding as to the students’ needs and interests.
I have been expressing concern for six years now that the present math track is less than desirable. Some share with me that this has been the case for many years before my time. Given the present scenario, not having Grote teaching math next year will leave but one math teacher on staff with a credential. But we can hire another I hear. That means two Math teachers when Pierce needs four and I argue that they should have five.
The question being asked among us parents is one of to what extent is the district interested in our kids’ success. It is expensive to send our children to college and have them retake one or two years of classes just to be at the level they should have graduated Pierce with. The classroom has become a revolving door; kick the students out and move the teachers down the road. Teacher morale is at the lowest I have seen in years. Board Goals state that Pierce Joint Unified School District students will graduate high school college and career ready. This has continually been a frustration for students and parents alike. What does that actually mean? Students and parents are pondering if they are being failed.
It must be tough running an education system. Well, it’s tough keeping a family together and getting children equipped to play a positive role in society. I understand that there are a few tricks that play into success for both: love, respect, and communication. Students and parents would cherish the opportunity to be heard. My high school girls asked me why they would actually send two teachers that truly cared about them packing. They answered their own question. They! We are in deep trouble when the narrative switches from us to them. Godspeed.