Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Public Comment.

I did what I could tonight.  I gave voice to the storm that has been raging inside my heart for two weeks, battering me against the shore, easing off for a few moments, then walloping me again.  It is such a uniquely desperate feeling to fight for something over which I have absolutely no control.

Tonight was a family effort.  My mom, still recovering from oral surgery, put kids to bed so that Jeff, my dad, and I could attend the Board of Supervisors meeting together.  She encouraged us with the reminder that "speaking truth to power is never easy, always worth doing."  My dad preceded me in delivering his own comments to the board, and his delivery was passionate and forceful, with the perfect balance of clever wit and hard facts.  We were a good tag team, and in his emphatic and direct delivery, he gave me the courage to be a bit more assertive and forceful in my own.

My Public Comment delivered to the Board of Supervisors tonight:

My name is Anne Carter.  I hold a current teaching license in Virginia, and I serve on the PTO Board of Central Elementary School where the oldest of my three children attends.

As you may know, Central prides itself on creating students who are STARS - an acronym for the following character-building traits:
     Show Citizenship
     Take Responsibility
     Act Kindly
     Respect Others
     Stay Safe.

Tonight, it is the "Take Responsibility" that concerns me most.  When you, the Board of Supervisors, failed to approve a tax rate of $0.68, you made a very grave error.  Your 11th hour decision was made behind closed doors after a "small group of concerned citizens" persuaded you with their "data" to slash funds from our school budget, despite months of previous planning to the contrary.

Well, please hear me when I say this.  Gathered in this room tonight is another "small group of concerned citizens."  Tonight, I ask you to listen to the data that WE present, that you listen to OUR voice.  Additionally, I hope that you lead by example for our students; that you take responsibility for this grave mistake you have made.  And that you make it right.

Your decision to approve a drastically reduced tax rate will produce a ripple effect in this community, one that may start as a single wave but promises to swell into a full-blown tsunami.

Your decision denies programs to support the marginalized and under-served populations in our community, including illiterate adults; at-risk preschoolers; elderly and disabled folk who rely on JABA and JAUNT.

Your decision denies access to the state-of-the-art high school that finally mirrors the excellence that has been cultivated for years by the administration, teachers, and staff at our high school.

Your decision will force underpaid teachers to work on furlough, teaching in classrooms - or trailers - with increasing class size coupled with decreasing resources and materials.

Your decision undermines every single character trait we hope to cultivate in our students - citizenship; responsibility; kindness; respect; safety.

Your decision is your failure to invest in our schools, our staff, our children.  It is your failure to invest in our future.

Some have suggested "compromises" to the school budget.  This is difficult for me to accept, because as far as I am concerned, there is no compromise when it comes to the education of our students.  You cannot compromise excellence.  You cannot compromise the future of our children.  But your actions are forcing us to do just that.

Therefore, I implore you to take responsibility for your grave mistake, and attempt to repair the problem you have created by reallocating funds in order to implement the plan detailed by our Superintendent earlier this evening.  In doing so, you will demonstrate your commitment to our students, your investment into their future.

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