I write this was a heavy heart. Unfortunately, I have not seen any headway made since the current School Committee was elected seven months ago. In fact, I feel like we have gone backwards. I try to keep an open mind and see situations from all angles. Many parents like me do, and are, paying attention, attend the SC meetings that they can, and listen to the recorded SC meetings when carting their children around town, but it is impossible to keep up on every tiny detail, facility plan change, and budget cut. I believe many do not speak up for fear of being criticized for not knowing every data point.
After listening to all of the passionate, concerned community remarks during the last committee meeting, my heart sank. Lily Schofield and Jess Macinanti spoke passionately as did others about the music and drama programs. I know how amazing Fritz Benz is because he was the band director when I was a student at North Smithfield High School. Music is the core of many children’s lives. It is the escape needed when they are stressed, depressed or feeling alone. The thought of music, library, PE, health, drama, Spanish and other programs being cut from our children’s’ curriculum is heartbreaking. My eight-year-old’s favorite days of the week are Thursday and Friday when she has gym class with Mr. Lavallee at Matunuck Elementary. Although she is not in a DLI program, she thoroughly enjoys exposure to the language through her class every other Monday. She adores Mrs. Blakeney, her art teacher, and looks forward to that time each week as well. These cuts, these savings that we could generate through consolidation, are a hefty price to pay and will decrease the quality of education for all students. Instead, we will have half-empty classes with less educational opportunities.
I also have a freshman at the high school. It was sad to see many of his friends and classmates whom he had grown up with since elementary school opt to go to different high schools this year. Sports, better pathway programs, career tech options, and more individualized college prep were all reasons given for making their decisions. I have asked my son several times amidst the chaos this year, if he would like to check out other high schools for next year and his answer is no. Why? Because his friends are at SKHS, his beloved teachers at SKHS, and he is happy where he is. The point is, it doesn’t matter what building students are in. It matters who is inside those building walls. Teachers spends more time per day with our children than we do as parents. We want the best educators for our children and we are cutting some critical positions.
Yes, we are in the worst budget crisis SK schools has ever seen. Yes, the School Committee did inherit this problem. I don’t envy you at all or the work you have cut out for you. I appreciate and respect all of the time you have given up for our students. However, I also believe in being responsible. My biggest concern is that the quality of our kids’ education is being affected because of the quantity of schools. Raising taxes is not the answer. Keeping schools open for the sake of fulfilling an election promise is not the answer. The decision to spread less resources across more schools is an irresponsible one. We need to collectively consolidate, restructure, and focus our efforts on retaining our student population and giving them the best education experience possible because they deserve no less. I urge the School Committee to reevaluate the data given multiple times and consider school consolidation once again.