OPINION: School board politics aside, it’s about the children
Free Press Opinion Columnist
Granted, it can be torturous at times, but one of my favorite things is the time I spend chauffeuring teens back and forth across the Grand Valley. They can be very demanding and downright obnoxious. There are even some for whom I must use my parental controls to keep the windows tightly sealed and their hands and comments confined to the car. They insist on blaring their mind-numbing music and singing along as if they’re performing a live concert without microphones. They rarely give me adequate notice about when I’m driving or where, and it seems like there’s always a stray kid needing a lift.
Last week, we had a particularly entertaining trip. I pulled up in front of Grand Junction High School and a hoard of kids piled into the car. One of them, apparently the school mascot, carried a giant orange plastic bag, which was too big for a small car, as well as an immense tiger head. He was very polite and appreciative, even shaking my hand when he introduced himself to me. I forgot his name but figured someone could remind me after we dropped him off. I felt compensated for my time with the laugh I had when he got out of the car and one of the kids said, “Does anyone even know that guy?”
That young man, who lives six miles from school and carried a load bigger than himself, had been planning on walking home that day. He got me thinking about the changes I’ve seen in School District 51 in the 13 years I’ve had kids going to school here. I miss the days when my little boy’s enthusiasm for school had him leaping out of bed to get ready hours before school started, and I began setting his alarm clock with the rule that he couldn’t get up until his alarm buzzed.
Since then, much has changed. Student funding continues to decline and classroom fees increase every year. Parents are asked to buy materials for their own students as well as those who can’t afford them. Some classrooms are so crowded it’s not unusual for students to sit on floors and countertops. Bus routes have been cut and some kids are walking long distances through busy traffic or desolate areas where they shouldn’t be walking alone. They’re loaded down with homework, instruments and class projects. My 100-pound daughter carries a bass guitar and a 30-pound backpack filled with textbooks. Everything seems to be about test scores and “extras” like art and tech education have been gutted. For many students, nothing pleasurable is left.
If, as adults, we care at all about the future, we owe it to our community to learn the truth about our schools and to participate in positive change. A good place to start is with the award-winning documentary, “Reformed,” playing at the Mesa Theater 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7. The film documents the devastating effects politics have had on Colorado Springs schools and demonstrates why we should be leery of school board candidates who are endorsed by political parties. The Nov. 5 election is a big deal for our kids and our community. The ballot includes two issues addressing school funding and three school board positions.
Kids in our community are trying hard to be good students and citizens, and that is why I find such pleasure in helping them out. They may forget to thank us for all the things we do for them; still, though, they are awesome human beings who deserve more than we’re offering. It doesn’t matter if they’re not our own kids; these kids are our future. They’re going to be our doctors, lawyers, engineers and President of the United States. Someday, they are going to take care of us and make decisions that dictate our lives. Surely, we can afford the effort it will take to improve our schools and provide our kids with the opportunities we had and which they deserve, too.
Robyn Parker of Grand Junction may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Parker is a former talk radio host for Grand Valley Live which aired from September 2012 to March 2013 on 97.7 FM.
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