This post may come across as a “stream of conscious”. I apologize ahead of time…
After witnessing Dr. Yennie’s recommendation and the many public comments at last night’s work session for the rezoning for Sullivan County Schools, I have a slightly different opinion about the entire issue. I still agree that some plan has to be put forward. Since the scenarios were put forth, I understood the scenario of combining middle school student in one current high school and high school students in the other. On some levels it makes sense. But now I know I just can’t support it. If it does indeed happen, and indications are it will for the 2014-015 school year, I will still do my best to make the transition as painless as I can for my own children. Why I changed my mind will hopefully make sense after you read my thoughts on last night.
“You have awakened a sleeping giant.” Those were the words of a South Zone speaker last night. I mention it because I find it interesting that the North Zone has been under attack by annexation and school closings for decades while Colonial Heights and South Zone citizens sat idly by and never said a word. Now that they are in the crosshairs of the board, they finally wake up. I have no ill will towards these folks though. They are trying to protect their own. It is similar to the east side of the North ignoring what was going on in the west end. As long as their schools aren’t closing and their children aren’t being shuffled around then who cares about those “other people”. This attitude will make it extremely hard for our kids to coexist in the same school. The merger will will cause much stress and anxiety.
Since everything is now up for grabs though, it is time we all come together and work to figure this out. It will take all of us. Not just the board that has been elected. They work for us and our children. It’s time we start thinking about the whole as opposed our little corner and ONLY our own children. Of course we need to protect our own, but the best way to do that is with help and support from others protecting their own. If we want our children to be safe, happy, and receive a good education, we have to work together. That will mean making some sacrifices and compromising where appropriate. Pride will need to be swallowed. I know some of us have sacrificed much already, but the pride that has been hurt by those sacrifices needs to cease being a factor in our thinking.
In all the comments I heard last night, no one put forth any real alternative suggestions other than “do nothing”. We all know that doing nothing will not help the matter. I myself did not speak. I was ready to, but the format really does little for influencing the board in my opinion. Most, if not all, on the board were not taking notes. So all they will remember is the anger and emotion. In a couple of days those things will fade in their minds. I also chose not to speak because my opinions are not popular and I do not want what I think to cause my kids any trouble at school. I will instead be sending letters, emails, and making phone calls. I did want to be present to know what was going on and show support for my children’s schools.
So what do I want out of all of this? In a perfect world I want nothing to change in the North Zone or South Zone. Most of us are happy with our children’s schools and would love to have things remain the way they are. I want that more than anything. But since it is not a perfect world, I know that we need to be prepared to walk our children through this mess and help create the next best situation. I know the numbers. I know what schools are at capacity and which are not. I know the perceived traveling, sports, teacher cuts, and community hardships that the proposed merger would create. No matter what is done, there will be people who are not happy about it. So here is what I would propose were I in a position to do so.
I would gather as much community support as I could both in the county and the city for the all of these school systems to work together for the solution. Annexation is not going away. And since our state constitution allows the cities and counties to work together in the education of our children, this would be the best long term solution. If this means one school system for all, I am for it. I know this would be an ego hit to all of our elected officials and cooperation would be tough in the beginning. Everyone naturally wants to protect their own turf. But in the long run, our kids, grandkids and generations to come would be better off for it. The silly rivalries between adults in this matter cannot trump the well-being of the regions children. Let’s get this on the table at least. It’s high time.
A few more personal “take aways” from the meeting:
- The school board, minus a couple of members is very old. I have to wonder how they can really be in touch with today’s youth and what is going on in the schools.
- Dr. Yennie is in a tough spot. While he has appeared to say things at certain times to get people off his back, he was tasked to make recommendations. That is what he did. He’s the “bad guy” to many but ultimately, these problems began long before he got here. We the people need to own these problems.
- The “partnership” between North and South parents is shaky at best. Both groups are still out to protect their own. Get it together people. And those putting to much trust in the other side, watch your back.
- I was delighted to have my youngest son, my stepson, and my youngest daughter with me to see this process. And even more delighted that all the way down to my 9 year old, they found it interesting and learned more about how society works. We all talked about it all the way home.
- I was proud of my community and the way people handled themselves. This could have easily been ugly and it wasn’t. It was tense at times, and very pointed at others, but respect was given.
- I was proud of the many young people from various schools who took the podium to speak. We have some outstanding youth here in our area.
I will end with this. Change is inevitable in every facet of our lives. How we handle it and shape it will determine how we live with it. I love my children dearly. I want only the best for them. But I also care very much about my friends and their children. No matter what the future brings, I will continue to voice my concerns and be involved. If you have children in any of these schools I encourage you to do same, even if your ideas are different than mine.