As you well know !
I am a former substitute teacher and parent volunteer in the WPSD for many years. My husband is the former athletic director of WPSD and is now a track coach at the Air Force Academy. My family has operated Blue Mountain Ranch summer camp in Florissant since 1946. During the time I was involved, I served on numerous school and district committees with many other citizens and not once did anyone mention their party affiliation. This includes one for superintendent and another for input in new State of Colorado standards. We worked together collaboratively for the betterment of the school district.Every school building has a heartbeat — a pulse if you will. You feel it as the faculty arrives in the morning to greet the maintenance staff, the kitchen staff and each other. The crossing guards wave at each car. They are a team. It really gets strong when the kids arrive with their happiness and energy. At the high school you start to hear kids playing instruments, laughing, and you hear basketballs hitting the court. The pulse is full on. After school, the halls ring with the sounds of so many activities — theatre, Madrigals, athletics. And the weekends are no different. Crowds fill the halls with forensic meets and basketball games. Parents and teachers sponsor events so they can happen. Students graduate and come back to work at their alma mater. Human relationships are strong and invaluable, and the school/community relationship is significant for both parts.The process of education can’t be compared to business or a production line. Each child comes from a different set of circumstances. Of 25 students entering a classroom, there will be high achieving children with strong academic skills as well as those with complex behavioral needs, not to mention learning differences like dyslexia. That’s just for starters.Our children had their lives turned upside down by the pandemic, and they need their school homes to be stable. There will also be children with problems at home or food insufficiency, and some whose families value education and some who don’t. A teacher is asked to teach ALL these children, keeping academic standards in mind, and to monitor their mental and physical conditions as well; to know them as individuals and to be mindful of their needs. They are asked literally to be prepared to save their lives.In manufacturing production, all components are exactly equal. All products are exactly the same. What you are going for is more product, faster. These components will never love you or appreciate what you have done for them. The children will. They know the teachers love them. This is from the parents of one of my husband’s students: “I know you have directed, encouraged and bolstered her spirit through it all. As parents, words are not enough!”I am sure that everyone can think of at least one teacher who was an influence in their life. So why the lack of respect for the profession?I know for a fact that there has been a concerted effort for several years to demonize public education and teachers in particular. I started receiving articles about this two years ago. When I got down to researching these articles, I found that the source itself cited dissolution of public education as a goal on its website. Key words in the articles are critical race theory, leftists, sexualization of children, socialism and radical. These words are shocking, and the more one hears these key phrases, the more one thinks it must be true.Of the articles I saw, most were untrue or at the very least a misrepresentation of the facts. A teacher in Rhode Island did this. One in California did that. People were enraged by the emotional headlines. It must be happening everywhere. This information was passed along the internet making people angry all over the country. There are over 100,000 public schools in the United States employing 3.5 million teachers. You don’t hear about the good all these people are doing. You do hear about the few who have done something inappropriate.None of these things has happened in Woodland Park.Why do teachers even need a union?When I first started teaching in 1976, my father, a conservative Republican from Texas, told me to join the union. He was a teacher/coach for 35 years, and they never had personal or sick days. He had to ask permission from the principal to attend the funeral of a man who was like a father to him. The principal denied his request as he had already been to two funerals that year, for both of my grandmothers. It was an unusual circumstance. He was powerless even though he only took one sick day in 24 years in the Ft. Worth ISD. The union is there to be the voice of the teachers on salaries and work place issues.The teachers need our support and understanding so they can stop worrying about what might happen in the district and get back to enjoying their life’s work. Then the pulse of the school, which is also a huge component of the heartbeat of our community, can be strong. A school board is supposed to work with district employees to help children fulfill their diverse potential and to enable students to become well-rounded individuals.The board is charged with the education, welfare and health of other people’s children. People’s most precious possessions are in their hands. They must think not just about their own children but all children. Their fingers are on the pulse of the schools. If they push too hard, it stops.Suzie Allen Graf is a Florissant resident.
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