Letter: Disappointing Budget Vote

Letter: Disappointing Budget Vote

Letter to the Editor

The following open letter was addressed to Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland.

I was so disappointed to read the Board of Supervisors' decision on the Fairfax County Public Schools budget. I am a Fairfax County homeowner, and a 15-year veteran of the school system. I have worked here my entire career teaching children in the classroom, coaching teachers, and providing professional learning. I am so proud to work for this system. I love the Title I school I work in, and am so impressed with the work we do for students every day. I am so proud of the work we do, I even pupil place my daughter in school with me.

And yet, every year, I see the challenges before us grow while the staffing and materials shrink. I teach children that come to school every day homeless, hungry, with limited language exposure, and an eagerness to learn and grow that is nothing less than inspiring.

I work with amazing educators. They work collaboratively and continue to engage in professional learning to refine their practice. Administrators work alongside me to provide exceptional accommodations to children that need them. The gains my students have made this year have been hard-fought.

As we begin to bring this year to a close and look forward to next year, we are learning that many of students might fail to meet the arbitrary mark set by the state for their achievement. This is disheartening, since we know children who made more than a year's worth of progress in reading this year will still look like failures according to this singular measure. Students who were working on counting to 20 at the beginning of the year and who can now break apart three digit numbers and combine them are deemed "not meeting benchmark." We learned that while we would be under even more scrutiny, there was no promise of more support. Even still, we did what we always do. We started thinking about how we could work smarter. How could we find support and resources from the community? How could we streamline instruction to focus more on areas of need? How could we sustain an engaging and meaningful curriculum while covering the breadth of content?

Imagine then, how crestfallen I was to read that the Board of Supervisors voted not to fully fund FCPS. I am now facing this challenge with even fewer resources than I had this year.

I take this vote as a direct attack, Mr. Hyland. It communicates a belief that the needs of the students aren't being met because school staff just aren't working hard enough, not because they need more help or more resources. It communicates that you don't care about the least of this community, and for the first time, I'm deeply ashamed to be part of this system.

I worked for a principal once who held the mantra, "We do the difficult every day. The impossible just takes a little longer." I put this mantra to you, Mr. Hyland, and to your colleagues. I am a homeowner. I'm willing to pitch in more to support my colleagues and my community by paying a little more. I need you to do the impossible, and convince others that it's time to do the same. I need you to help me do the hard work that I so love.

Kate Kirkland