My apologies to Fort for infiltrating her blog space, but I feel like she is speaking to me or rather through me. I know that she would be very unhappy about the recent closing of Moraine Meadows Elementary School. She LOVED the school and, of course, loves her Mom who was affected greatly by this decision. I would consider myself a bit of an outsider to the school itself...I have never worked there or gone to school there, but I am connected to many of the teachers that were employed there. I know Pam well and I know that the MM kids and teachers were/are extended family to her. I also have had the privilege of meeting and getting to know quite a few of the other MM teachers and I am confident that they each feel the same was as Pam. The school closing has likely affected each of them much like a death would...there is shock and anger and grief...and I'm sure eventually there will be acceptance, but as in death that will come with time. Each MM team member that I have been exposed to has proved to be kind, thoughtful and generous of both their time and efforts in numerous ways. I believe that the traits I have seen from them personally are the same ones that use in their day to day teaching methods. I realize that Moraine Meadows is a small school, but good things comes in small packages and I KNOW that each child who has gone there over the past 50 years has been positively changed through their experience. This blog post serves the purpose of airing some of my frustrations in the manner and the purpose behind this school closing. Fort isn't here anymore to entertain and enlighten us with her words of wisdom and I know I can't even come close to matching her writing talent...but, like I said before, I know she would have been VERY fired up over this subject and I'm just sharing some of my perspective which I am confident she would agree with.
I'm a smart girl, but there are a few things I simply do not comprehend. I understand that the Kettering Schools Levy failed in May and that the district needs to re-evaluate their budget. BUT I'm not sure I understand how the decison to close MM saved a significant amount of money. Thankfully, no jobs or students were cut and to my knowledge the building will remain open. A figure of $500,000 in savings has been thrown out...OK, show us the breakdown??? How did displacing 150 students and all of their teachers save the district money if no salaries, students, or buildings were cut/closed? Truthfully, transportation costs will likely go up to bus the students to Southdale, right? This point is a double-edged sword where Fort's wisdom creeps into my head...no matter how bad it gets, it could always be worse...and I am very thankful that all of the students and teachers will have new homes.
My other beef with the school closing is the manner with which it was done. What kind of courtesy are the administrators providing by swooping in only 7 days before school lets out and announcing its closure? I have been employed in management roles for over 10 years and if I have learned anything its that no business of any kind can operate without its employees...and in this case, its teachers. I know that for ten years it has been rumored that MM had the potential to be closed...so WHY was there no more than 7 days of notice given? Why not say at the beginning of the school year that, "if the levy fails, the school could be closed." Why not give the teachers and parents some incentive to lobby voters to hit the pavement and encourage the community to vote YES? Wouldn't that have benefited the entire district? Why not give the teachers time to prepare students for the possibility of this change/adjustment? Or simply give MM the chance to prove its positive contribution to the district, community, and students? MM is a Hall of Fame school for a reason. It may be the smallest school, but I'd venture to say it makes one of the greatest impacts on its kids. And isn't that what education should be about...the kids????
Sure, I understand the need to make business decisions. Every company has to make them. I can't tell you how many times I have listened to people complain about their jobs or companies and the changes that get made. Change is always necessary but the method you use to make them is the key to successfully implementing them and receiving support around them. Going back to my point that you must have employees to make any business run...why is it that most organizations don't ask for feedback from its most valuable assets...its employees?? Most administrators have not been in a classroom for years and the longer they are away the easier it is to lose sight of the priorities. Providing children with a quality education is the goal. Keeping teachers happy goes a long way in having engaged teachers who are dedicated to their role as educators. Why not ask teachers what they think? When a person feels that their opinions and input are valid and heard they tend to take much more pride and ownership in their organization and career...and in turn are much greater contributors. WHY give 7 days notice and ask for ZERO input from the people with the greatest effect and most direct exposure to the kids? Even if at the end of the day it was still necessary to close MM...couldn't it have been done with less disrespect, shock value, and devastation to teachers, students and parents alike? Nothing about the approach to this situation makes logical sense to me. So why?
Why do I care? I care because the kids at MM were getting something special. I know alot of the teachers that were providing them with that extra something that they may or may not get at their new 600 student school. Is education the bottom line here or is it money? Certainly, money is a factor in any business...but I want to see the figures...where EXACTLY is the district saving $500,000 and could they have saved it somewhere more across the board without directly impacting the kids and their education? Saving $500,000 in a large school district like Kettering is a drop in the bucket...why not cut other budget line items and spread the impact and burden throughout the district instead of pinpointing only two schools? Or maybe cut some administrative costs or elimiate unnecessary administrative roles? Fort used to say about politics...If you aren't pissed off, then you just aren't paying attention...that's how I feel about this!
I don't have children yet...but I hope to someday. I also grew up in Kettering Schools and my experience was WONDERFUL! My teachers and coaches were such positive influences and my education was what I would consider far above average. I'd like to think that if I do have children they could have the same experience that I did...however, when education turns into making business decisions without weighing their impact on education and individual student attention and when schools are forced to teach toward receiving certain test scores the value gets lost in the overall experience for a child. The people that impacted me were extremely valuable to my education and development as an adult. They cared...just like I know the MM teachers do.
And finally, I want to leave you with an example that truly shows that for certain people teaching is about the kids and the love of the job and NOT about money. I recently learned of a teacher at MM that has worked there for 24 years. Take a gander as her annual salary...at least $30,000 or $40,000, right??? NOOOO...she essentially makes $1000 for roughly each year of her dedicated service...you can do the math. I know what this woman brings to her students and I know she affected EVERY SINGLE ONE at MM over the past 24 years. She went personally and professionally out of her way to add unique experiences for her kids over these years. It was not about the money....it was about the students and the love of her job. And most notably following the devastating loss of her 30 year old daughter to cancer, she got out of bed EVERY SINGLE DAY and went to work. THAT is no easy task. She has lost a second home in the past two weeks. I am sad for her and sad for every other teacher and student that has been displaced from the place they called home.