LTTE: Beaming Parent Asks Madison School Board to Focus on Issues; No political policy games

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While the school board has focused on changing names on calendars and creating problems where there are none, our schools are still dealing with real problems with no focus or solutions from the school board.

Our schools experienced a major budget shortfall this year, and while the board could potentially use our membership in the Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) to lobby for more money for our county, this has not been mentioned as a solution.

The VSBA is a nonpartisan organization that helps primarily rural areas with collective bargaining for disadvantaged communities like ours. Shouldn’t we at least have a discussion about using this powerful statewide resource to amplify our needs?

Our teachers face a seriously understaffed school system. We have empty classrooms in our brand new primary school because there are no teachers to fill them. We are losing more teachers than we can hire and there is no discussion at board meetings about ways to attract and retain qualified teachers.

Many classes are taught by substitutes who are not qualified for their positions, and other classes are combined, leading to class sizes that are larger than the state average. This staff reduction trickles down to overworked, burned-out teachers who cannot perform optimally, and students who suffer as a result.

Bullying is on the rise because higher student-to-staff ratios make monitoring student behavior more difficult. Why doesn’t our administration make every effort to hire and retain excellent faculty and staff?

Our teachers and administrators do their best, but when they are vilified by an unsupportive school board, paid less than surrounding counties, and forced to perform additional duties without additional pay, they ultimately leave our county for others.

Despite this lack of support, efforts are being made to improve literacy, including a new phonics-based curriculum that has been proven to improve literacy rates. Why isn’t our board making sure they are doing everything they can to support this new positive initiative?

One parent recently discovered that lead levels in several school water fountains were found to be unsafe in 2017. When this information was brought to the board’s attention, no answers were given and they continued to talk about the holiday naming policy.

Board member Charlie Sheads Jr. then proceeded to attack concerned community members on social media for bringing it up instead of offering solutions.

Why doesn’t our board make current lead levels public and ensure we resolve any remaining issues?

I think I know the answer. Still, I hope this administration will prove me wrong and put their focus on real issues that impact our community, instead of grandstanding and breaking down systems that aren’t broken.

They have proven that when they are motivated, they can get things done quickly. I wish our students were what motivated them, safety and education.

-Devlyn D’Alfonzo

Radiant

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