On Tuesday, I received an email with a link to a YouTube video from the superintendent of our hometown, where my daughter is a kindergartener. I thought maybe it was a holiday message. Had there been an incident we hadn’t heard about?
I was not prepared for the message. The superintendent explained that due to cuts at the state level and difficulties negotiating with unions, she would be laying off 40 teachers in January. I rewatched the video, thinking I must have misheard the message. Who lays teachers off midyear? What other options had been explored?
At a loss for what I could do, one lone worried parent, not one to voluntarily get involved in conflict or controversary- I drafted a letter to the superintendent. I felt better. I felt like maybe my opinions, my voice could matter.
When I told my husband about it and asked if he thought I should send the email, he said “as long as you’re prepared for the repercussions.” That wasn’t the response I was hoping for. I saved the draft and sat on it for a few days.
On Saturday morning, a list of the proposed teacher cuts leaked through social media. Nine reading specialists, all of the elementary library media specialists, a handful of classroom teachers, as well as special area and a slew of teachers at the secondary level.
As I let the news sink in and as I thought about all of the implications, so many emotions rose up inside. I see the problem from the array of lenses involved. The town, the teachers, the parents. But the lens that had me most perturbed was that of the students. How do you explain to kids that the only solution to a monetary problem is to take away people, classes, and supports that are now a part of their daily lives? How do you explain to kids that their school librarian no longer works in their school? Her job wasn’t important enough. Same for some of the reading teachers. Band. PE. Oh, classroom teachers too. That community you’re finally settling into, will be shaken up come mid January.
Fired up once again, I went to the drafts folder in my email and reread my letter. I fixed it up a bit and then saved again without sending. But it kept calling to me. I opened the email one last time and hit send before I had time to rethink the decision again. My words were out there and I wasn’t ready to stop there. I revised and reworked the letter and sent it to every town council member, board of education member, and the mayor.
I usually write to recount joy. But this week I’m writing to have my voice heard. It may not make a difference but it feels better than having those words live in my draft email folder.