To the editor:
Elizabethton voters have the opportunity to affect real change with the school board election. The current board has shown a clear split between the majority, who consistently support the administration’s policies, and the minority who often question it.
In the past six years, the city schools have lost many excellent teachers and support personnel for often questionable reasons. The heart of a good school system is not its board or its administration, but its teachers and what goes on in each classroom every day. Without a positive, supportive and nurturing atmosphere for teachers, students cannot possibly receive the education they deserve. Teachers are expected to treat their students with honesty, integrity and respect and they should, in turn, be granted the same treatment from their superiors. They should be encouraged to question and explore and be full partners in the entire system, and not be afraid to question or speak up.
The Elizabethton schools have been known in the past for academic excellence. Many people say that is why we have so many students coming into the system. That can be a potentially negative factor though, as the quality of education cannot be maintained with overcrowding as a result. All three elementary schools are overcrowded at present, yet the incumbent board member, who is seeking another term (Mrs. Booher), has been quoted as saying that “…we are not experiencing overcrowding in Elizabethton (schools).” She speaks of the positive aspects of “mobile/portable” classrooms when referring to art, music and computer classes (now on carts). This has translated into the music teacher pushing around a grocery cart from room to room in one school and often art classes also being moved constantly. Mrs. Booher also states that “classroom spaces are being used for academic classes.” Most people today consider computer skills, art and music to be equally “academic” classes as well. These classes used to have their own rooms so at one time previous school boards must have thought so, as well.
Voters should read, listen and question all the candidates and base their votes on who they think will best address the needs of all the students as well as the teachers. It is always tempting to vote for someone we know personally, but the issues are much greater here.
The school board has a direct effect on all of the schools through setting and enforcing the best policies for the children of Elizabethton. It is also the school board’s job to help create the most positive atmosphere in the schools possible. Board members should also be willing to visit the schools often, talk with teachers and perhaps students and find out what needs are and are not being met.
If we allow and encourage the teachers to teach and not discourage their input and make them feel valued and an integral part of the team, the entire system will benefit, rather than marginalize and discount their valuable input.
All the candidates have stated their views — two seem to think a new direction is needed and have stated as such. Sharon Lynch Skeens and Chuck Madgett have articulated their desire to re-emphasize academics over the current administration’s push for a new sports complex and new ball fields.
The students of Elizabethton deserve the best possible academic education possible and the taxpayers deserve to know that their money is being spent where it is needed the most and will benefit the most students. And, the teachers need to feel and know that they are valued and respected and their opinions matter.
-Susan J. Peters, Elizabethton