I went to my first ever school board meeting tonight. Thanks to our crappy economy, every school district in the area is being asked to do more with less, and after eliminating all the less-painful items in the budget, our school board is being asked to make some really painful choices. Up for debate: things like kindergarten, AP and Honors classes, school librarians and social workers, vocational classes, etc. I can't imagine what a school without any of those things would look like and it makes my heart hurt for my children to think they will have to do without some of the best things about school.
I've been reading a lot lately, instead of doing any number of more productive things. My latest, and most favorite book, is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. As I'm left to ponder the state of my children's education, two quotes of John Green's keep rising to the surface of my mind.
Pain demands to be felt.
Life is not a wish-granting factory.
I know that I (and my children) actually have it a lot better than other people out there. We have free public education, which gives us the opportunity to work hard and achieve something meaningful in life. But I still can't help wanting more for myself, for my boys, for the world at large. Tom and I were both lucky to have come from school districts that were large and well-funded, that provided us every imaginable opportunity--so many opportunties, in fact, that it wasn't possible to take advantage of them all. It is with a sick, sinking feeling that I realize that opportunity is going to be in short supply for the near term, and that in order to succeed, my boys won't be allowed to have the luxury of a lacksidasical approach to those opportunities. They're going to have to be able to spot them, fight for them, and then after that, fight to keep them.
Sure, I can imagine a wonderful world where my children have unlimited choices, but Life is not a wish-granting factory. Some things are out of human control. Sometimes there is no happy ending. Translated into the kindergarten vernacular, you get what you get and you don't get upset.
But of course you do, because it's a painful realization, and as John Green also points out pain demands to be felt.
You see a lot of pain being felt at the school board meeting. People are rightfully emotional about what they see as a backslide. They know there isn't much to be done. So many of the school board's decisions are forced by a state mandates, that there's no wiggle room, and no opportunity for true out-of-the-box thinking or creativity when it comes to the budget. Everyone is pained by the decisions that have to be made, but the general consensus is that this is a pain that demands to be felt.
In the past I've been the sort of person who doesn't act when someting bothers me, but this is something I feel so strongly about, I want nothing more than to take the bull by the horns and do something. Coordinate a massive community-wide fundraiser, write a check and send it to the school, at this point I'd do anything to prevent the tragedy that is taking place in a district known for its programs, its opportunities, and its forward momentum.
I love this community and one of the things that makes it great is that there is a huge amount of community support for the schools, as well as all the other things that make Scotia-Glenville Scotia-Glenville. I keep waiting for something amazing to happen, an eleventh hour decision that makes everything right and gives us the happy ending we need.
I'll be at the meeting next week, and then the ones after that. I'm hoping that even though life isn't a wish grating factory, Scotia-Glenville is in the business of manufacturing miracles.