The “Whole Child” platform is not Every Child First! Mines is.
Larry Pretlow II
Beware of those candidates who talk about the "Whole Child" - it's a flat out manipulation tactic intended to get between parents and their children. The public school system is about educating our children and not determining their personalities for them.
For so long, many politicians have wedged government between Parent and Child. The role of the public school system is to meet the individual learning needs of all students without inconvenience to students, to provide every child the same opportunity to gain conceptual skills, nourish and advance their potential through academic enrichment (including Music education and the discipline of Athletics).
It is the job of the county council to focus on the socio-economic needs of communities to develop practical solutions to improve the quality of life for residents. The Board of Education focuses on the “individual needs” of every student.
Students and parents go hand-in-hand, so relocating students should never happen without consideration of their parent's ability to tend to their child in everyday moments, given the reality of today’s world. Therefore, we must increase the opportunities and full consideration of community input (teachers, parents, and students).
Title 1 Schools & Demographics
The Board of Education is accountable in education policy and putting the resources where needed to serve our children (the customers of the county’s public schools system). We seem to miss the distinctive fact: Title 1 schools also require support and intervention needs that may differ from another school community. When we restructure school attendance areas based on the socio-economic status of the school population (impacting a Title 1 demographic), we make it harder to dedicate needed resources to our Title 1 schools directly - this is a disservice to communities where the concentrated population requires this necessary intervention. I would never support cuts to Title 1 funding; however, we should want to increase funding to our Title 1 program (when possible) to meet the individual needs of Title 1 students and not as a result of spreading those students throughout the county.
The goal is not to concentrate Title 1 students; the responsibility is to recognize that Title 1 funding is a collective of local and limited federal funding, for which Title 1 needs cannot drop below 40% at Title 1 schools.
In concern to education policy: I do not support concentrating any demographics by need into any one area. However, I also do not recommend disrupting communities to address the county’s socio-economic disparities - this is a call for resources not the relocation of our children. Equity is best when we don’t surrender to the burdens placed on us by the failures of our leadership. Equity serves when we dedicate intervention and enrichment assistance where it is needed. Equity is best fought for when our county council builds up neighborhoods with opportunities to improve the possibilities for and not decide the decisions of residents, parents, and families.
While FARMs does not reflect the intelligence of a child, it also doesn’t precisely reflect the full economic ability or inability of a household. We automatically and statistically assume the most impoverished families are the only recipients of FARMs. However, while we consider FARMs recipients to be neediest, why would we ever resort to moving students to schools the farthermost distance away from their homes. Students who live in a household where their parents are already struggling economically. Household statistics classify as poor.
Redistricting: The Polygon 96 Effect
We must focus on capacity because that is within the purview of the Board of Education. While the county does have socio-economic disparities, the public school system must serve children where they live and is not to be held accountable for the socioeconomic status of the school population, except for the role to meet individual student needs without inconveniences to the student.
While we must remember what we do to students, we do it to parents. The intent might be to serve the student better, but could negatively impact their household - this is a primary reason why I don’t support redistricting using socioeconomic status as a factor. More often, a student in need of support and intervention (including Title 1 needs) already lives in proximity to a Title 1 school in their neighborhood. If not, that particular failure is on the county council. We should serve students in any specific circumstances as conveniently to the student and household as possible.
In Oakland Mills, there’s Stevens Forest ES and Talbot Springs ES. The two schools mainly separated by the Oakland Mills Village Center and Kilimanjaro Rd. Both schools have served the concentrated affordable housing population in Oakland Mills. Currently, most of the students living in the apartment home section of Oakland Mills attend Stevens Forest ES - which increased the school's FARMs rate. Many supporters of redistricting based on FARMs rates seemed to be more displeased that the polygon 1,110 and 96 populations concentrated to SFES which made the school considered “high-poverty.” I stressed, that unless we are concerned about property values near SFES, we should not support any plan that moves polygon 96 to Thunder Hill ES and not to TSES. For those concerned with socioeconomic segregation between the schools, neither method solves anything for the families. Otherwise, the school is their neighborhood school too.
My son and I live in polygon 1,110. Next door is polygon 96. Our apartment complex splits between the two polygons. Previously, redistricting has moved these polygons together and separately, at times, between SFES and TSES. Like many residents, I believe, no plan should ever send either of these polygons across a natural boundary, a highway (175) to Thunder Hill ES.
The distances between polygons 1,110 & 96, SFES and TSES, are so close in proximity that Thunder Hill ES is out of the question. THES is a non-factor since it would risk walker safety, inconvenience struggling and working parents, put additional buses on the roads in a walker area and 175; and potentially decrease already limited parental involvement. These two polygons should be attending Talbot Springs ES. And so, Stevens Forest ES should be the only other school considered for these polygons when adjusting the school attendance areas.
To alleviate overcrowding, we have to make sure that no adjustments to school attendance areas ever happens the way it’s happened to polygon 96. We can look at this situation, in addition to others, as guiding principles in how not to draw the lines. We must also consider increasing school capacity (not overcrowding) where possible to keep communities together.
There is money to do what is needed and there are unexplored future partnerships to be created to deliver on a commitment to serve our children through excellence in customer service in great schools in their communities. Our school budget must be reviewed with a fine-tooth comb, and presented for comprehension without the requirement of having to be an accountant. We have to consider community and teacher input to arrive at viable decisions to determine what cuts to make to our school budget. We should only increase our school budget when necessary after review of all line items and input considered.
Every Child First! And not “Whole Child” indoctrination
Don't allow the politicians to lead you to believe the government's responsibility to provide resources and opportunities that increase sustainable living, financial ability, public safety, and public health, means raising your child. As a parent, you teach your child the values of your household. You know what is best for your child. We should never force views and opinions on other people’s children.
Through education policy, we can collaborate to increase parental involvement, but not to engage between Parent and Child. Through the art of teaching, educators will always build interpersonal bonds with the students in their classrooms and school communities, but there should never be any attempts to sway a child’s political views at school.
Before you cast a vote, please understand the role of the Board of Education and the role of the County Government - while they can work together to serve our children and communities, their authority is not the same.
No matter what your political party affiliation is or isn’t, EVERY CHILD FIRST!
Published February 20, 2020