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Sharing what I have learned | GUEST OPINION
In my first year as a Director on the Marysville School Board I have often joked that I have had more to learn than the students. Now, having lived, learned and served through one highly-charged year of educational change, I would like to share with you some of what I have learned.
First, I’ve learned that our students are learning much more than me. I also have learned the joy of working with professional educators who care deeply about educating the young people of Marysville and Tulalip. From each classroom to the superintendent’s office and the school board, the focus is clear — student achievement.
Being in classrooms around the district, I have experienced a focus and educational intensity I did not experience in either my own education or in my grown children’s. Did you read fluently at the end of kindergarten? Most of our children now do. Have you taken the high school exams that our students must pass? I tried a sample online test and was challenged by both the math (more than challenged to be honest!) and the language skills expected.
I have learned that the bottom lines for students have improved despite a five-year period in which we cut nearly 20 percent from expenditures. These cuts forced larger class sizes and gave less resources and support to teachers and students.
Our student population is less privileged and more diverse than I knew. Since I moved to Marysville in 2000, the number of students of color has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent. The number of students qualifying for free or reduced lunches has climbed from 25 percent to 45 percent. The comfortable image of the Marysville School District as a small bedroom community is obsolete. As a school board member and Chaplain/Support Officer for our Police and Fire Departments I now see our city as an urban center, with all the incumbent challenges and opportunities.
I’ve learned that our educators know how to educate students. However, they are hobbled by lack of resources caused by our state Legislature’s failure to live up to its responsibility and the lower priority given to education in our society as a whole. Am I the only one who sees the irony that when school is labeled “failing” by the No Child Left Behind Act, the answer is to allot more funds to them? Surprise! With funding, we begin to see them do better. If schools had adequate resources to begin with, would we be in this situation? In Washington state, our actions and allocations have not matched our words when it comes to education funding — either in K-12 or higher education.
I have learned educating our children well will require our schools to equip students for today — and tomorrow. I had a student explain to me recently how much simpler Newtonian Physics is than Quantum Physics. Newton’s world followed constant, known rules. Quantum Physics opened a window into a scientific world where probability rules instead of certainty. We — Board, administrators, teachers, parents, community — together, must lead in this new era which is much more like Quantum Physics than Newtonian Physics. I never expected being a school board member would be undemanding, but I am learning to love the daunting challenge of creating an effective, exciting learning community in the Marysville Schools.
Finally, I’ve learned that I have much more to learn … but I’ve also been reminded that learning is one of life’s greatest joys. Our schools are about that exciting work. So am I.
Tom Albright, Marysville School Board, can be contacted via email at Thomas_albright@msvl.k12.wa.us.