Save our schools — don’t leave public education behind

Posted 10/23/18

I grew up in Wilson County public schools, attending B.O. Barnes, Hearne, Forest Hills and Hunt High School from 1988-2000. Wilson County Schools were a stabilizing force for me when things were not …

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Save our schools — don’t leave public education behind

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I grew up in Wilson County public schools, attending B.O. Barnes, Hearne, Forest Hills and Hunt High School from 1988-2000. Wilson County Schools were a stabilizing force for me when things were not ideal at home. I had a lot of different teachers who were definitely of varying skill levels in terms of “effectiveness,” but the ones I remember the most, the ones who made the most measurable impact on my life, were the ones who were kind and encouraging, and who made me feel safe.

From Mrs. Sauls, my first-grade teacher at B.O. Barnes, to Mrs. Proctor, my AP English teacher at Hunt, I had a lot of really wonderful teachers who made a difference in my life. That’s why it was not a difficult decision for me to choose teaching as my profession. What a blessing to be in a position in life to try and recreate the positive experience that changed my life for other children.

This past week was the first time since beginning teaching in 2004 I made a bunch of children in my care cry. Due to low enrollment, they have had to move staff around in the building and to other schools, and my class was one of those that was broken up. We broke the news Thursday afternoon after a fun field trip to Raleigh. Our class was going to be absorbed by the two other fourth-grade classes, and the change of mood was crushing.

Friday was my last day with my fourth-grade class. Several of the kids came in saying that because of what was happening, their parents wanted to put them in a charter school, and I wanted to tell them that it is because of students leaving public schools that this was happening, but I didn’t, because that’s not the kind of thing a teacher should say to a student. But it is true, and as a result, children across Wilson have come home in tears because they are losing their teachers.

Some of my students, who were clearly inspired by the field trip to the General Assembly, asked what they could do to save our class. Would writing letters help? Was there an amount of money they could raise? Their sense of purpose inspired me to write this letter.

Parents of students in Wilson County Schools, please consider sending your children back to public schools. The public school system is suffering from starvation, not obsolescence!

There was a time when our public education system was the jewel of our American democracy. It is the noblest mission to provide a free and appropriate education to ALL children in our communities. If the public education system is allowed to fail, it will be the most vulnerable members of this community who suffer the most — children from the poorest families, children from the most troubled families and children with disabilities.

While charter schools are technically “public” schools, they have the ability to deny students entry. If we want to build a strong community, we have to build with every piece. We can’t leave out the ones that don’t fit a certain mold, and that is exactly what will happen if the public school system is allowed to famish.

Parents, please don’t give up on us. We won’t give up on your children. Teachers all across this county had their last day with their classes on Friday and will be starting work with new classes, grade levels and subjects on Monday. We are working all weekend to prepare for the transition so that we can do our best to make things right for the children in this difficult situation because your children are important!

It is my belief that a public school is the heart of a community, but you and your children are what keeps that heart beating.

Support an inclusive vision of education that seeks to serve ALL children by enrolling your children in public school.

Save our schools so they will be here to serve future generations. And as for me, I will draw inspiration from my fourth-graders, and keep asking myself what I can do to make things better.

Mahalia Breen