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‘No thank you. I don’t like that.’

Published 10:39pm Friday, April 11, 2014

By Timothy Kubinak

For all the training, teaching, and routine-building I do with my young son, he never ceases to surprise me and sometimes even teach me something new.

When he is wronged in some way, my 3-year-old will say, “No thank you! I don’t like that.” He has learned to articulate his feelings and use information from a situation. Maybe it’s time for his father to do the same.

In reference to the City Council’s refusal to fully fund the Suffolk Public Schools budget for the next fiscal year, for the years of petty bonuses and partially funded budgets, and for the budget slashing that we do annually at the cost of our students and livelihoods, I say, “No thank you! I don’t like this.”

As a 10-year resident and educator in Suffolk, I have seen a steady decline in the level of support for education by City Council. While some of the decline in financial support is attributable to the recent economic downturn, the behavior of this council is not subject to the whims of the real estate or stock markets. While I will not speak for every stakeholder, the prevailing opinion of most is that this council is not a friend of education.

In order for Suffolk to save money and reduce borrowing costs, it seeks a AAA bond rating from one or more of the credit rating agencies. I’m just a math teacher, but I know a successful city government balances advances in infrastructure, essential services and education.

Cities like Chesapeake and Virginia Beach have achieved balance, maintained it and serve as models for other cities in sustainable growth. We are not there yet. We will not be there until this council fully funds education, an area that impacts 14,000 children and their families that have a vested interest in this city.

Suffolk Public Schools is at a crossroads as it tries to retain its most talented early- and mid-career teachers in the midst of dismal compensation rates. Some call it “brain drain” — the departure of individuals with technical skills or knowledge.

Last year, in my school alone, a third of all faculty left for positions outside the district, or even left the profession altogether. This year, by March, I already knew of several of my colleagues who were actively seeking employment elsewhere. They have a singular complaint: This council does not value its teachers.

It is NOT a great day to be in Suffolk, if you are an educator.

When the council engages in unfair compensation practices, a bait-and-switch system of elevated tax rates and decreased real estate assessments, and “pass the buck” blame for the schools budget in an era of increased technological need and deteriorating infrastructure, the AAA rating that is being courted cannot be further from grasp.

I love my job. This sentiment is sometimes lost in rhetoric when one only has a brief moment to make an impression on a body that has no real connection to me, my colleagues or my vocation. I didn’t put myself through college in order to earn millions in education. I arrive early and leave late for kids — no matter the school, the building, the administration or the materials.

I will be an educator for the rest of my life. I want to do that in Suffolk. A council that does not value education will lose talented teachers. We won’t stop teaching children. We’ll just have to do it elsewhere.

Tim Kubinak teaches at John Yeates Middle School. He is a Fellow with the Siemens STEM Institute and a participant in the NASA LEARN Program. Email him at timothykubinak@spsk12.net.

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  • tuxladi

    Kudos to Mr. Kubinak! Be careful and watch your back. SPS has a nasty habit of targeting teachers who speak out against the issues going on in “their” (SPS’s) schools. Support in education, for both teachers and students, has been on the decline for years. Unfortunately, this is happening nationwide. The big question in many districts is; if the public knows the councils, school boards and administrations are not friends of education, then why do these people keep getting voted into office? Suffolk went on a search less than 10 ago to reel in the best and the brightest, only to use and discard them like trash. Teachers love their jobs, but are tired of being described as “do-nothing whiners” that are in teaching for “short days” and “summers off.” What other profession would allow its highly educated and extremely dedicated members to have their character and work ethic questioned? It is NOT a great day to be an educator in Suffolk, or anywhere else in the nation. If anyone would like more information on the state of education, find online or Facebook groups like National Opt Out, the Badass Teachers Association or Lace to the Top. Do a quick Google search with the keywords “Pearson,” “Common Core,” “Koch Brothers,” “Gates Foundation,” and follow the money trail. Educators and activists like Diane Ravitch, Mark Naison, and Kevin Glynn are diligently working toward notifying the general public of what is truly going on in our schools and with taxpayer monies. Help bring the “public” back to public education!!

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