• 66°

What teachers are saying

Along with all the talk about what’s going on with Suffolk’s budget, precious little attention has been paid to what’s going on in the schools, apart from whether or not to fully fund the school board’s request.

I received the following email on Friday from someone who appears to be a Suffolk school teacher. Its interesting reading. I’ve left a few things out that might serve to identify the writer, but otherwise it’s intact.

“Hello Mr. Prutsok,

I don’t really know you, but I’ve been reading your blogs lately because I was told by some traditional Suffolkians that if I wanted to know what was going on, you would know.

I’ve also emailed you a few times shamelessly promoting the deeds of my students at XXXXXXXXX School, where I work.  Thanks for the press, by the way.  🙂

I’ve gotten a little more political, i.e. mouthy in the past few months and was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me so that I could pass the information on to the other teachers.  Our little lunch group of about 13 teachers is a pretty tight knit group of folks … and they expect me to be in the know for things.  So, my question is, how does the budget process work here, and who ultimately decides it?  How mutable is it, once things begin with the new council members.

We’re all very upset at the cuts in education, to the point that most of us will be seeking employment elsewhere after next school year (it’s too late to switch this year).  With my experience and degrees, I can make $137 more a paycheck in Chesapeake, and cut my commute time in half.  Personally, I came to Suffolk because of the facilities that were supposedly available for students, which in fact are not … I was at Nansemond River yesterday, where I was told that they were cutting many of their AP classes because there were fewer than 10 students in them, and the teacher was needed to teach larger classes.

Now, I understand the thinking behind that choice, and although I’m not a big supporter of “Downtown” Suffolk Public Schools folks, I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes right now.  The only thing cutable in a school budget is people.  You still have to have gas, books, etc.  But, you don’t have to give teachers raises.  You don’t have to hire more teachers to reduce class sizes.  However, the flip side of that argument is that teachers volunteer as much time to their job as what they are paid for.  We grade papers at home, we sponsor clubs, we tutor, all on our own time.  Then we are held accountable by angry parents, standardized testers, and political administrators.  It’s quite often a very thankless job, and it’s no wonder so few folks want to do it.  Try and find a substitute teacher willing to come in here on a Friday.  (If you want an adventure, try subbing in the schools for a week straight.)  Then ask a parent about the bus drivers and buses, you’ll get an earful.

Suffolk Public Schools attempts to be on par with everyone else.  They’ve built these palatial schools that are like my Aunt Sissy’s living room, they’re very pretty, but you’re not allowed to touch anything.  With the growth in this area from schools that are larger and have more offerings, folks out here are very disappointed to find that the schools are not on par with their neighbors … Many teachers feel the same way.  Why should we extend ourselves and offer things if we only get micromanaged?  It’s a shame really, since most folks won’t notice things are gone until it’s too late.  A kid is only in school for a few years, so by the time complaints are heard, the kids are gone before changes are made.  A high school is a completely new person every two years because half the kids are gone. 

As an outsider of Suffolk, its interesting to watch how things work out here.  I see Suffolk as the little brother in the back seat, trying to be cool with his older siblings, but who is only along for the ride because Mom said so.  The “Old Suffolk” I hear about needs to wake up and get a lot more competitive or the kids will be left behind.  I’ve taught in several places, and I’ve never seen things quite like this.  I believe that the new blood will get very frustrated and very vocal very soon, right as many of the Old Bloods retire.  It’s going to be a big mess.

Anyway, I’ve sort of blogged you here.  If you’ve read this far, you clearly need more to do on a Friday.  But, if you want to find out what’s going on in the schools sometime, feel free to shoot me a line …

Thanks.”

I did respond to the writer, even though I did not know what mutable means, but what I find particularly interesting is the comments about “Aunt Sissy’s livingroom.” I hear so many people say things like, “We don’t want to end up like Chesapeake where they have all those mobile classrooms,” in defense of the $40-million-plus schools we’ve been building each year.

I don’t think anyone who is seeking a reduction in taxes and spending is hoping to stick it to people such as the author of this email. Speaking only for myself, I want Suffolk kids to have every advantage those in other communities have in terms of quality instruction and quality programs and I understand that stuff costs money, but a nice school building with big screen plasma TVs mounted on every wall in the lunchroom does not necessarily translate to quality instruction, but it costs a helluvalot of money.

I think the writer of the above email is likely speaking for many teachers, that perhaps money could be moved from some of the “frills” into ramping up the quality of programs and personnel.

I’d be interested in your thoughts.