Students make a difference

Published 9:45 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A few weeks back, the Suffolk School Board held a public meeting to discuss the new budget.

As I pulled into the parking lot of King’s Fork High School, I thought I knew what was going to unfold.

Attendance would be minimal, a few outspoken people will talk on their budget issues, and the whole matter would be over and done within half an hour.

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Ordinarily, as my city reporting experience has taught me, people simply don’t show for these types of public forums.

Walking into the Black Box Theater at King’s Fork, I saw that I could not have been more wrong.

Not only was the theater mostly filled, an entire wing of seats was filled by young people — high school students.

The students were members of the International Baccalaureate program.

They were there because they knew that under the proposed budget their beloved lead teacher for the IB program, Micah Smith, would lose her position next year. Considering that Superintendent Milton Liverman called this budget of the most challenging he has ever put together, one could bet that he had made every cut painstakingly. Asking him to go in and do it over to save your favorite teacher could seem, at the very least, a far reach.

Many kids in the same situation would have just moaned and groaned and called it a day.

These kids did not.

A handful of students, including Kaitlin DiDomenico, Trevor Hall and Brandon La Dieu, stood up against what they thought was wrong.

They spoke in front of the superintendent and the School Board with respect, clarity and humility, asking them to rethink cutting Smith’s position.

I had the chance to talk with them after they spoke, and I was impressed by how selfless and passionate they were in speaking up for Smith. They weren’t looking for fame or for resume builders. They simply wanted to let the decision-makers know how much they needed and cared for their teacher.

And, looked what happened: Monday night at the school board’s work session, Liverman and members of the board said that in whatever version of the budget is passed, they will make sure to include the IB lead teacher.

These kids made a difference, and that’s a tremendous example to the young people in our city today.

Too often, we see kids back down from a fight or give up on a challenge just because it seems too big or they feel too powerless to fight it.

These IB students stood up for what they believed in, and that message resonated with the governing body of today’s city’s schools.