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Using the tools well

It is the season of political debriefs, of candid assessments delivered to groups of constituents. Following the close of the 2010 session of the Virginia General Assembly, legislators returned to their districts last week and began to face the voters, standing before Chambers of Commerce, civic leagues and other community organizations to deliver assessments on the work done in the Assembly this year.

Locally, both Delegate S. Chris Jones (R-76th) and Senator Louise Lucas (D-18th) put in some face time last week, and both related tales of a hard-fought session that will go down in history largely because of the budget problems that legislators worked to overcome. Jones described doing everything he could as a budget negotiator to protect funding for Kindergarten through 12th grade. Lucas, to a separate group, called it the “worst year for education and health care, and a lot of other issues, as well.”

In the same edition of the Suffolk News-Herald that included the story about Lucas’ speech, however, there was evidence of just how well area students are faring — in both public and private schools.

A rookie team from Nansemond River High School will head to Atlanta with its robot creation in April for a national FIRST Robotics Competition, having just this weekend won the title of Rookie All-Stars during the regional tournament. Their accomplishment — in their first year putting together such a team — shows the success the school has had in creating interest in the STEM subjects, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Over at Lakeland High School, a young artist has sent one of her pencil drawings to Washington, D.C., to compete in a national PTA Reflections contest after having won first place in all the preceding contests up to the state level. Senior Heather Nygaard’s drawing of her fiancé holding a kitten is a simple portrait of power and vulnerability, and it could win her national recognition.

Finally, a group of young students at First Baptist Christian School recently placed well in a spelling bee held in Portsmouth. It was the first year the school had participated in the district spelling bee, and it boasted two first-place winners and a second-place winner among second- and fourth-grade students.

Amidst the constant drumbeat of worrisome news about school funding, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that education really isn’t about dollars and cents. Rather, it’s about what the students who receive it turn around and do with it. The three cases in Tuesday’s paper are all examples of students who have done well with the tools they’ve been given.