Now, I've been known to voice my opinion here before, in regard to certain political candidates; I'm not going to pretend that I haven't. And while I could easily get on my soapbox and rally on about how despicable I find our new Governor, (Doug Ducey) to be; or how appalled I am that someone as inexperienced as Diane Douglas could be elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction when she has never even taught a day of school in her life; THIS post is not about that. No, this post is about the Four day school week that the Peoria Unified School District (PUSD) proposed and what exactly I said during my interview with Channel 15 yesterday.
So let me back this up a bit... In anticipation of the drastic cuts that would be made to the Arizona education budget, the PUSD put out a survey to ask parents what they thought about a Four day school week. My immediate reaction was "NO!", but when I responded in kind on the survey, it then presented the options of: Four day school week OR cut nurses, librarians, cafeteria workers, security, buses, extracurricular activities, administrators etc. etc. etc. The list seemed endless and I was perplexed. I couldn't imagine our schools doing without all of the services that were mentioned, and so Luis and I discussed it and agreed that the four day week was the lesser of the evils. We still had grave concerns about it, but we also felt that there was no choice.
I kept the survey and the possibility of the four day week in the back of my mind, as more and more I saw Facebook posts about an effort to Recall Diane Douglas, (and I jumped on that bandwagon). Then more recently, I saw my very own friends Brooke Kistner and Lisa Best start a grassroots effort to protest the proposed Education budget cuts at the capitol. I was inspired by their dedication and commitment to inform Arizona's parents about the dangers of the budget cuts; and I felt very guilty that I wasn't able to join them at either protest due to work and scheduling conflicts. So, when Lisa sent me a text on Wednesday and asked me how I felt about the four day school week proposal and if I would be willing to speak with a reporter from channel 15, I responded and told her that I didn't like the idea of the four day week, and that while I was a pretty good public speaker when given the opportunity to rehearse, I didn't believe that I did very well on the fly. Lisa called me and we discussed our points of view and she told me that she thought I would be fine to do the interview, so although I was very nervous about it; I felt that the time had come for me to do my part, and I said "yes."
Justin Pazera called me on Wednesday afternoon and asked me if I was in favor of the four day week and I said "no"; but our conversation was so brief that I didn't have time to clarify my position. So as soon as we met in person on Thursday morning, I told him not to take his equipment out of the car until I was able to explain my point of view, as perhaps it was not what he was really looking for. I told Justin that while I don't like the idea of the four day week, I thought it was the lesser of the evils. He went on to take out his equipment (now that almost sounds like another kinda blog right there...) but I digress; and we spoke on film and off, for over a half hour. Justin asked if I was happy with the PUSD aside from the proposal and I told him that I was thrilled. I explained that I have three children that attend three different schools in the PUSD and that I was so grateful that they each had the opportunity to get their individual educational needs met. Nicky is a straight A, honors student at Peoria High School and he participates in MESA (Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement) in addition to being a Varsity swimmer. Lyndzi is a great student and an award winning artist who attends Foothills Fine Arts Academy for their Visual Arts program and Kelsie an equally great student, attends Apache Gifted Academy. He asked why I was opposed to the four day week and I went on to say, that I know there are a lot of children who already have difficulty making it through the school day, so lengthening it concerned me. I thought that it may be unfair to students and teachers alike in terms of their daily workloads; because Nicky typically comes home with several hours worth of homework as it is. I explained that while childcare wouldn't be an issue for me, I recognize that their are many parents with young children who may be faced with a dilemma about who would watch their children and how they would pay for it; and ultimately that could effect the economy. Lastly, I expressed concern for the children whose only meals are the ones that they receive at school, and how missing a day may mean an extra day that they go unfed.
I then explained that although my concerns about the four day week are many; I fear the cuts that would have to be made more. For children who take medication at school, how could their be no nurses? How would schools run without administrators? I want my children to receive a quality education that equals those from other states, and I worry that if extracurricular activities are cut, my son will fall short on his college applications when he is competing for spots with students who appear to be more well rounded. I mean what is he supposed to say in an essay... "I would have continued to participate in MESA and swim team but the state of Arizona cut the funding." That's heartbreaking to me! My children are dedicated students who already have plans for their future and I don't want to see their dreams shattered, because we reside in Arizona and our government is showing us that they don't value public education. Justin said "So what do you do?" And my initial response actually surprised me a little... I said "Pray", but then I KNEW that was my opportunity to REALLY talk about what can be done, so I added, and VOTE, and make phone calls and sign petitions and make sure that you help to get the word out that this state is in big trouble and that our children's future depends on people making informed decisions when they vote, and not just choosing a candidate because of the party initial next to their name, as that person's interests might not represent your own at all.
I made it VERY clear to Justin that I applauded the PUSD for coming up with an alternative to the extreme budget cuts, but my bigger concern was that Arizona is in this position to begin with.
Justin asked me to show him photos of my children. He asked me to flip through them and he assured me that it wouldn't look silly (but I beg to differ.) I asked Justin to make sure to edit out the part where I used the word "thrilled" three different times to describe the PUSD as I was embarrassed to use the same word repeatedly; and not only did he oblige me there, but he edited out almost everything that I said and added in something that I didn't; which was that I was concerned that my kids would continue to get good grades, if the four day week went into effect. I said I was concerned about the workload, and scheduling but rest assured, I have every faith that my kids will continue to be good students regardless of if they are in school four days a week or five.
I think my family and I have learned several valuable lessons through this experience:
1. You have to stand up for what you believe in and not just complain.
2. You have to do your part when something matters to you - even if it's scary to do so.
3. You need to be informed, because ignorance may cost you and those you love more than anyone can afford.
4. You need to share your knowledge, so AZ friends if you haven't already joined the following Facebook communities, please do: Recall Diane Douglas, Recall Doug Ducey, and FundAZFuture
5. The media shows you what they want to show you. They slant things to fit the story that they're trying to tell.
Here's my very brief abc15 interview , if you'd like to watch it. I'm just gratified that I was able to use "The Bumpy Ride" as my vehicle to share ALL of my points of view on this matter, with you.
Till next time...