Letters to the Editor

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Let's demand better

To the editor:

As a graduate of the public school systems, my support and belief has been that a good public education is a basic human right.

Having raised two daughters, my goal was to send them to the best public schools possible. Moving often during my business career, when deciding on a new home, the schools and church community were paramount in our domicile decision.

While all public intuitions have their "warts," my wife and I explained to our daughters that life was not a private school, but more like the diversity they would experience in a public setting. Our daughters have since moved on to careers in education and we have grandchildren attending public schools in Seattle. We have always made the conscious decision to have our family enrolled in the public school system and to work to repair those areas that we felt needed repairing. While it may have been easier to send our children to private schools we wanted to open their spirits and the minds in a way that might help all children.

In the earliest days of this great republic, President John Adams said, "The whole people must take upon themselves, the education of the whole people." This too I believe. Therefore, for the past two years I have been a volunteer in the district service center.

I can safely say to all reading this letter that the name, district service center, truly applies. I spent 40 years in the retail business and after retirement, the past 20 years as a volunteer in a variety of efforts. During those years I have never worked with a more professional and better-trained group of individuals then I find at the service center. They are overworked, certainly not overpaid, and good-natured. There are fewer of them than a couple of years ago and all have the very best interest of the students at the center of their jobs.

I give you this background to let you know that my only vested interest in the education of the children of South Whidbey are the children of South Whidbey and my knowledge of the importance of a good public education and the knowledge of good people working for the best education for our children with major fiscal and functional restraints.

Unfortunately as in much of life, when things are not going as we would hope or like, it seems to be human nature to strike out at those who seem to be making the decisions we don't agree with or just plain don't like. Sometimes that might be understandable, but rarely is it correct. We hire people and elect people to hold office and they are charged with making the decisions they deem best in the situations at hand.

In education they are paid or elected to make the decisions in the best interest of the children. It is difficult during good times and extremely difficult during times of trouble and stress.

While disagreements and diverse opinions are normal and usually good and healthy, the dialogue and written words that degrade the dignity and opinions of those we disagree with are unacceptable.

While we may disagree with the opinion and decisions of certain people, let's keep in mind that they are all our neighbors and friends and all worthy of our respect. They deserve to be treated with basic human dignity.

I am always shocked to read letters by some — far too many in my opinion — that degrade individuals by name and question their integrity. I submit no one has the right to do that and it merely divides, when we need uniting to find solutions to very difficult problems. No one person has all the answers and often collaboration means finding common ground or the agreement to cordially disagree. The public education of the children of South Whidbey is the responsibility of all the people of South Whidbey, even those as my wife and I who have no family involved.

I submit that all school districts in Washington state are having funding problems, not because of poor management at district level, but caused by lack of state support of elementary and secondary education.

Running to another district or sending one's children to a private school is certainly an option for a few, but I worry about the many and would rather give attention to how we might fix the system, together as a community, rather that try to place blame on our friends. There is more than enough blame to go around and more than enough positive solutions that will allow us to build a better, if smaller district. The public school system is never charged with making or maintaining jobs or the status quo for the sake of individuals or groups of individuals — other than students. The education of the students requires the proper staff to teach and support the number of students within the district using available resources in accordance with the mission and vision of the school district.

Let's put the blame for our educational woes where they belong. We are part of the most regressive tax system in the United States. Our poorest citizens pay the highest percent of taxes, while the richest 1 percent pays a paltry 4 percent of our taxes. This means our schools, among other basic human needs, go underfunded and will as long as this tax structure stays in place.

Rather than blame and chide the administrators and board of directors for trying to build a fiscally responsible district structure, let's share the fault with our elected state and county officials while accepting most of the blame ourselves.

We have accepted this funding embarrassment long enough and now as we work together to build a better educational system for South Whidbey students, let's demand better from our state and local lawmakers.

I'd like to paraphrase a quote familiar to most of us, "The fault dear (friends), lies not in the (administrators), but in ourselves." Or perhaps as Pogo often said, "We have met the enemy and he is us!"

R. L. "Dick" Guise


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