Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I spoke up

Tonight I spoke at the school board meeting. I asked them to put their foot down. To push back. To speak up. I have posted my speech below to share with those of you who are interested or who read my blog. It came from my heart. I'm a fighter and I refuse to stand back and watch state officials who have no freaking background in education try to come out and take over my school and get rid of those we need the most. It is not right! it's not okay. I know our school board heard what I had to say b/c two of them referenced my speech in their comments before voting. I just hope they don't back down and fight for us and our administration.

Here's my speech:
**I had to xx out some names and such for privacy, etc.

Hello, my name is Sarah F.E. and I have been a teacher at C. Middle School since 2001. C. is very close to my heart for so many reasons. The biggest reasons are the amazing students, dedicated staff, and our supportive, proactive administration team we have had the last three years. I have witnessed C. experience a variety of changes in the last nine years, some positive, some negative. I have witnessed our school receiving some useful resources, while other times, we’ve been forced to do without other opportunities. Despite the adversity we face, we continue to move forward.

After last Thursday’s meeting with Superintendant XX, I left in tears. As you all probably know, we work hard to ensure that our kids at CMS are reaching their full potential in the two short years we have them. When I heard that we could lose some of our best resources, I began to lose hope. If the board decides that it is in the school’s best interest to move forward on the voluntary track towards improvement, and receive the money to make changes, then I say you must also tell the state that there is a stipulation. That stipulation would include keeping the best resources we already have at C. in tact. Two big resources I am referring to are Mr. R., our Principal, and Mr. E., our Vice Principal. Without them in our school, I have a hard time envisioning major improvements taking place.

When Mr. E. came to Cascade almost four years ago, staff morale was at an all-time low. He made it his personal goal to raise our spirits and regain consistency in student discipline that was lacking. Within the first two years, Mr. E. helped create an environment among staff and students that felt more like a family. He established connections that were necessary between all of us: students, staff, and the community at large. He advocated for changes in our proactive approach to discipline, urging teachers to create a system where kids were being rewarded, celebrated, and praised for good behavior. He resurrected our honors assemblies. With his guidance, we created a wonderful plan to recognize students. And you know what? Students responded positively. Detentions, referrals and suspension numbers began to decrease. Students looked forward to our monthly activities and behaviors improved drastically. There were fewer fights, and fewer student issues. Kids were in class and on task. The other middle schools in the district started asking him for ideas and adopting some of our new policies.

Our diverse group of students adore J.. They trust him. They tell him things and help him solve issues. Not surprisingly, students have many positive comments about Mr. E. including, “He is nice but if a student gets out of line, he comes down on them HARD” or, “Mr. E. is a good V.P. because he has faith in us, he helps us accomplish things, and he’s funny.” “Mr. E. is like a father-figure to some of us—we need that.” Another student said, “Mr. E. pushes me to be better. To be the bigger person. To be someone important. CMS can’t lose him because he gives students who have lost hope something to hold onto.” All of this started with Mr. E.

Mr. R. came to our school almost three years ago. Staff morale was still low. When he walked into CMS, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of our shoulders. He was confident, personable, charismatic, and could see the big picture. He trusted his staff to do their jobs well and pushed them to do even better. He made it his mission to get to know every staff member for who they were and pushed us to try on new instructional methods. Since Mr. R. has come to CMS, staff morale is at an all-time high. Not only does he trust and respect staff, he goes out of his way to connect with the kids and make them feel special. I have never witnessed a principal who loves the kids as much as he does. Before Mr. R. became principal, every September, I would look around and half of the staff were new; the turnover was ridiculous. Since Colin took over, nearly every teacher has continued to stay and move our students forward because he’s been an integral part of that work. People listen to him. They want to work hard for him. They are willing to change for him. And students feel the same. When he speaks, they listen and then they do what he asks of them without complaint.

In fact, students have many nice things to say about our principal. “Mr. R. has faith in the students and wants them to do well.” “Mr. R. gets to know every student and something about them.” “He has earned the trust of every student.” “My old principal was never found wandering among the students, talking to them or asking how their day was like Mr. R. does.”

My fear is that if you decide to make some changes at CMS, we will lose two of our most valuable resources: our principal and vice principal. They have done everything to help improve CMS and put their heart and soul into all that occurs here. They are our foundation. If they had to leave CMS, I don’t want to think about what could happen. They know how to push us forward in tough times and how to get everyone on board. Staff members trust them and they make the best decisions for our school. How can we begin a year of change and hard work with leaders we don’t know and we have not built trust with? Don’t you think it would kill morale? How can we make changes occur with leaders who don’t know our kids and don’t know our school? I am asking you to think about how detrimental it would be to the entire CMS community by replacing our amazing administration. Let’s put our foot down together and tell the state officials, if you want to see reform in our school, we will move forward, but we refuse to lose ANY part of our staff.

I also had many students speak and here is one of my student's speeches. He did a GREAT job speaking and received a standing ovation from over 100 people.

People of the School Board Council, Lend me your ears! I am Jan Patrick C., 8th grade student at C. Middle School and one of the school’s most elite of honor roll students. I have attended this critical meeting to address my purpose, my directive…to prove that CMS is NOT a failing school!

You see, I happen to belong a great school, with fellow classmates on my side, teachers who are willing to teach us and prepare us for the challenges ahead in each and every one of our futures. And I refuse to stand and let our own state mark us as one of the failing schools in Washington.

Upon reading the letter that I have received that was sent home for the students here and our families, I have been informed about misconceptions the state had made about us kids, about our teachers, and how this school performs. I have heard that students here often are assumed of being “immature,” and “unable to learn.” The state also criticizes the performance of the school’s and faculty, wanting to replace OUR beloved principal, and half of the staff. AND, the state also might think that our learning environment is “poor” due to noisy conditions, bad-behaving students, etc. Keep in mind however, that some of these teachers are veterans, working in this school for years. And these teachers have exerted and contributed their hearts, souls, and their will in preparing us for the future and cutting them out will mean destroying all those years worth of effort!

I remember the first time I laid eyes on this school…My eyes fell witness to its beauty…I met old friends, and made new ones along the way..and through countless hardships and academic trials during my time, I have learned and grown a lot at this school.

In 7th grade, I had awards for perfect attendance, although my G.P.A. was only at 3.0 to 3.5. This year, I have been inducted into the honor roll twice in my current 8th grade year, and unlike my 7th grade classes, all my core 8th grade classes (LA, SS, Science and Math) I attend are all advanced classes. My MAP scores from Math have been steadily improving throughout this year and the last score so far was 242 (10th grade level). My reading MAP score was also quite high, with a current score of 230. All of these improvements show that Cascade is capable of teaching its students with great effectiveness, and that I am an example of the staff’s hard work and dedication to prepare for the trials ahead in high school…and beyond!

No only that, you cannot and will not replace our principal! Mr. R., who has been leading this school for almost three years now, is identified by his fellow faculty members as being one of the MOST excellent principals ever, and that no one has the qualities of a true principal like Mr. R. He is a charismatic person, and just about everyone looks up to him. When he and Mr. E. first came here, CMS was at an all time low. But when both principal and vice-principal came up to the mantle several years earlier, they allowed more discipline to take place, they pledged to make the learning environment better, and made changes to make this school better. And, Mr. Ryan connects with his students and staff, getting to know them better, making us feel special, as well as making us all be one big family.

So replacing him and Mr. E. will ONLY make matters worse for this school’s academic performance.
With all of this, I believe that the state has underestimated us! Before I entered the school on the first day of my 8th grade school year, I had watched President Obama’s speech the night before. His speech reminded me that we are the future, the key in thrusting our great nation into greater glory and success. Once we enter the outside world, we must be ready for the competition ahead set by other countries.

So, please, you mustn’t replace the staff with these new leaders. I cannot imagine awakening to my true academic potential with unknown leaders who don’t know us, the staff, or our school. And as President Obama had said during his speech…that if we fail at our education, he stated: “not only have you let yourself down, your friends and family down, but we have also let your country down.”

We are students united! CMS is not a failing school, and we can’t allow the state reform our school. Losing valuable resource, no matter who it is, will only worsen our predicament, instead of improving it. I am living, breathing proof, that CMS had made me a better student. We are the hope of the nation. Our principal and vice principal are the key to our future. And failing school or not…don’t change our school, because we, C. Middle School, represent the symbol of hope, and the vessel for the future.


Abby said...

Way to go Fitz!!

Bekah said...

I think it's awesome that you for spoke up! And your speech sounds AMAZING! I think it's great that the students are getting involved too! It's good that they care so much about their school.

Briana said...

Good for you! Seems we're fighting the fight from both coasts this week. I have been to 2 parent meetings with the 5 elementary school principals and 1 of the co-superintendents as well as one school board meeting this week. I spoke out at all of them, which is so unlike me. But they are wanting us to share a principal and that is just not okay with me and I want them to know that. I'm pretty sure they get the message now but I won't stop speaking out until the act on it. Our teachers/staff met with the principals yesterday and I'm curious to talk to Logan's friend's mom-she's a teacher and parent. I want to know two the meeting went and how our two groups can work together. I think it's great that your students spoke out too. I think ours are a bit to young to get involved-even though the other elementary school that has been chosen to share a principal with our school had their kids get involved and speak at the meeting the other night. That just didn't seem right to me. They are too young to understand and I don't want the boys thinking their principal is abandoning them.

chrissyrudd said...

Right on sister!

Kris B said...

Wow! What an amazing speech. The student's speech gave me chills as well. Maybe you need to publish these in the newspaper? Get the community more involved. Keep fighting! go Cascade!