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Superintendent’s Message: New Beginnings

Theresa Davidson, Superintendent

Theresa Davidson, Superintendent

The start of a new year often brings wonder, anticipation and mystery. We revel in stories from months just passed, contemplate predictions of the days ahead, and resolve to make the next year even better. We take advantage of this special time when one year ends and another begins to put aside the comfort of old ways and bravely chart a path to a bright future.

In many ways, public education is at a similar pivotal point in time as we review and learn from the past in hope of a better future.  There is a generation of storytellers who attribute successful careers to the lessons they learned in school.  Their stories boast of a life better than that of their parents and suggest contentment in the idea that their children could find success in those same lessons.

For decades, visionaries have made predictions about the lives our children can expect. Some forecast a gloomy era where few can afford the family homes we take for granted.  Others point to a time in the future when robotic creatures and automated functions serve our every wish.

Lessons delivered with the help of slate chalkboards, a No. 2 pencil and a Big Chief tablet may have prepared me for the world of work I would find at the end of my schooling. Yet, it would be hard to navigate the 21st century equipped with only those tools of the past.

We may not have robotic servants yet, but technology is touching nearly every aspect of our lives today. Regardless of the career path one chooses, all students can expect to live, work and play in a digital society. Automobiles, check-out lines in stores, televisions and household appliances are essentially computers that automate many of the household tasks once operated by brain and brawn.  A smartphone that fits in my pocket has replaced my rotary dial phone and a trip to the city to pay bills, deposit paychecks and shop for Christmas gifts.  It can tell time, predict the weather, answer questions once found in an encyclopedia, and report scores for my favorite sports teams.  The future we’ve been told about is here.

Last week, a panel of Kansas judges ruled that the state is not adequately funding education to meet the Rose standards, the recently defined measure of what our state expects students to know and do.  The judges recognized that schools have been sorely challenged to make this leap into 21st century expectations where even No. 2 pencils cost more! An earlier court ruling acknowledged the additional costs for Kansas districts such as ours in addressing further challenges of families with language and financial barriers.

Even though the courts have called for increased financial resources to aid schools in this daunting task, we know that the state is already challenged to meet its fiscal obligations, and the recent court decision will likely be appealed. We do not expect relief to come quickly or without much debate.

So again in 2015, financial resources for public schools will be stretched.  Just as we experience in our family budgets, school districts will always need to be efficient and effective with the resources available.  But as we start a new year, it may be time to make a resolution – a commitment to invest in our children as our parents once invested in us. It is time to make a promise that when our children move on to college or a career, the lessons and tools will have prepared them for the world they encounter just as ours did in time less dependent on technology.

In the months ahead, our board of education will have many important decisions to make. At the top of the list will be ongoing investments in highly qualified staff, up-to-date curriculum and technology resources, management of long overdue maintenance, and security measures to address society’s growing safety concerns.  It’s a target we cannot afford to miss!

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