Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Protect the Promise

The following is an opinion piece that I wrote and submitted to the Times Union. It was published in the Wednesday, March 11th edition of the newspaper. I have been pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback I have since received, and for that reason, I am again sharing through this blog my personal thoughts on the promise of public education.

Protecting the promise: the power of public education

My story is simple, uncomplicated, and a reflection of the profound impact education has had on my life.

I was born in Coventry, RI to a mother with a high school diploma and a father with a 4 year business degree.  My paternal grandfather emigrated from Russia and although he spoke the language, it was very difficult to understand his thick accent.  I am the middle child and was raised in a household where you finished what you started, returned what you borrowed, respected adults and valued education.

I had no idea we were poor because I didn’t know any different.  My family ate dinner together every night, I had clothes on my back and a roof over my head.  The only indication I had that I was “different” was when I moved to NY in 2nd grade and  the visceral feeling that ran through my blood when my teacher  asked that anyone who qualified for free lunch raise their hand so she could complete the lunch count.  Few hands were raised, but my classmates always turned to look and see whose hand went up.  My family’s income did not inhibit my parents from attending every extracurricular event I participated in, every report card and awards night my school held and parent/teacher meetings.

Some of my fondest memories are those from high school where I participated in YAC (Youth Against Cancer), softball, ski and yearbook club.  I loved high school and was an above average student.  My time was never spent worrying if my district’s state aid would dry up and my extracurricular clubs would be abolished.  I never had trouble getting extra help from teachers because our class sizes were very reasonable.  I had no knowledge of who the governor of NYS was because it wasn’t important to me and I did not have a clue what the superintendent in my school district did all day long.

I knew my parents’ expectations were that I was going to college after high school and I needed to bring home respectable grades in all subject areas.  Homework had to be completed before going outside to play and there were consequences for not doing your best in school.  NYS protected the promise to students who attended public education.  State aid was adequately and equitably distributed and students were assessed and tested throughout their public school careers by the state as well as their teachers.

I became an educator because I believed I had the tools to enhance children’s lives.  I knew public education was the “great equalizer” and had the power to transform the future of our youth.  Education is an investment in one’s future and I am living proof of that.  Through my hard work and education, my salary no longer would qualify me for free lunch.

I tasked myself with the charge of giving back to my community and to children.  I taught for 11 years in the same school district I graduated from.  My family still lives in that district and my niece is a freshmen in the same high school I attended.  The difference is her class sizes are larger and her opportunities are fewer.  Teachers are equally qualified to prepare children to be productive members of society, much like when I was in school, however resources are scarce and governmental support is limited.  Children go through the public school system one time in their lives.  They never have a second opportunity to build up their resumes if the opportunities are simply not there.  We are doing a disservice to our children when limited resources stifle their ability to acquire the necessary skills to compete in the 21st Century. 

As a public school educator, it is my job to ensure I protect the promise to the children in my district and make sure they graduate with a high school diploma that allows them to compete in the global economy.  There is no better investment than a child’s education as it is the key to unlock the door of opportunity. 

Your thoughts

I see great learning potential as well as academic success and personal achievement every day in our schools. But, I’m interested to hear your perspective about what public education in Watervliet schools has meant to you. I invite parents, grandparents, students, teachers, administrators, and community members to send us your stories and share your thoughts on the power of public education to transform lives.

Success stories can be sent to me directly at or e-mailed to our district's communications specialist: Thank you!