Many a Matter on the School Board Platter


Email Sandra Nichols

  "Themes that have predominated are how hard it is for adults to become fluent in a second language and how painful it is for children to try to learn academic subject matter in a language they do not yet understand. . ."


 think I know what you want to talk about this month. You want to voice your opinion about the new high school's name. You want to debate "one nation under God." You want to mull over how no child should ever be left behind. Some of you want to talk more about vouchers and bilingual education. Many want to talk about the school bond. In sum, you want to talk about all matters pertaining to education. Yes, Education Matters! In our town and around the world.

While we hold our collective breathes awaiting this year's test scores, I want to share some thoughts with you about all of the above.

I have prioritized the matters regarding which are the most educationally relevant. Your opinion may be different from mine. After all, we live in a free country, "with liberty and justice for all!" Bilingual education surfaces as numero uno.

Since I have been writing this column, learning a second language is the topic about which I have had the most response. I have had questions from people in Japan and India. I received inquiries from educators in Denmark and a student of Lithuanian. There has been a French connection and a Russian correspondent. People want to know what to do about their children and their own desire to learn English, Spanish, and other languages.

Also wanting to talk have been local people, some who want to improve their Spanish and several of the anti-bilingual persuasion. Very good conversations have been had involving different mind sets. It seems nearly unanimous that people who oppose bilingual education do so because they want all students in this country to learn English, which — of course — is one of the primary goals of bilingual ed. I think it is a very positive move when people sit down and chat about these issues without getting their dander up! Themes that have predominated are how hard it is for adults to become fluent in a second language and how painful it is for children to try to learn academic subject matter in a language they do not yet understand.

The issue of school vouchers is relevant today on a national level, although Californians have spoken recently at the ballot box, and we're mostly naysayers on this. Attention Supreme Court: Have you perhaps failed to consider that taxes support the country's students, education for the masses, not one's own child's education? Nobody gets a rebate for any other tax provided service they choose to buy on their own. Are we losing our marbles here?

Let's talk about the Pledge of Allegiance. I have to admit that I vaguely remember when the words "under God" were added. We learned the pledge early in those days. What motivated the country to change its pledge? It has recently come to light that it was McCarthyism and the fear of communism that permeated the fifties that prompted this change. What a coup for McCarthy to have effected our pledge so effectively!

People are now talking about the school bond. I encourage you to communicate with your trustee if you have questions about the school bond and the projects proposed. You will be able to learn about a comprehensive list of projects that has gone through a multi-step approval process including the determination of needed projects and the setting of priorities.

Our local school bond will not fund construction of new schools. A state bond will be on the ballot to meet that need. Our local schools are expected to benefit from that bond, also. The local bond addresses different needs.

We have read a ton of letters and heard a lot of people talk about the naming of the third high school. I know this: a name will be chosen. And it is my sincere hope that the name will be well received by our community. I have a couple of favorite names, but I maintain a willingness to listen and promise to bring an open mind, respect, and a positive attitude to that continuing discussion. With respect, love and tolerance, we can move forward with the naming.

Test scores, which are expected to be released next month, I await optimistically. I conducted my own little test recently. I popped in at some of our year round schools. Our students, clean and bright in their attractive uniforms, helped their schools pass this test. Their faces sparkled. They showed themselves to be joyful in their learning and welcoming to a visitor who entered their domain. A very old school and a very new school both presented beautiful halls of learning. Looking good, EA Hall and Lakeview!

Sandra Nichols is a Speech and Language Specialist with Santa Cruz City Schools in Santa Cruz, California and sits on the Governing Board of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. This essay was first published in the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, July 20, 2002. The opinions expressed are those of Sandra Nichols and do not necessarily represent those of any school district, print publication or web site.

© Sandra Nichols 2002