To the people of Federal Way: I am sorry.
In my letter to the editor regarding Federal Way Municipal Court Judge Dave Larson, I briefly mentioned three gentlemen who are constantly in our papers sharing their thoughts on the state of education in this district — and they are seldom encouraging.
As a school board member, Larson wrote several columns devoted to the positive things happening in this district. Now he has moved on to serve the people of Federal Way as a judge. His hard-working, positive attitude is refreshing. I wanted to encourage him in his efforts to make Federal Way a better place, not put the attention on me. Since I have been publicly named and put on the spot, I feel the need to respond to Walter Backstrom and Bill Pirkle.
Volunteers are the backbone of education. Without our PTA, AmeriCorps, parents and grandparents, we would be struggling. Mr. Backstrom’s time at Panther Lake Elementary exposed him to all of the ways volunteers are used and appreciated. As with many schools, we have the volunteer tea, the board recognition ceremony, the letters from kids and the gifts from teachers (including myself), which are small tokens of the immense gratitude we have for people who contribute consistently and graciously to student success. Apparently for Mr. Backstrom, these things were not enough.
The giving, as well as the gratitude, also extends to all of the community organizations and businesses, which support our children. They supply products and gift cards for a multitude of reasons, which in turn benefit our children with everything from basic necessities to incentives. Panther Lake Elementary was fortunate last year to receive a grant from the Kiwanis for $400 worth of books for struggling primary readers. While the Kiwanis were thanked, Walter Backstrom should also be acknowledged for learning about this opportunity and handing me the form.
It has been suggested that that the public wants to hear the negative so that they can try to improve things — that with their knowledge, the public will be smarter and make a change. Bill Pirkle said that people want to hear both sides. The whole point to my initial letter to the editor was that there is an immense lack of positive information being shared with the public. There is very little in the “both sides” department. No one will tell you that our educational system is perfect. The bottom line here is that Federal Way School District is full of hard-working, well-educated people who don’t give up and are moving toward the future for our children.
When teachers and their workload are mentioned in the media, someone is always tying it to wanting more money or smaller class sizes. While these are both things that would make our lives a little better, it does not get to the heart of what we are doing. We teach because we love children and believe in their education.
Friday, May 9, was Data Day in Federal Way. Some might look at it as a day off, or a chance for us to get time in our classrooms. The fact of the matter is that Superintendent Tom Murphy and the principals are forward thinkers with student learning at the forefront of everything they do — so we had a full agenda. It was a productive day and with it came a long list of things each one of us will be working on over the summer to prepare for next year’s students.
There are so many positive things that are happening in classrooms across this district. I wish that there was an easy way for parents and teachers to share some of the special things they see happening in this district (like a “Seen and Heard” section for our public schools).
I thank God every day for the amazing teachers, support staff and volunteers that I work with, who are devoted to all students’ success. I look forward to the years to come as I hear about the accomplishments of the students who have touched my life. Hopefully, their education will make a difference as they give back to their children and their communities.
Hopefully, they will find balance. Hopefully, they will build on the strengths of their education and leave the nit-picking behind.