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Kudos to newest Federal Way school board member | Letter
Our newest member to the Federal Way Public Schools board is Hiroshi Eto and he is to be commended for trying to open the lines of communication between the community and the school board (see his letter “Do you have feedback for the Federal Way Public Schools?”)
It is long overdue because when you have testified at board meetings (like I have), there was never any feedback from board members and you got the feeling that everything you said went in one ear and out the other. My thought was, if someone can take the time to prepare a speech and go to the board meeting to deliver it, why couldn’t at least one board member take the time to provide you feedback, even if they didn’t agree with you?
Like board member Claire Wilson, Mr. Eto met with me for over an hour and it was a very productive meeting as we discussed various issues facing the school district. Although he did not agree with everything I said, he listened to what I had to say and that is what I was looking for.
My No. 1 issue I discussed with him was the budget; specifically, rehiring para-educators who work in all-day kindergarten classrooms and librarians. These valuable staff members were cut when the school district faced annual budget cuts thanks to the Legislature.
I — and several all-day kindergarten teachers, para-educators and parents — testified against these cuts, but they were made anyway. Now that our school funding has increased due to the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, it is time to start rehiring these individuals.
Having all-day kindergarten classrooms in the district was an important first step in providing a “quality education” for all our students but again, it was just a first step.
Providing the all-day kindergarten teachers with a para-educator to help struggling students in these classes is the other important step. The best teacher I ever met taught grades K-2 and she said, “The students who came to me with a solid kindergarten foundation made a lot more progress in the first and second grade levels.
“Having taught kindergarten as well in several districts, I know firsthand what it would be like if para support was cut. If I didn’t have the para help, our kindergarten students would not have made the progress they did. No one understands the energy and teamwork that is needed, unless they have taught kindergarten.
I am convinced that without a strong kindergarten year, our students will be greatly impacted the rest of their elementary years. We need all the support we can get to keep our foundation strong. I would gladly take a pay cut to keep the paras.”
I couldn’t agree with her more. All-day kindergarten classrooms without a para-educator puts an unnecessary burden on our teachers. The students deserve better: a quality education for all students.
I strongly support teachers and para-educators and I encourage you to do so by communicating your thoughts to the board. One man cannot do it alone. It must take a collective effort. Mr. Eto wants your feedback. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
In closing, ask yourself the $64,000 question: What is more important, providing all our students with a quality education or paying for student fees and student athletic transportation?
Gary Robertson, Federal Way