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A reader writes … By Iris Reyes

April 13, 2001

In the midst of all the drama going on with the teachers' negotiations, yet another tragedy explodes within the El Centro Elementary School District.

Being a concerned parent I demand my child's right to a good education. My child attends King Elementary School in El Centro. I recently discovered the school district cut 24 of our teachers' aides and there are talks about cutting the creative arts program.

They have already cut back on the computer program and have limited physical education and science. The possible motive for these cutbacks may be because the district plans to build a new district office and spend $80,000 for a reading specialists. These severe cutbacks cannot be in the best interest of our children.

King is a beautiful school filled with magnificent teachers. It also is in a region where many students are underprivileged and undereducated. This unfortunately contributes to the underperformance of this school. I believe since the parent involvement at this school is almost non-existent, so the district may feel it can get away with making these drastic cutbacks.

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Rich or poor, all our children should have the same academic standards wherever they go.

Regardless of the student's background or what the district has stripped them of, they continue to excel at King. The teachers continue to take extensive training courses to improve our children's academic performance. It must be a difficult task getting these students up to par with the state's required performance level. Despite these challenges, teachers continue to accomplish this mission. As further punishment, the district decides to cut back on teachers' aides when the aides are a vital factor in assisting and improving education.

As far as the negotiations go, the district is supposed to be the teachers' support system. They should be able to place all of their trust and confidence in the district and in its ability to best meet their needs and our children's. By refusing to settle the contract negotiations and by cutting back on quality education, they are telling the world they cannot be trusted, therefore causing an uncertain future for our teachers and students.

I wish I could have faith in the El Centro Elementary School District but I fear the damage has already been done. The district's reputation is demolished in the process.

I understand that sometimes cutbacks are necessary and funding is limited. I question why my child be sequestered to only reading and mathematics?

I don't deny their significance. My belief is children need to explore all the realms that education has to offer. Children crave the opportunity to taste all subjects so they can decide what subjects are to be their true strengths and what will suit them best in their future.

We are here to guide these children and lead them in the right direction. If we limit our children's possibilities and we fail to support their growth, we challenge their self-esteem and self-worth, which in turn could be part of the reason our children turn to alternatives such as violence.

Learning should be a welcoming place where children and teachers are free to pursue their creative and academic talents, not one where the teachers are limited in the tools they can use and are forced in teaching lessons where children become bored to a robotic state. Perhaps before the school district decides to make such significant changes they should consider involving us parents in these decisions.

I would like to extend a special thanks to my daughter's teacher, Mrs. Kemp. She is truly a miraculous educator. I owe so much to her for being so giving of her teaching talents to benefit our children. She managed to help many struggling students make extraordinary progress this year. Her dedication, devotion, time and love for these children has not gone unnoticed. Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Nickus, I have witnessed the magic you perform on your students every day and you all are an inspiration to me.

Teachers are a true and valuable blessing to this world. They have all of my support and my deepest admiration.

Our teachers are gifted artists and children are their masterpieces. They should be allowed the room to create and be compensated for the work they perform. They could never be paid enough for giving us the gift of knowledge. They deserve the same support, praise and respect they so willingly give our children each day. We as parents need to be more aware and actively involved in educating our children. It is not the teacher's responsibility to raise our children.

The El Centro Elementary School District is serving our children a huge injustice by cutting back on the elements that are so crucial to their education. If we allow cutbacks in teachers' aides, creative arts, computers, science, physical education, we are then destroying a fundamental part of schooling.

I challenge the school district to join parents, teachers and students and strive for a resolution to this dilemma. This can be easily resolved by working together to provide a solid education for our children. They deserve to be the best they can possibly be. The time for the El Centro Elementary school board to act is now. So I ask the board to do the right thing and start earning my respect as a parent. Our children's future is at stake and we can't afford to wait any longer.

IRIS REYES is an Imperial resident.

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