At tonight's Board meeting, a member motioned for district employees to be able to speak freely without fear of retribution by Board members. I knew this opportunity might arise, and so I prepared a short response which would fit within the 3-minute time limit. I am proud to say that my three children (one in PJs, mind you) were in the audience as I delivered the following words to both the Board and our community. The overwhelmingly supportive response by the crowd when I was done was humbling and validating. While I know what I did may be seen as risky, I am proud to use the freedom of speech I am fortunate enough to have as an American citizen. I fully believe that I acted -- and continue to act -- professionally then and now.
"Thank you for this opportunity to address the Board. I stand before you as not only a district employee, but also as a mother of three children in this district. When I was hired, I was proud to say I live and work here. Now, I have to admit, the current climate has made me embarrassed and disappointed. Now, when people hear that I work here, the first thing they ask me is why the community won’t invest in education, why people are fighting over tax dollars when children’s futures are at stake, when safety is at stake. So, I stand before you as a concerned mother and ask you to restore our community to the source of pride it once was.
I also stand before you as a teacher. I teach English and Drama at the high school level, and every day I am impressed with how hard-working and respectful my students are. Ask any substitute teacher. So often they will say, “When a call comes in to sub at Montoursville, I always take the job.” If you have been anywhere outside of this district, then you know we have something special here — our students.
As the Drama teacher, I have 19 students in a freshman intro to drama class. In that class, these students learn confidence and poise and teamwork and creative problem solving. We have prepared a short production of Alice in Wonderland that we will be taking to our elementary schools later this month. Believe me when I say both the high school and elementary school students benefit from such an experience.
In addition to the freshman class, I teach a Drama elective for grades 10-12. This year, I have 33 students enrolled in that class. Most recently, the class has been writing short plays which will then be performed at our middle school. One play is about a student struggling with an eating disorder and reaching out for the help she so desperately needs. When we go to the middle school to perform that play, can you imagine the possible impact it might have on young people in the audience?
I know my time here is short, and I truly could talk about my students for hours. The problem is — no one who has been newly elected to the Board has asked. I read political mailings that dismissed the need for a black box theatre — or the need to expand our stage space — without ever asking about the drama program, or the music programs.
So, I ask you — before you make decisions about what this school needs, please take the time to talk to the teachers. Talk to the students. And more importantly — LISTEN to what they have to say. A great place to start would be to attend the Montoursville High School Chorus Concert on Thursday night. I guarantee that you will be blown away by what a half-time chorus teacher can do with a choir of 100 students, on the very stage that hardly seems large enough to accommodate the school board.
Thank you for your time."