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Parents, teachers plead to keep city's programs
Budget cuts protested
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A crowd filled the Martinsville City Council chambers and flowed over into the hallway of the municipal building Thursday for the city school board’s public hearing on its budget for fiscal 2010-11. (Photos by Kim Barto)
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Friday, February 26, 2010

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

More than 20 people urged the Martinsville School Board on Thursday to avoid cuts in funds, staff and facilities that would affect children's education.

Parents, educators and concerned residents spoke at the two-hour hearing on the working budget proposal for the city schools for next year.

Ron Tolbut, president of the Martinsville Education Association, asked that budget cuts have the least possible impact on core classes so there will be no impact on student test scores or increase class sizes. He asked the board to keep as many programs as possible.

Adele Boyle, a teacher at Clearview Early Childhood Center, urged support for preschool education. That center is scheduled to close at the end of this school year and its programs moved to Albert Harris Elementary.

Kim Norris, a preschool teacher at Clearview, appeared with three children and spoke on behalf of their mother, who is supportive of Clearview. The oldest child goes to Clearview.

Brad Johnson, president of the Parent-Teacher Organization at Patrick Henry Elementary School, expressed support for such offerings as band and gifted programs. He also cited improvements in the school system in recent years and the long-term importance of a good public school education.

"Don't be penny wise and pound foolish," he said. He added that if money is taken from the school system, businesses may be less likely to locate in the community.

Roslyn Simmons said she doesn't want to see the schools' budget cut, adding that graduates will need to be able to compete anywhere, not just locally. She said she fears budget cuts would increase class sizes and reduce teachers.

She expressed support for such things as sports, music, art and drama. Her daughter is a student in the school system, and her dream is to go the Juilliard school, but Simmons fears there might be budget cuts in arts.

Ashley Buck, a member of the Martinsville Middle School Art club, expressed support for arts.

Dr. Cynthia Ingram, a former member of the school board, said that when Scott Kizner became superintendent, the school system was in danger of being taken over by the state because of poor performance. Kizner has "raised the bar" and the school system has made many improvements since then, she said.

Providing good public education reduces crime and poverty and improves life for everyone by having an educated citizenry, she said. "We can't go back and redo minds once they have left us," she said.

Claire Miller, an art teacher at Albert Harris Elementary School, spoke about arts in general (such as art, band and choir) and said arts education improves higher-level thinking.

Marie Stone, health and medical sciences teacher at Martinsville High School, expressed support for career/technical education and explained its benefits for students. She also expressed support for art, drama and music.

Chad Martin of the Virginia Organizing Project said, "Everybody is getting cut - the department of social services, police and sheriff." He recommended that people contact state legislators and urge that revenues be increased rather than budgets cut.

Heather Tolbut, a teacher, said the Virginia Education Association is conducting a program called Keep the Promise, which deals the Virginia constitutional requirement for a quality education for students. She urged people to contact state legislators and local officials in support of school funding.

John Duggan of Collinsville said his son goes to Clearview. "He's made a lot of improvements this year. We hate for Clearview" to be closed, he said.

He asked the board to look for more revenue wherever it can, such as grants or energy efficiency. "Whatever you do, don't get rid of teachers. Sell everything you" have first, he said.

Minister Malvester Mohammad, a parent, said, "Our children are our greatest resource."�

He noted the size of the crowd in the council chambers, where all the chairs were full, and people were sitting on the floor and standing along the walls in addition to those gathered outside the room.

"There's more people on the outside than on the inside," he said. "We the people have spoken."�

Donald Kirby, a school mentor, said the issue is not a lack of funding. "I don't believe we have our priorities correct," he said. The cost to provide a public education to a student in Virginia is a fraction of the cost to incarcerate an inmate, he said. "Are we going to incarcerate, or are we going to educate?" he asked.

Parent Senora Carter asked the board not to cut business classes.

Parent Tim Halpin expressed support for teachers, saying they can be inspirational and examples of authority figures. He also expressed support for such programs as music and talented and gifted programs.

Sandy Haley, a parent, spoke against what she called draconian budget cuts in public education by the state, and added that public education "is a constitutional mandate." She asked, where are the priorities? She said legislators don't seem to have the "intestinal fortitude" to increase revenues.

Mark Stroud, a member of the Martinsville City Council, urged those attending to e-mail or call legislators to urge support for school funding. "I'm very worried," he said, adding that he knows those present are as well. "We'll do what we can to assist y'all," he said.

Tomeka Grogan, a parent, urged the board not to cut elective programs.

Katherine Dietrich, a parent, expressed support for such programs as accelerated math, gifted and talented programs, band and after-school arts. She said she hopes "extra programs" will be maintained.

Grayson Givens, a former band director in the school system and now a music educator in North Carolina, said he could show the board a stack of literature saying that arts education enhances student learning. He also said that a band director may see 100 or more students in a day, and if a position is cut, the students will have to go somewhere. "You will have to hire a teacher and a half," he said.

Ron England said that, unlike the federal government, neither the state Legislature, the city of Martinsville, the school board nor the school administration can print money. He indicated that he wishes The Harvest Foundation would provide funding to the schools.


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