Tag Archives: library

Stripping schools of their sports

(Cardinal Newman's Karl Kobler, right and Danny Binz. Photo by Crista Jeremiason.)

Imagine, if you will. Colleges send their scouts out to all the different high schools looking for their next Tim Lincecum or Zack Greinke. They sit in the stands at numerous games, taking notes and writing down names for those ballplayers they wish to extend invitations to for the next season’s college teams. Several students will receive scholarships to guarantee their entrance to their college. And a select few of those star ballplayers will go even farther and be drafted to a major league baseball team.

These scouts will not be attending any Santa Rosa high school games.

Last night the school board voted to strip the Jr. High and High Schools of their spring sports. This includes, not only baseball, but track, swimming, softball, badminton, boys tennis and boys golf. They also voted to shorten the school year by 3 more days, increase the class size from 28 to 29*, and take away the IB program that is dedicated to those students excelling in their studies. On the only bright side of the evening, the board agreed to defer the vote on eliminating 7-8 librarian positions – a move that could mean much less study time for students who use the library during school breaks and study periods. That vote will take place February 17th.

Read the article that ran in the Press Democrat today.

Frankly, I’m furious. It is true the Santa Rosa schools are strapped for funds right now. And budget cuts have to come somewhere. But taking away school sports? To be a part of a high school team, a student must maintain a minimum of a C average and stay out of trouble. For some students, this is their motivation for keeping up their grades and behavior. For some students, being a part of the high school team is equal to breathing. It is their passion, their drive. And we are yanking it away. And yes, this vote strikes a personal chord with me. My 9 year old son is passionate about sports, and is exceptionally good at baseball. I am excited for the day when I can be in the stands at his high school, cheering him on as he plays. This vote takes that future hope away from me. If I am outraged over this vote before my son has even reached that stage, I can only imagine the anger and disappointment of those students and their families that this vote affects now.

Santa Rosa High student, Hannah Croft, also voiced her outrage in the Teen Life blog. “…as I’ve learned in my month in economics, there is money left unspent. The reserve funds, a percentage of the district’s annual income, are untouchable. However, even without the reserve funds, the district finishes each year in the black, with more money than they expected. We are tightening the budget at this point, because our school board isn’t much for estimation. Our projected spending exceeds the actual spending year after year, by thousands of dollars.” She continues that “steps can be taken to save money before we cut spring sports, leave Mesa students in the dust, or throw forty students in one English class. Ask teachers to unplug their refrigerators, microwaves, computers, and other appliances over the weekends. Turn off heating and air conditioning when no one is on campus. These steps seem simple, yet we’ve bypassed them, and jumped into these anvil-sized budget cuts.”

My opinion as far as budget cuts go? Reduce the amount of school districts by combining them. Does Santa Rosa really need 41 school districts, complete with their own staff and offices and all the other costs that go along with them? Increase fundraising efforts from those participating in sports. Cut classes or programs that aren’t as popular or necessary in the school program. There has to be other avenues and measures that can be taken before taking away programs that are beneficial to our students.

The board promises to revisit this issue in April or May to see if any of these changes can be reversed. Parents, if you are as outraged as I am, I urge you to be a part of this meeting and make some noise. Our high school students deserve so much better than this.

*Note: class sizes are not being increased to 40 as previously stated, but are only increasing in size by 1 student.  Thank you, Tad, for bringing this to my attention.  🙂

What The Tortilla Curtain taught me

You had to have been living in a cave to have missed the local hot topic of the week.  A Santa Rosa Mom went before the Santa Rosa City school board to plead her case as to why the book, The Tortilla Curtain, by TC Boyle, needed to be removed from the required reading list.  In case you did miss it, be sure to read up on Kerry Benefield’s blog: Parent seeks to remove book from school reading list, and Parent not convinced tortilla curtain belongs in class.  Note the amount of comments left on each blog from readers fighting for both sides of the coin.  I posted this topic on my own Facebook, and was suddenly inundated with a bunch of comments of the same type – readers who were passionate about removing the book from the required reading list and readers who found it appalling that anyone would even suggest a book banning.  In the end, the school board voted unanimously to keep the book on the required reading list, and left the option that students may read a different book if they choose not to read this one.

But this event brings two very clear points to light. 

First of all, people from all over the county became very involved with discussion over….a book.  Do you know how thrilled that makes me?  The power of the written word lives on!  In a time when people are plugged into media driven outlets and technology, there is still passion for the words and bound pages that exist between two old-fashioned hard covers.  Opponents on this issue offered up very sound explanations for their belief in why this book should or should not be banned.  Words have power.  They have the power to move you to tears, to laughter, to shock…  They can take you out of your comfort zone, and they can bring you to a place of ecstasy.  A good writer can paint a picture without ever using an image, creating a world in your mind that takes you away from the here and now.  A good writer’s words can stay with you even after you’ve finished reading.  A book that tells a story that includes rape, strong language, and sexual situations could bring forth some very real lessons that can be applied to everyday life and help the reader understand a different perspective than the one they have known all their life.  And it can leave images in a young reader’s mind that they never wanted there, and that goes against every single thing that they believe in.  Words can be a blessing, but they can also be a very dangerous thing.

The second point that came to light is our responsibility as parents.  Whether you are on the side that condemns this book or on the side that highly favors your teen reading this book, one thing is clear:  we must be involved in our student’s studies and become fully aware of the material that is being placed before them.  This may even include reading the books they are reading as part of their studies before we make a snap judgment, or to prevent missing something that is not in line with the beliefs we teach at home.  And if we disagree with something that our children are viewing in their classrooms, we MUST speak up – at least for our own child.  Parents who are against their children reading a book that includes a rape scene and extreme language may never know that this is exactly what their child could be reading as a class assignment if they don’t take the time to be involved in their child’s studies.  With the event of The Tortilla Curtain going on trial at the Santa Rosa City Hall, it became that much clearer that not every controversial lesson will come with a permission slip requiring a parent’s signature.  As parents, it is our job to be involved with what our children are learning – to be there to answer tough questions about subjects like this, and there to say NO if it goes way beyond the comfort level of your family’s belief system.

Raising a Reader

I was a reader as a child. My favorite afternoons were spent on rainy winter days, sitting on the floor heater while it rushed hot air up my back, totally engrossed in some huge book. I am the kind of reader that gets very affected by the story, actually placing myself in the main character’s shoes, and then living out the rest of my day feeling as if the main character’s plight were my own. If it were a sad story, I was quiet and forlorn. If the character was angry, I got into fights with my sisters or my parents. If the character was in love, I walked on air and twirled circles in the living room. I was the old man cutting his weathered hands on the fishing line as he held on to the lively marlin pulling his boat in The Old Man and the Sea. I shimmied my way through garden parties in stylish hats and short bobs in The Great Gatsby. I felt the jealousy and rage over an overly perfect sister who got everything I ever wanted in Jacob Have I Loved. I felt like an outcast and made friends with spirits living in the bodies of dolls in Behind the Attic Wall. And to this day, I am still alive in the story I am reading, taking it with me long after I have shut the cover on the written pages.

Is it healthy to be so engrossed this way? Absolutely! The stories I read were my first glimpses into feelings and situations I had never experienced before. And it helped me to sort out feelings that I was already experiencing and couldn’t quite put a finger on. Besides, to be that affected by the story meant that the book was so well written I could relate.

Both of my kids are readers. My daughter is consistently in the middle of a large novel, sometimes even reading a couple in the same period of time. My son will read if there are no electronics to play. He is not allowed video games during the week and only 1 ½ hours a day on the weekends. He has since taken to grabbing a book and sitting quietly while thumbing through it. His reading vastly improved over the summertime thanks to some misbehavior that got his video games taken away for the whole summer.

At the Back to School night I attended this last week at my son’s school, the teachers were going over homework expectations. For a third grader like mine, they are expected to be spending 30 minutes on homework and then 20 minutes on reading. The teacher mentioned that many kids begin to enjoy this time. I watched as two moms with raised eyebrows looked at each other and shook their heads. It was obvious that their kids did not fall into this bracket. The truth is, MOST kids won’t fall into this bracket.

So how can you make your kid a reader?

Read to your kids. If nothing else, this is the most important. Even a newborn baby responds to your voice as you read. And even a 7th grader will enjoy that window of time when it’s just the two of you venturing off in an adventure in a land far away. Pick a comfortable and quiet area to read each night, helping your child to associate reading with feeling secure, relaxed, and loved. And when you read, capture the story in your voice. When the pace picks up, let your voice show it. If the character is an elderly woman, get that little old lady voice out. Have you ever listened to a lecture where the speaker spoke in an even, monotone voice? How easy was it to stay awake? A story is only as interesting as the storyteller makes it.

Be patient with your new reader. Let him read at his own pace, as painful as it may feel to sit through it. He’s still learning. Refrain from offering help unless he asks for it or if he is absolutely stuck. If he is corrected too many times he is liable to lose confidence in his own ability. With regular practice your child will be reading pages without stuttering in no time at all!

Discuss the story. Help your child to not just hear words, but to actually think about what is going on inside of the story. This develops a tool they will need for the rest of their lives – in school and in real life. By asking them how they think the character feels, or what the character should do or what might happen next, you are helping to develop your child’s skills of intuition and understanding. And when they are listened to as they share their ideas about the story, they are becoming more confident and at ease with speaking their own ideas out loud. Imagine the effect this will have in the classroom!

Always carry your young child’s favorite books with you wherever you go, teaching them the habit of filling time by reading a few pages. Bring the book out when waiting in line at the bank, when they are sitting in the grocery cart while you shop, sprawled out in the dressing room while you try on clothes…. By substituting a book during times they could potentially be bored, you are helping them feel that reading during downtime can make everything more interesting.

Encourage trips to the library. When I was a kid, the library was a magical place. There were shelves upon shelves of books. I learned how to find books by using the computers in the center of the library. And I found books that I never even knew existed. The library is free, and has lots of special events that go on throughout the week such as Toddler Time, Preschool storytime, After Nap Wiggle time, and “Read to a Dog”. Check out September’s calendar for the days and times of these events and more at Santa Rosa’s Central Library.

The best way to raise a reader is to BE a reader. Be a role model to your child and curl up with a good book now and then. When your child sees how much you enjoy reading, they are bound to follow suit and read on their own.

Speaking of reading, Saturday Sept 19th marks the date for the annual Sonoma County Book Festival in Courthouse Square. What a great time for the whole family to stock up their library, meet authors and writers, and check out numerous displays celebrating the literary arts. I know I’ll be there. Will you?

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Have you read any good books lately?  Give other moms a mini book review on the forums at SantaRosaMom.com!