The Cheap Seats
The supplemental levy was hanging over the delicate balance that weâ€™ve struck in Clark Fork like a big drooling Jabberwocky.
Wow, the levy passed and everyone can breathe again—I’m talking to you, teachers. Your jobs continue to be secure (somewhat). It’s nice to have the community on your side, huh? The thing is why did we question that the levy wouldn’t pass in the first place?
Speaking from the perspective of my school, Clark Fork High School—we were indeed in a jam. We always seem to be swinging somewhere between a sum of money and the threat of permanent closure. I have been at this school for six years. I have seen it go through some really intense transitions, the least of which being the blue and yellow ‘fun-house tiles’. I have seen a turnover of teaching staff, better rules and regulations, and as a result, better academics. This is the second year in a row that Clark Fork High School has been selected by ‘U.S News and World Report’ as one of the best high schools in the nation. All of this and still we find ourselves in trouble year after year for some obscure reason like attendance and asbestos and well, the inevitable dollar.
Ah, money. In times like these, you can’t help but wonder… anyways, as over half of Clark Fork’s student population qualifies for Free and Reduced Lunch and much of this town is struggling at the poverty level, that high school is quite literally the center of town (more so than the bars and the churches, even). It brings everyone together for a common purpose; to support the kids. Maybe it’s to get them out of this place, or maybe just to ensure a good time. Whether it’s a sporting event or the odd fundraiser, you can always expect a sizable turnout from the community. Just come down for a football game or the Alumni Tournament and you’ll see what I mean. Of course the levy was going to pass, especially if Clark Fork had anything to do with it. The athletic programs alone were enough to ignite the voting hand of Clark Fork residents.
The rumor has it that if the levy didn’t pass, most, if not all, the funding would be cut from the athletic programs in our district—a gasp may be necessary here, especially in conjunction with the education funding cuts proposed by the state; some $75 thousand dollars. For some students, sports are what they live and breathe. Also, athletics keep a large number of my peers and classmates out of trouble and on task. They help a lot of these kids out of this town and into a future. As I said before, they bring the community and students together. Even if the athletic departments aren’t cut all together, they would still require students to pay a hefty ransom in order to play. You might as well get rid of the programs all together because I can assure you, the money would be an issue. While that, in my opinion, is why many people marked ‘yes’ on their ballots, there was still a more pressing matter that maybe wasn’t publicized enough.
The supplemental levy was hanging over the delicate balance that we’ve struck in Clark Fork like a big drooling Jabberwocky. It was simply sinister for lack of a better word. I think the saddest thing about the levy was the teachers who were on the chopping block if it didn’t pass. If you really think about it, we could live without the athletics (hold your gasps for this one), but good teachers are hard to come by.
In my experience, new teachers are impassioned about their work and put much more effort towards what they do as opposed to those who are nearing retirement and have been playing the game for ages (the bored, textbook type you all know—the Charlie Brown stereotype). Of course there is some generalization in that statement, but it rings true in my experiences as a student. Over the past five years Clark Fork High School has made it their business to find teachers who are ready and willing to teach—and I mean actually TEACH—none of that worksheet and book reading nonsense. These teachers get the kids engaged in the lessons and I wouldn’t go so far as to say excited about school, but it’s not a terrible experience for us.
Nine teachers on staff in Clark Fork High School have had five years or less of teaching experience, just enough to have their craft newly whittled down to an art. These are the teachers generally found on ‘favorite’ lists, the ones encouraging students to succeed. These are also the teachers who were at risk of losing their jobs if the levy didn’t pass. With a little bit of red tape and fine print, the unions made their mark in the levy race rather deep. Only the teachers with a fair amount of seniority and been in the field for years; a high-school-style tenure, are the only ones who would’ve been keeping their jobs, which according to my theory, is messed up… Of course, I have no say in matters of union practice, at least, not at 17. But maybe, as we talk about funding for schools, it’s time to talk about using seniority when laying teachers off.
Then again, much of this is old news and perhaps I am just preaching away to the choir; it’s all just a moot point, now—however you’d like to say it or see it, it’s no longer ‘new news’. I suppose all I am saying is a great big community thank you from all of us kids at Clark Fork it would’ve really been sad if they trucked us off to Sandpoint.