I was recently told that there is only so much we can expect from our schools in our area because of the great amount of poverty that lies within our boundaries. The comment rubbed me the wrong way. Am I crazy for thinking that we can raise the level of performance in the classroom for our most vulnerable students? Is the success path for our students already laid out for them depending on what kind of home they come from?
Well that just doesn’t fly with me! Does a student’s background and home life affect school performance? Of course it does. Is it insurmountable? No! When I was a Title 1 teacher, I worked with those struggling kids. I worked with first graders who were not on track to learn to read at the same pace as their peers. Many of them were from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Guess what? I managed to help each one of them. It wasn’t as easy as more drills and practices. It took out of the box thinking. It took offering great support to the struggling parents as well. I held parent nights for their parents to come and learn how to read with their child. I taught the parents strategies to use with their children to help them. When it was apparent that the needs of the parents were so great that it would interfere with the help they could provide, I found ways to help with those issues as well. When they had the tools, they were my partner and we worked together to get the kids where they needed to me.
I don’t believe that we just throw up our hands and accept that this is the best we can do. Yes, our schools in District 7 have some challenges. No, it doesn’t mean that all our schools are not doing their job if they aren’t an “A” school. What it does mean is that we need to look at ways to help raise up the communities around our schools to support the families that need help and support the schools as well.
This is what I think “Community Schools” means. It’s been one of the pillars of my campaign for a reason. It’s why I have worked so hard to reinforce the relationships I have built through our family’s business the past 10 years across Central Florida. It’s why I have worked so hard over the past year to develop new relationships with community leaders and other business owners in our region. I’ve nurtured these relationships because I think the key to improving our schools is improving the community around the school. The organizations, community leaders, and business owners need to be a part of the solution because better schools benefit all of us. Our schools can not exist and excel in a vacuum.
I believe with all my heart that if we provide more wrap around services for our families we can raise our District 7 schools to the level that will make all of us proud no matter what socio-economic level we are faced with. One principal told me that an eye exam bus came to the school last year and put 47 pairs of glasses on kids in one day! Imagine how many of our children across our district are underperforming because they are simply struggling to see in school. These are the kinds of partnerships that we need to foster within our communities. There are so many possibilities when we think of the vast resources that are available to us in this region.
I am excited and ready to start building those bridges and getting our communities and schools working together for our families and kids. We can do this, no matter what challenges we face!