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Letter: Teachers, Staff, Making a Difference in NK

A letter from the National Education Association North Kingstown's executive board.

In today’s society and the news every day, we hear key buzz words like innovation, tech-readiness, standards, high-stakes testing, Common Core, and more.  Amidst all of this, educators and school systems sometimes lose focus and forget about what really makes a good school and learning environment.  With that in mind, and since it is officially National Teacher Appreciation Week, here are some notable examples of great schools with wonderful students and impressive teachers:

More than a High–Stakes test score:  Senior projects and presentations, and everyday great learning.

Students in North Kingstown schools work for years at the high school on various capstone projects, culminating with the senior project and presentation.  Kudos go to dedicated teachers Beth Conrad and Melissa Waterman who run the program, and all of the other educators and staff who work with students all year to prepare them to present their work, and to the panels of teachers and others who volunteer their time to judge.  This is truly what practical learning should look like.  What is also often forgotten and subsequently diminished in the public arena is the high quality teaching and learning that is going on every day in our classrooms.  From learning about proper text citation, persuasive writing, and developing a love of reading at the early elementary level, to finding one’s passion in art, music, or drama; North Kingstown students have enjoyed and benefitted from these essential elements of a great, public school education that are not always covered in a news article or a television sound bite by supposed education reformers.  These elements must be protected in any state mandate or school budget, as they are truly a keystone to supporting a well-rounded education that will foster the concept of what it means to be a lifelong learner for our students.

Outside the classroom:  Unified basketball including and uniting all kids.

As well as being the real leaders in education, teachers and staff are also even more than great instruction; they form meaningful and lasting bonds with children that often occur outside the classroom.  One great example is the Unified Basketball program in our schools.   For example, in conjunction with Special Olympics, Davisville Middle School is one of twelve schools statewide who were invited to play in the league.  The team combines the talents of partners and athletes working together side by side at practices and games.  Students, parents, and families are encouraged to attend at no cost. Special Olympics pay for the uniforms, equipment, referees, and buses. At the end of the season, there is a round robin tournament that all teams in their division play.  Two great educators, Lisa Vinacco, Physical Education, and Jaime George, Special Education, coach the team.  Their leadership has helped students redefine their self-esteem, as well as achieve a 4-0 record! The last game of the season is May 8, 2014 - DMS vs. Cole Middle School @ Cole.  Come support the team!

Always giving back to the community – NEANK and NKESP Scholarships for seniors of North Kingstown High School.

For years, members of both the NEANK teachers Union and NKESP support staff union have raised money among their members to be able to award scholarships to graduating North Kingstown seniors going on to college or other technical training institutions.  We believe that learning really is a life-long goal, and so through basket raffles, monthly direct payroll deductions, yard sales, and more, educators and support staff are proud to continue this tradition of awarding more scholarships to graduating seniors than any other organization in North Kingstown.

The challenges we face as a school community and as a nation are daunting and never-ending.  There will always be pressure to decrease budgets and try to do more with less.  Whether it is program reductions, less funding for school supplies, or aging buildings that are not maintained, that can only happen so often.  We are fortunate that despite having economic challenges in some areas of the district, that the dedication of our educators succeeds in overcoming many of these challenges to make North Kingstown the third best school in the state.  In this global market where we are expected to compete with other world power nations, it is also essential to dedicate funds to staff compensation in order to recruit and maintain the very best employees.  At some point, decisions about priorities must be made, and financial support must be given to invest in our future through our schools, the quality staff that run them, and our children.  A dollar saved today will be seen in the moment, but an investment in our future will resonate for generations.

Respectfully,

The Executive Board, NEANK  

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