Wed08272014

Last updateWed, 19 Nov 2014 8pm

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Safety on the minds of students

Several citizens, teachers and school staff turned out on Tuesday to speak at the Town Council meeting on April 10 to compel the council to approve funding for the high school repairs.

School Superintendent Kathleen Beane announced to the council that the School had a large contingent of parents and staff. Beane said the council’s budget work session scheduled for Tuesday, April 15 would run during spring break. She asked the council to keep that evening’s comments in mind during the public hearing on budget matters when they discuss the School.

Many of the speakers focused on maintenance funding to bring the school’s safety features up to date, as well as repairs to doors and windows that pose a safety risk.

Lisa Perky has been a teacher with Colonial Beach Schools for nine years. Perky discussed the issues the high school has with safety due to maintenance issues. She told the council, “It isn’t a question of if we should make the improvements; it’s how we make the improvements.”

Jennifer Hoss also spoke about safety, “This town’s best hope is a well-funded school which will protect our students’ safety, future and the future of this town.”

Both women discussed inadequacies in safety through maintenance problems at the School.
Robin Baker, who is an alumni student and now a parent of a student in elementary school, said she had a great experience here. “Colonial Beach was the reason I went on to college. I chose Colonial Beach for my child. My concern is for the educations of these children; they are our future educators, doctors and lawyers. They are going to be here when you guys are long gone, so when you consider the fate of the school, keep in mind that these children are relying upon you.”

John Mitchem is a new teacher who said he has been here for a year. He said he was shocked to see 17 new teachers during orientation. Mitchem said that it is about 35% of the School’s staff. State average is 15% new teachers. The School had to replace four more teachers throughout the year. Mitchem said, “I am asked weekly if I am returning next year.” He said this affects trust with the students. Mitchem blames the low teacher salaries in Colonial Beach for the high turnover.

The most heartwarming and compelling comments came from Veronica Reynolds, who has been a teacher at Colonial Beach for 16 years. Reynolds said she was not going to speak, but a student’s class assignment compelled her to.

Reynolds gave her 11th grade class a poem to read. The poem is by Paul Whitman. In the poem, the speaker becomes different heroes; a skipper who saves a flailing ship, a mother who was executed for witchcraft and a fireman who was mortally wounded on a job.

The students are asked to make their own extension becoming a modern-day hero in their portion of the poem. Students submitted doctors, police officers and a teacher.

Feeling moved, Reynolds’ heart was touched. Then she took a second look and what it said: “I am the teacher, protecting the students I watch over. The silence, disturbed by the click of the door handle. I throw myself forward, into the line of fire, to disarm the assailant. My classroom, my domain, is safe, but I am not.”

Reynolds implored the council to approve the money to repair and update the high school for not only for the safety of the kids, but for their peace of mind. She said, “Clearly, security is on the mind of our students.”

That evening, the council passed a resolution giving the Town Manager approval to seek funding for the School’s funding requests for the elementary school move and repairs to the high school.

—Linda Farneth

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