I didn’t get to attend the Save Our Schools rally in DC a few weeks ago, but Coweta school board member Amy Dees sent me a note that she attended. I asked her to share an account with us.
She sent this essay a while ago but the news events of the last three weeks have delayed its appearance. Amy Dees also gave me some of her photos to post here.
By Amy Dees
I have been an advocate of our public education system for years. I am a product of the public school system and all four of my children attend public school. My name is Amy Dees and I currently hold the District One Board of Education seat in Coweta County.
I became actively involved in public education when my oldest daughter started kindergarten in 2000. I was a room mom, school volunteer, PTO Officer, and later PTO President. I ran for my local school board because I saw a need for better communication between our classrooms and our board room. My goal is to bridge that gap.
I have been writing about education for years. I have written promotional material, PTO policies, and numerous articles on education, but I lacked the one element that Michelle Rhee obtained….Oprah. ( I am positive that no one has ever heard of me.)
I know many of you have heard of the movie “Waiting for Superman.” This is a film that smears our public educators and promotes the privatization of our public education system. Well, let me just say, congratulations, you no longer have to wait. He has arrived!
I honestly want to tell you that he has never actually been here and that your public schools are full of hero’s that fight for
your children’s education every day. They always have. I am talking about our educators.
I believe that everyone that interacts with your child at school on a daily basis is an educator. Bus drivers aka educator, custodians aka educator, cafeteria workers aka educator, teacher aka educator and here is the most important one of all…PARENT aka EDUCATOR. Parents need to stop blaming our educators and get up and get to work educating our children. In order to do that, we need to abolish AYP and put an end to standardized testing. You can wait around for superman or you can do something about it.
I chose to do something about it. I had the honor of meeting Diane Ravitch, education historian, at a conference in Savannah
this past June. She invited me to attend the “Save our Schools Rally” in Washington last month. A rally? To Save our Schools? Count me in. My 16-year-old daughter and I headed to DC. We arrived the morning of the march and my brother-in-law (who lives there) was kind enough to drop us off and go park the car. My daughter and I, along with my 17- year- old niece, jumped out and headed toward the lawn. We were standing in the shadow on the Washington Monument and I could feel my pulse soar. We are at a march…in Washington…to save our schools! ( I can cross that off my bucket list!)
The reality of the day made us all giddy. We made our way toward the stage weaving our way in and out of the crowd. I wanted to catch a glimpse of Diane and let her know that I had arrived. (Not that she really knew who I was, but it was important to me.) A few moments later, I did exactly that and she gave me a “thumbs-up” before making her way to the media tent. We walked around reading all of the posters that the protesters had created. One read :”No behinds get ahead!” Another read: “Teaching is an Art, not a business.”
The heat enveloped us like blanket so we took the free water offered by the organizers of the event and found a shady spot under a tree. Near our new found oasis, we saw the reporter from Reason.TV asking questions of the protesters. We saw the CNN cameraman trying not to trip as he walked backward trying to film the events. We saw a huge, over-sized poster of President Obama’s face marked with a Hitler mustache with the words “Impeach Obama” printed in bold print at the bottom. It was attached to a long pole so that it could be carried around. A few of Obama’s supporters tried their best to walk in front of the sign to hide its message from view. We noticed several teacher unions and watched several state groups march in matching shirts all heavily soaked with sweat. One of my favorite things at the march was the “No Child Left Behind” mock cemetery. Inside a make-shift fence were small, painted headstones that read “In loving memory of Critical Thinking” and “Here lies Art, PE and Music.”
I was here. I was making a difference or was I just sweating profusely? I do not agree with teacher unions and I was surrounded by several. I was hot. I debated fleeing to the air conditioning of the car. My temper flared along with my body heat as I listened to these union folks talk about their “rights.” My daughter summed it all up quite nicely. “What about the students?” I was grateful that no one near us had actually heard her say that, but I had to agree. We were here merely to lend a voice in helping abolish AYP. I don’t actually know a lot about the unions, but that is not why we were here.
We were here for the STUDENTS. We were here to be their voice. We rose to our feet and made our way to the front of the crowd and then I heard His voice. (Not HIS voice…I was hot, but not close to dying). The voice of . John Kuhn, the superintendent of Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent Schools from the great state of Texas. ( He was on the stage and he sounded a bit like a Southern Baptist preacher.)
He asked if our government had to answer to annual yearly progress. He asked if our government would have all of our citizens employed by the year 2014. (That is when all of our schools are to pass AYP with 100 percent). He talked about immigration and much to the delight of my daughter…he talked about STUDENTS. I do believe he is my new hero ( I am not waiting for you-know-who).
We went around to the media tent to shake his hand when we spotted the media frenzy that surrounded Matt Damon. Matt
was kind and was enduring the heat with the rest of us. He is a supporter of public education and for that I am grateful. His mother is an educator. I opted not to ask for an autograph or a photograph. I was a bit sweaty and didn’t feel that I should be getting up close and personal with the celebrity that came to support our cause. He respects education so I respected him.
I was able to shake the hand of the man that I now call “SUPERMAN!” John Kuhn was excited and very friendly. He thanked me for my involvement in education and I did the same to him. I mentioned that I was born in Texas and he smiled. I was more star-struck with this amazing educator than I had previously been with Matt Damon. ( Still a big fan, Mr. Damon.)
The day continued with the temperatures soaring near 100 degrees. I actually saw an old man sporting the hippie look holding a sign that read “Education NOT War!” I did not agree with the man, but that made my march on Washington DC complete. This lawn had seen many protesters through the years and now I could leave my own, sweaty footprints behind.
I was once told that we all make a difference, but we must ask ourselves what difference is it that we are going to make? I believe that our nation’s greatest natural resource is our children. I believe that it is our duty as parents to stand up and parent our children. I believe that super hero’s exist only in the comic strips, but if you want to witness a true, honest all-American hero, step into a classroom and watch a teacher. We need stop bashing America’s education system and get to the true root of the problem. TESTING. The federal government can change it. Will they?
I don’t know, but that is no excuse for us to sell our children to the highest bidder and give our public tax dollars over to private corporations and say, “Here, you try.”
The answer is simple. The answer is our parents. The most important person in any child’s education is their parent. Are all parents involved? No, that is why it is so important for those of us who can be involved to GET involved. Mentor a student if you don’t have one. Ordinary parents can become extra-ordinary leaders in our school system and we need you.
Don’t sit around waiting for “superman” because our nation can’t afford to wait. We are wasting valuable time that needs to be invested in our children now. Be the kryptonite in your school. Let your emerald green light shine through! You don’t need one hero. You are surrounded by many.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog