To the Editor:
I am writing today in reference to State Senator Brattin’s letter to the editor about failed public education in Missouri. Senator, let’s talk through what you wrote...
Yes, COVID-19 has taught us several things, but I challenge your assumption on the use of your word “more.” Instead, I present that these are the true lessons learned:
1. At the start of the pandemic in March, public school districts took action to ensure students would have an opportunity to learn and staff would be supported when it was clear Jefferson City lawmakers would not be taking the lead other than shuttering our doors.
2. In the spring, we fed our students, not caring or knowing if we were going to be reimbursed by the state or federal governments. We served over 100,000 meals to children from April to the end of June, and I am sure the other districts in our county did as well - because increasingly, public school districts are being asked to do much more than teach our children. And we do it. Why? Because it is the right thing to do.
3. No one knows better how to pivot due to a last-minute schedule change than a teacher. While no one anticipated the pandemic pivot would last this long, our teachers continue to learn, adapt, and overcome to help every child succeed. And knowing virtual learning works for some students, but does not work for all students, Belton offered parents the option for 5 days a week in-person or virtual learning this year.
4. Public school teachers and staff are underpaid, and our Board of Education has a plan to remedy this.
You mention that the “status quo for education in Missouri is not working.” I know of no school district that is happy with the status quo. We are always adapting and changing to improve on the status quo. Belton is a prime example of a district who is always asking what’s next and how can we better serve our community, challenge our students, and attract new families? In Belton, we have a STEAM elementary school, robotics teams, an award-winning early childhood education center, and 6 of our 9 campuses are State &/or National Schools of Character. I also invite you to meet with me or others in our district to learn more about the transformation of learning happening at Belton High School. The Academies of Belton are changing the landscape of the future for all students for which we are becoming a national model.
Our parents, families, and students have choices inside the Belton School District. Our staff work hard to ensure every child who crosses the thresholds of our schools gets a quality education. We have a top-notch special education program as well because we serve ALL students. So before you say we have a failing public educational system, come into one of our schools and really see what’s happening. I know you have not been to Belton, so give me a call and we can arrange for a visit.
Senator Brattin, when you say we have a failed education system in this town, I take umbrage with that remark. I have been on the Board of Education for 12 years, and Board President for 5 years. I am not paid for this position, but I am proud to serve because I am passionate about public education. All of my decisions are based on what is right for all of the kids in our district.
I will stand firm against your position on public education and will continue to sing the praises of what is happening in Belton.
I have additional concerns about your intentions with the ESA plan, and will submit those in a future letter to the editor.
Jerry Miller, President
Board of Education, Belton School District #124