Guest Post from Melissa Cortright Newmaster, Pennsylvania. Here’s her story…
One Mother’s Journey.
“Oh…I’ve been a busy bee. My work is almost done here in my school district.
This past Tuesday was School board election night.
This is the second and the last time I will help clean out the board room.
Clean sweep. No incumbents made it back into their seats. 6 brand new board members will take their seats in a few weeks.
Eight years ago, I watched the incumbents take their seats. I helped put them in those seats. Over the last couple of years, I began to notice a big change in the board members I campaigned so hard for and supported long after they’d been elected.
They were not the people I thought they were. Something changed. There was a disturbance in the Force. They became arrogant and snotty and they began to bully new board members or those who didn’t vote with them.
They stopped listening to their constituents and started looking down their noses and talking down to the people who elected them.
They began shaming parents and I sat paralyzed as the board president smirked at a mother, while she was telling them how a teacher bullies her daughter so badly, the 14 year old had to be institutionalized.
No one did anything. Not the principal, the superintendent, the guidance counselor, NO ONE.
The woman was in tears. I knew her story. I know the teacher is a bully. He got after my youngest just 2 years before.
THIS BOARD KNOWS the teacher is a bully. EVERYONE in the district KNOWS … yet, they do nothing.
Every year he gets a fresh batch of kids and every year it’s the same story, only from a different parent.
The woman left the board room in tears. They shut her down. They said, “This is not the time or the place.” They warned her she could be held liable and possible sued for slander.
And from the cheap seats I yelled “Well, when is it a good time to talk about this with all of you. Let’s set that up, right now.”
Silence and that’s when everything changed. I WOKE and I knew they had to go. Not just one. ALL OF THEM.
I helped put them there … damn straight … I would help take them out.
I felt a little responsible for the mess and when I make a mess, I clean it up. All done. It’s clean.
I will attend to watch the finale and to see the losers take their final curtain call. Their Sh*t Show is over but a new one is about to begin.
I’m not sticking around for this one. I’m giving up my season tickets. I will no longer be attending school board meetings.
I’m done wasting the first and second Monday of every month, sitting in the cheap seats with the rest of the peasants as they pat each other on the back and sing praise to the almighty Superintendent.
I can’t do it anymore. It’s killing me.
I no longer believe or support or care to save Public Education. It’s a waste of time. I’ve got nothing nice or positive to say about my school district or public education as it exists today.
It’s a mess. It’s not getting better and I don’t see it getting better.
I can’t think of one good reason to put or keep a child in the public school system. I spend more time encouraging parents to stay away from it or get out of it. I think it’s way too late to save it.
I’d much rather think and talk about and figure out what WE CAN DO to build something new and better.
I’m so tired of hearing what they/we CAN’T do at our school board meetings. I’m tired of teachers talking about everything they CAN’T do.
I can’t listen to one more teacher whine about how hard and difficult their jobs are or how much they hate their jobs: Some simply will not do anymore than what they want to do or what their union tells them they’re allowed to do.
They want a contract and then b*tch because they feel so confined. WTH?
They don’t get it. Their unions do not give a sh*t about them. The union doesn’t give a sh*t about public education or the children.
As long as they keep paying those union dues and doing whatever ‘Union Simon-Says’…this is how it’s going to be.
They don’t think they are responsible for what’s happening. They blame the kids and/or the parents They may not be the ones who are dumping the poison into the system but they have poison on their hands. Their dues are being used to buy the poison. When are they going to wake up?
I don’t think one damn teacher in my district ever watched the movie [Silkwood] or read the book. She had union protection.
I’m done. Done with trying to fight this on the local level.
Now I’m going to start b*tching about my crazy expensive school property tax bills, pushing for school tax reform and school choice and who knows…maybe I’ll open a private school.
I’ve always wanted to own and renovate an old school building.
I think parents need to abandon the government run public school system and put their time and energy into building a system we know will work and benefit THE CHILDREN.
Build schools around the kids.
I’m done fighting for a crappy system. We are better than this and our kids deserve better and damn it…YES WE CAN do it.
It would be a lot of work but so much fun and so worth it.”
by Melissa Cortright Newmaster
*UPDATE* Melissa provides us with a followup response, addressing those that have been dismissive to One Mothers Journey, her story that had been shared on social media anonymously…Here’s her response:
“Hi. The journey Michelle Moore shared, was mine. And it’s only one unpleasant, disturbing moment.
I have two sons. Both recent high school graduates. 2015 and 2016 and I have to say it was a long, uncomfortable, frustrating and damn scary journey.
In 2007, my gut was telling me to take my kids out of the public school system. I didn’t do it.
1. I didn’t know what to do or where to go.
2. My head was still in 1980 something and full of FOND memories of my own public education. I received a strong foundation. I got what I needed and I’m grateful.
3. I didn’t want to become a single mother. My husband didn’t catch onto what WASN’T happening in school until much, much later. He eventually caught up but it was a little too late.
I did not sit on my hands or remain silent over the last 8-10 years.
In fact, I stayed with it because I truly believed I COULD make a difference and help fix and resolve and help turn public ed back around.
I tried. Many parents in my district and surrounding districts tried, but we can see, we haven’t succeeded.
Hell, we accomplished nothing. Not even failure.
I ignored my gut 10 years ago and it was the biggest mistake I’ve made in my 50 years of life so far.
I FAILED MY KIDS and I can’t go back and fix it. They had their 13 year chance and MOM and DAD BLEW IT!
While we were fighting to fix it and save it we p’d away their Education and do you know what my kids said to me?
“It’s okay mum. We got this, now. We can read a map and you and dad gave us plenty of clues. It’s all good. Don’t take it so hard. We’re not.”
I’m not a crier. In fact, I’ll do anything I can to hold my tears. Especially in public. I doubt I would be able to hold my tears if I included my son’s words in my address to the school board.
So here I am. I’m not ignoring my gut this time.
Eight to ten years ago, I didn’t know what to do, where to turn or who to turn to for advice or support.
I gave public education a chance and there was a time when I believed and held hope that somehow we could save this ship from sinking. We can rearrange the cargo and the deck furniture all we want, it’s not going to change anything. It’s way to heavy and it’s taking on water. We can grab the kids and jump ship or go down with it.
There is something very, very, very wrong when parents show up to school board meetings and fall apart at the seams.
It shouldn’t be happening but it is.”
by Melissa Cortright Newmaster
Thank you Melissa.
We’ve collected some comments from a Facebook post of Melissa’s article. In no particular order here are some of those comments from this past week:
Oh my goodness! I thought it was just my local BOEs. Glad to know we are not alone but disheartened at the same time. I will keep going and fighting but seriously considering homeschooling.
SAME STORY… DIFFERENT ZIP CODE 55082
Christina Matthew Lichtenstein
Imagine me, the lucky parent, because my son is legally blind. I never thought I’d think that, never mind type it. My school district failed my son too. The only reason he’s not banging his head against the counter and the walls anymore or crying when he arrives home, is because I was able to get him OUT of my local public school. Yes I went to my BOE meetings and was told “not here and to sit down”. So where then?
He had one foot in the seeing world, and one foot in the blind world. We placed him in the blind, low vision, and special education world 3 years ago and he’s thriving. My heart goes out to the parents who don’t have that option because their kids have perfect vision. My son is blessed to be special needs……who knew.
As the mom of dyslexic kids (you know, the “lazy just need to try harder” ones) I have often imagined how much easier my fight would be if thier disability wasn’t of the invisible variety. I’m glad you said this, it is somehow helpful for me to hear it.
Ps-which is not said to diminish the struggle any one of us has been through!
This is unfortunately very true in Florida as well. The school board basically ignores you for the three minutes you get to speak. It was only by sheer luck that I gave my speech on a day when there was a packed house due to the transgender bathroom issue and a paralegal and someone about to run for the school board were in attendance. Oh, and the press was there covering the transgender issue. I received a call from the newspaper reporter telling me that the paralegal and the other unnamed gentlemen wanted to help. If not for them, my message fell on deaf ears. I mean, who cares about the abusive standardized testing of severely disabled children anyway? Needless to say, with the help of the lawyer and the unnamed person paying for said lawyer, we took our case to the Florida Department of Education and won. No one on the local or state level gave a damn, even though the law was clearly on our side. The only glimmer of hope I have for the school board is that the person who anonymously paid the attorney’s fees for us did win a seat on the school board. They also appear to be walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. I still don’t hold out much hope though that this one person can make a difference…but stranger things have happened. I don’t go to school board meetings anymore though. I don’t have time to go up there to be ignored. I will continue to fight for what’s right for my children though…and until more people start fighting for their own children, nothing will change.
In my town, the school board members also belong to the yacht club. If you don’t, your voice isn’t heard. Total waste of time, as is everything about the system.
It’s an unwieldy system shoved into an inverted triangle with Children on the bottom suffering from a bloated bureaucracy that keeps parents’ hopes alive with convoluted eduspeak until they wither under the excessive duress and confusion while the elite at the top feel empowered to keep pushing what doesn’t work but gladly accept payment for the deformation of education. 🤦♀️
Add me to the list of parents that stopped going to Board meetings. Completely disillusioned. It doesn’t matter if what you say is true or not, all that matters is how many people are saying it.
It is a kangaroo court. I thought about running for school board myself, but decided the best course of action to save my child’s education was to put her in private school. Almost half of her class are transfers from the town’s public school system.
I am one of those grandparents that has had to face the futility of attending board meetings and weary of the scorn dished out by school personnel and the community. Our grandchild now attends private school.
Tina Côte Ardito
I so get it! I am that mom full of guilt 😦
Therese Scacci Lopez
I too am one of those moms that just stopped going because it just wasn’t worth it. So I definitely get it.