Shoreline Education on the Brink


May 13, 2010
West Marin Citizen


Browse in West Marin

To: Meredith Siebe and Sandy Kaplan, Co-Presidents, Shoreline Education Association

From: Jonathan Rowe, Point Reyes Station

Date: May 13, 2010

Now the ball is in your court.

The jobs of three extraordinary teachers – your colleagues – are in jeopardy at the Inverness and West Marin Schools, along with several others at the northern end of the Shoreline District.

Other immediate options have been exhausted. You are the only ones who can save those teachers – and more importantly, the children who depend upon them.

The teachers here are Sharon Zarate, Melissa Reilly and Anne Halley Harper. They teach kindergarten, first and second grades respectively – the crucial first three years. All three are fluent in Spanish, which is essential in a school that is roughly half Latino. All three put heart and soul into their work.

The kids love them, and the results show it. In the second grade class at West Marin School this year, every single student is reading at grade level or higher. This is remarkable, especially considering that English is the second language for many of these children. At least one started kindergarten speaking practically no English at all.

Not coincidentally, this is the first group that has gone through the program that these three great teachers have established. West Marin recently won a coveted “Distinguished School” award largely on that basis.

Yet under the existing rules, the last hired are the first fired. The school board doesn’t have much choice. So, the reward for these three exceptional teachers is that, in the current budget crunch, they will be the first out the door – unless you take a stand.

The school board is looking for cuts in other places and will continue to do so. We parents and community members will do our part too. We—in the southern portion of the Shoreline district at least – have supported bond measures and the parcel tax. We help in the classroom, serve as volunteer tutors, work on fundraising – such as the recent Cinco de Mayo celebration at West Marin School – and do whatever else we can.

We will do more. Now we are asking you to help too.

We know it is not easy, and we don’t like to ask. We would give most teachers raises if we could. But it is a few minutes to midnight and the clock is ticking. If your union will agree to spread the pain through a small, temporary, across the board cut, then you can save the jobs of your colleagues who are so important to the children and to the entire community.

If it’s any comfort, a lot of us have taken cuts in recent years too.

It probably is not necessary to tell you that people do not hold teacher unions in universally high regard these days. This is a chance to prove your critics wrong. We believe that all of you became teachers because you really care about young people and that you have not forgotten what brought you here.

The teachers at West Marin School voted in a straw poll to support their threatened colleagues. That was an inspiration, and a source of hope for all of us. Please follow their brave lead.

Our gratitude to you will be great, and we will not forget.