It’s a natural evolution, really. Coinciding with the transformation from cruising on 85N through the heart of Atlanta in a fire engine red ’99 Beetlebug while wearing a pressed suit to the bus line in a dented minivan donning ratty yoga pants, comes the frenzied excitement about….wait for it….SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS! No longer do my toes tingle at the thought of a new club or cutting edge restaurant opening, now I get all hot and bothered at around 7:30 pm on the last Monday night of every month.
And last night’s meeting at West Chester Area School District’s Rustin High School didn’t disappoint. With the teachers of the WCASD voting down the fact finder’s report for a new contract and the November 5 th elections upon us-dangling like the sword of Damocles-the evening lived up to the hype.
I thought that by arriving 20 minutes early I would a secure a parking spot. Not so much. I ended up parking over a curb with the aforementioned front dented bumper kissing the asphalt. You can imagine my surprise when I saw not one, but two police cruisers parked by the building’s entrance. No. Way. Is there nothing more exhilarating than knowing the cops got called to a…wait for it…SCHOOL BOARD MEETING!?! Did they think the rowdy public- mostly teachers, students and parents- would start throwing rotten pomegranates and the like upon the stage? I’ve been waiting a long time to get a Pennsylvania mug shot. This was going to be my Gandhi moment. I was rueful I didn’t wash my hair earlier that day. I was actively dreaming of the next morning’s Daily Local News front page, being led away in cuffs in my shirt laden with “WCAEA” pins and headlines shouting “local mouthy PTO Mom goes down!” Who would post bail for me?
The auditorium was packed to the gills. I was happy to see so many teachers from my kids’ elementary school. My heart sang. These were our people. The heart line to my babes’ education for a cumulative 12 years. But the best part was standing in line with all of the Teen Spirit checking in to make public comment. They say Hell hath no fury like a mama scorned by meanie heads on the school board- but to the passionate 10th grade AP History student-I felt like I was a supportive cast member in a warped version from a scene in the movie Footloose. Awesome.
I sat next to my friend Dana- that was beyond a politically dangerous move by me. She’s that kind of trouble, a real rebel rouser to the elite far right wing of Chester County. I am fairly certain an effigy doll bearing her likeness dangles from a top secret meeting room somewhere in the bowels of the Borough. At one point in the meeting, she nudged me and shifted her eyes to the right. A Republican committee person, face a-smirk, was trying to clandestinely film us with her iphone. I have never felt so legit in my life. Would I, too, make what comes to mind as “Top Dangerous Opinionated Mom’s” list? Another round of awesome, please.
Countless teachers, students and community members (and yours truly) marched up to the podium in the packed auditorium to let the current WCASD school board know of their displeasure that the teachers’ have worked without a contract for over a year and the negotiations have continued to stall.
I am the first to admit, I had a hard time with my 2 minutes. I wanted to pack my points in. Normally, I love to speak. Give me a microphone and a crowded room and I will never give it back. But, I was speaking of my sons and their allergies that they suffer anaphalaxis reactions, and specifically my Kindergartner who has a life threatening yet unamed bee/yellowjacket/hornet venom allergy. (http://www.hyphenista.com/?p=1256 “Our First Rodeo to the ER” posted 10/17/13). It is hard to convey our experience the day of his sting and keep a strong voice. I literally entrust my boys lives to the staff at their school. Every day. Never once while we were in the hospital or the days that ensued our trauma did the communication and care he received from his Principal, Kindergarten Teacher, School Nurse and the School Secretary ever feel like a “contractual obligation”. His Kindergarten Teacher texted me throughout the night and the next morning monitoring his status. This doesn’t feel like a 9 to 5 job description to me. She doesn’t punch in and punch out. It’s that kind of “above and beyond” that my kids’ teachers give. I am somewhat of a stalker at our school, visiting often for volunteer responsibilities. I listen and learn and witness the “above and beyond”, which doesn’t seem to be taken into consideration for this teacher negotiation.
Maybe it’s trite, but, when it comes to our public schools, YOUR VOTE can make all the difference in Chester County. Let your voice ring on November 5 th. Tell all of your friends whose children infiltrate our schools- even those young ones who haven’t procreated yet, it will be important to them one day. Remind Grandparents that this is the foundation for their grandkids. This is where it begins. Cue in the Maestro and clap together now as we are “Holding out for A Hero”!