Today I went to local school to learn how I could volunteer. I am friends with their professor in residence and have listened to many stories about the community she serves. I had expected to be shocked and disturbed by what I found but my expectations could not have prepared me for the hours I spent at School 12.
While the students were well dressed in uniforms and on the whole well behaved (thanks to an apparently superior group of teachers), the halls were staffed with monitors and the doors guarded by police officers.
While the teachers gave up their lunch hour to work with students who read below grade level, some of the third graders that I read with, read only as well as my pre-schooler.
While the building was beautifully decorated for the holidays (by a janitor whose position was cut last year but who returned to carry on his tradition), the director of special education asked me to evaluate some students in need of speech services because many, many children were under served if they were served at all.
While the principal and vice principal were actively involved, walking the hallways, interacting with students and teachers the whole time I was there, teachers complained that they had received no money back from parents for a planned field trip.
But then there is this:
The school has no programs in art, music or library.
In September, the principal learned that he had no money with which to pay a music teacher, an art teacher or a librarian.
I know there are bright and aspiring artists at School 12 and there is no one to watch their talent grow.
The vice principal told me that students come to her asking when they can bring books home from the library. There is no one to check out those books.
While the library at School 12 is small compared to the spacious libraries I have visted in my district, there were shelves of books waiting to be read. Instead of seeing a librarian doing her best to reach these children, I saw lights turned out and doors locked.
If you live in New Jersey, please share this story and any others you know like it with Governor Christie so he will know the damage that his budget cuts have caused. If you live outside of our state, learn what is happening in your own state.
Beginning in the new year, I will serve as the School 12 librarian, in a volunteer capacity for the hours a week that I can. While this will help, there has to be a bigger and better answer.
There has to be.