Letter: Work together to tackle what ails our schools

Honored to have this letter published in the May 4, 2022 edition of the Roanoke Times.

Dear Editor,

Before the 2021 governor’s race in Virginia, our public schools already produced headlines for the news media.

Accreditation, safety, equity, funding, morale, race, and deteriorating buildings could attain front page coverage in any region.

For two years, COVID-19 added to the headlines as schools faced multiple challenges. Academic and social recovery from the pandemic is on-going. Catching students up is a daunting task.

Truthfully, our public schools have always faced challenges. With little hesitation, society looks to our schools to solve problems that students, their families, and our communities face. Often, these impactful intrusions are beyond a school’s control.

I wonder why researchers, policymakers, politicians, and educational leaders fail to study more carefully data in those habitual cycles that are beyond a school’s control?

Fixing the challenges in our schools lies in breaking vicious cycles in economic deprivation, housing, employment, mental health, and perhaps the most important— parenting.

Even in normal circumstances, parenting is stressful. I can only imagine the demands a single parent faces in an unstable environment.

Is their a solution?

Maybe.

Is it possible for Virginia to tackle the virulent cycles that impact schools as a collective team rather than individual silos?

Could Virginia recruit practical thinkers from nonprofits, established agencies in social services, health, and justice, school systems(including students/parents), and academia to confront these malignant cycles and frame a workable template for a feasible fix?

Consider how rapidly a vaccine was developed to combat COVID-19.

Why can’t Virginia have the same urgency to solve these longstanding disruptive cycles that impact our schools?

Perhaps, our political leaders feel this urgency is better served in the recently implemented “tip line” to tattle on teachers.

Sadly, a “tip line” doesn’t solve problems.

It only widens our divide.

Bill Pike

Henrico County, Virginia

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