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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Forever Forestville - September 2011

The Winds of Change
I don’t know if it is because small towns are inherently more stagnant than their urban counterparts (thus the name of this column) but I have noticed that change can be particularly difficult in our little utopia. This has been most apparent to me over the past few years, as I have been involved in various capacities at Forestville School.

This cornerstone of our community has experienced dramatic cutbacks in funding, declining enrollment, stricter mandates and academic expectations to achieve with decreased manpower, changes in administration, and most recently the retirement of a large portion of its teaching population.
And though I have been continually impressed with how the school, with the help of a creative staff, a dedicated parent foundation, and numerous volunteers, has been able to maintain a strong academic program and extracurricular activities that include drama, art, music, classroom aides, sports, and enrichment courses, these challenges have had an impact on the morale and the reputation of the school.  
Instead of accepting the status quo or giving up in frustration, the school decided to face these issues head on. For a day and a half, the entire staff of teachers, instructional assistants, administrators, board members, and support staff joined together in a professional development workshop as part of the Forestville Forward Initiative. Designed to encourage transformation and engagement and to foster a healthy, thriving school community, this workshop provided an opportunity for these dedicated individuals to build relationships, express concerns, enhance trust, and focus on possibilities for the future, rather than problems in the past. It was a powerful time and I know that it is going to greatly enhance the educational opportunities and overall atmosphere at Forestville School.
I have always been a strong advocate for public education. I suppose I did not have much of a choice considering how many of my family members dedicated their lives to the profession. But no matter what your background or your current connection with the school system, we all should be concerned about the state of our schools.
The health of a community, especially a small community such as ours, is deeply affected by the health of its schools. Our economic growth and stability is dependent on it! We are blessed to have two strong institutions available to us.
Though I have not been as intricately involved in El Molino High School, I do know that it is doing a fantastic job facing challenges and changes and is providing a solid academic and vocational foundation for its students, two of my children included. They are not perfect, nor have they been without problems, but they are two truly great schools. I encourage you all to check them out and do what you can to support them. We will all benefit!

Bond Money Helping Schools
You’ve probably noticed your Bond Measure monies at work on both campuses this summer. Solar panels have been installed at the high school. At Forestville School, classrooms have been renovated, roofs repaired and replaced, bathrooms updated, and electronic upgrades made campus wide. Though its hard to say if all the work will be done by the time classes start, it has been exciting to see these improvements made.
Another change that I’d like to mention is that Forestville School has adopted a new policy about pets on campus. Due to health and safety concerns, parents and community members will no longer be allowed to bring their pets on campus. Of course there are exceptions to service animals and classroom activities involving animals will still happen in various classrooms, but proper paper work and approval needs to be obtained for these visits.

Community Connection
Lastly, I want to encourage everybody to come out for the Town Social & Business Expo, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. This fun and informative event will be held on September 24th from 1:00 until 5:00 at the Crinella field across from Fred’s Liquors. You can sign up at the Forestville Pharmacy, $20 for Chamber members and non-profits and $50 for non-members. This is a great opportunity to promote your business, sell your goods, and meet many of our wonderful community members face to face. There will be great food, live music, and a fun-loving, locally committed crowd. For more information contact Pete Summers at 887-2260.

Hope to see you there!