To the editor:
I am writing to urge my fellow islanders to strongly consider voting in favor of Christina Wakefield for school board.
One of the things that I treasure about living here is that this is a community that cares, passionately, about education. This is precisely why I believe it is time for new blood and new vision at the school board.
I want to be clear that I am not impugning the desires or motives of the current board members. This is a difficult and demanding job with few or any perks. But we look to the board for leadership and vision and the results have been disappointing.
In replacing Wilkes and Blakely, we are in the process of spending $70 million dollars for two elementary schools. Aside from whether we should be building one of the highest-cost-per-student elementary schools in the state, what most concerns me about the board’s oversight is that no one paused to ask if it was wise to purchase buildings that enforce a model of education which will be completely outdated long before the buildings come down, and is likely out of date now. In other words, does it make sense to build extravagantly expensive schools when they lack the flexibility to adapt to better ways of schooling?
In parallel, last year’s budget crisis was largely self-created. The district negotiated a wage increase with the teachers at a time when they also knew that a budget shortfall was coming. The result was fired teachers and district-wide chaos. Whether this was accidental or intentional is almost beside the point — is this the way the largest employer on the island should be operating?
And finally, there is BHS, where an emphasis on “achievement” has resulted in a student body that delivers high grades and test scores but is also thoroughly mired in the national adolescent health crisis; the most recent Healthy Youth Survey reports that 65 percent of our high schoolers do not enjoy being at school and that 20 percent of our high and middle schoolers have contemplated suicide in the past year.
I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Christina about her ideas and methods, and her energy, commitment, and intelligence give me real hope that these issues can be addressed in the way that they need to be. As a public health veteran who spent years in Africa dealing with issues of economics, education, and adolescent development, Christina brings strategic thinking, sophistication in understanding the intersection of data and real life, and a belief that we can best serve our kids by, as she puts it, “a process of nurturing, inspiring, and shaping human beings to thrive.”
She is a rare combination of expertise and imagination, experience and curiosity, and all of us would be fortunate to have her working for our children.