Valley Citizen Op-Ed, “Community Supports Education”

February 20, 2014

Printed in Valley Citizen, Op-Ed Section, Feb 20, 2014

There are many spokes in the wheel that drives quality education. Parents, volunteers, philanthropic supporters and the community are all integral in furthering quality education for supporting Teton School District #401 and its vision of excellence. While the schools have been the subject of controversy lately, we believe there has been widespread support of our schools overall.

Parents and volunteer community members are on the front lines of supporting our schools and teachers. So many give their time and financial resources to help where it is needed and in ways that are meaningful for our entire student body.
Philanthropic support helps to fill the funding gaps and provides added opportunities for students. Teton Valley Education Foundation (TVEF) raises funds to support our public schools through quality programs and community partnerships. There has been widespread community support as demonstrated through our expansion of core programs made possible through the contributions of so many. In addition, both TSD and TVEF have received successful grant awards to provide additional funds to further technology and development. Grantors, supporters and volunteers provide a tangible reminder of our shared vision of furthering quality education. Widespread community support for our schools is demonstrated through favorable bonds and levies that have provided the funding necessary to enhance our facilities, build new schools and support essential functions. Residents from all over the county and with differing backgrounds voted to approve the March 2013 two-year supplemental levy. While Idaho ranks 49th per student spending (www.nea.org), and while we bemoan our ranking, our generous community provides some protection from that reality.

We have a lot to be proud of. TSD has improved and it shows. Our graduation rate is 95% and consistently trends above the State of Idaho rates. The graduating class of 2012 and 2013 garnered scholarship awards of over $3M and $1.8M. Teton High School expanded its Advanced Placement (AP) program to provide students opportunities to with college credits in areas of English, Calculus, History and US Government. Progress has been made with student achievement with 88% of our entire student body efficient or advanced in reading and 79% in math (http://apps.sde.idaho.gov/reportcard). Teton Middle School is nearly completed with its accreditation process that will allow advanced students to begin taking high school credits that will allow them to take additional classes for AP or enrichment. These are all tangible examples that demonstrates progress is being made, thanks to the efforts of our teachers and so many. To continue on this upward trend, we can continue to support education and teachers in many ways. This past week many teachers have commented to the Foundation on what they need in terms of support from us all. They provided input that was truly meaningful. On a state and district level, our teachers have commented that we can support them by continuing to support funding, technology, common core, and decisions to support Teton School District’s mission of providing a progressive education. A comment that was common to TSD staff is that teachers seek consistent and adequate funding. Without a predictable funding stream from the state, this forces the Teton School District administrative team to simply take it “year by year” and doesn’t allow them to plan accordingly. Teachers look to the district to create financial stability for educators when the state fails. Our teachers feel that the district’s ability to create financial stability helps retain excellent educators. On the simplest level, we can visit with teachers in a way that provides a constructive and meaningful outcome for all. We can simply ask our teachers, “how can we support you?” And listen.

Many of us wear several hats when it comes to driving education forward; as a voter, taxpayer, donor, parent, community member or volunteer. Our schools are stronger through the generosity and support of our community and our shared vision of moving education forward.  Teton Valley Education Foundation’s motto is, “because young minds matter.” Let’s all
remember what’s important and move forward together.