Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 14, 2007

By Ashley Dunham
For the Salisbury Post
As PTA co-president at Koontz Elementary, I must speak on behalf of all parents and staff who have worked this year to improve conditions for students at our school. In February, the PTA officers decided to take action because our enrollment was so close to capacity, and over 60 percent of third and fifth graders were at risk for retention. We believed that these two factors would push our enrollment to the point where we would not have enough classrooms available for our students, thus affecting every student’s ability to learn.
Initially, the PTA officers felt that moving students was not the best option. At the March 12 Board of Education meeting, we asked them to consider our population and capacity issues and give us additional resources, such as our own buses and extra teachers to reduce class size. At that time, we were told that no additional resources were available other than Title I funding and an additional teacher position allotted to all at-risk schools.
Because we knew that other neighboring schools were under capacity by 150 to 200 students, the PTA officers agreed that all students at Koontz would be in a better position to achieve if some students were redistributed to reduce our student population. Because both economic and educational research confirms that students are best served with an equally distributed population not exceeding recommended school capacity, we also believed that neighboring schools currently running under capacity could serve any students moved to their school equally or better than Koontz would be able to do under overcrowded circumstances. We would have never supported moving students into a situation where they were not wanted. For those of you who believed that our intentions were to get rid of certain students rather than place them in a better position to learn, you obviously don’t know us very well. We raised more than $50,000 this year to support all students at our school and would have continued to represent one of the largest at-risk elementary school populations in the county even if some of our students were moved.
I was not able to attend the Board of Education meeting Monday night, but I did read the article in the paper. Based on the Post’s coverage, the board and administration think that the best decision for Koontz students is to contribute more resources to deal with our at-risk population and move mobile units in front of a brand new school even though a neighboring school is running 150 students under capacity. The PTA doesn’t understand how the board can justify that decision by saying that all students at both schools will be better off academically if students aren’t moved. I hope they prove us wrong.
I am anxiously waiting to see the board and administration put their money where their mouth is by providing additional resources to our school. That will be the true test of whether they are sincerely invested in all of our school children. Our PTA will not give up until ALL children currently served by Koontz are getting the best possible education that is available in Rowan County.
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Ashley Dunham is co-president of the PTA at Elizabeth Duncan Koontz Elementary School.