Hundreds protest school cuts

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 13, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
KANNAPOLIS — A.L. Brown’s Memorial Stadium looked more like the site of a carnival than a rally Friday evening.
Children played games and jumped around in bounce houses while students from throughout the Kannapolis City school system performed musical numbers and dances.
But those in attendance knew the gathering of hundreds of people was more than just fun and games.
Dressed in red, they came to voice their concern about state budget cuts to education.
School board chairwoman Danita Rickard told the crowd at the rally for public education that the cuts facing the school system are the “most drastic” she’s ever seen.
The estimated decrease in funding has already forced the district to issue 87 pink slips to help fill an anticipated $2.1 million deficit.
“That affects all of us and our community,” Rickard said. “Educating our children is the most important thing we can do for them and for society.”
Lisa Gurley, a technology facilitator at Fred L. Wilson Elementary school, is one of the personnel being laid off.
The Kannapolis native has two masters degrees and has been in public education for 21 years, spending 15 years in a kindergarten classroom.
“It was disappointing,” she said. “But I understand the necessity of it and the decision.”
Gurley said the proposed elimination of technology funding is especially troubling.
“We’ve really been working hard on technology for the past two years and for us not to be able to continue to progress makes me sad,” she said.
Kannapolis resident Willie Pore, the parent of two Forest Park Elementary students, said increasing class size is one of his primary concerns.
“We need enough teachers for them to do their jobs effectively,” he said. “The reality is kids need more assistance and enrichment than ever.”
Pore said the cuts will keep the school system from moving foward.
“We’re preaching kids first, but we’re not doing the right thing,” he said. “We’re going to end up falling behind.”
Elizabeth Freeman, Parent/Teacher Organization vice president at Forest Park Elementary, said finding out 15 people are being laid off at the school was one of the worst days she’s ever witnessed.
“We are now facing increased class sizes with very few resources,” she said.
She said the parent council gathered 672 letters from voters that support public education to send to legislators during Kannapolis’ Village Fest and hoped to send hundreds more after Friday’s rally.
“We want to send a loud message to our legislators,” she said.
Forest Park parent Mary Blackert told the crowd that slashing technology and programs for academically gifted students would hurt the children who will be the “leaders of tomorrow.”
“We believe that even in tough economic times we must find a way to fund education for our children,” she said.
Freeman told parents to take a stand, urging them to stay informed about decisions being made in Raleigh.
She also told the audience to vote for the one-quarter cent Cabarrus County sales and use tax increase. A portion of the money generated by the tax hike would help pay off school construction debt.
Freeman also encouraged parents to get involved.
“Support our schools, support our teachers,” she said.
“We have to step up as parents and volunteer our time, we need to walk the halls.
“We’re all in this together and together we can make a difference,” she said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.