By Jacob English-Dalbec,
As a student caught among the struggle of the strike, I can attest to the dismal state that the schools sit in, an uneasy air roaming through the halls followed by hired-hand security guards and picket sign-carrying union members. All throughout School District 9, students are forced between the opposing sides of the Union and the School Board who quarrel over contract changes. Strangely, all of this warring is supposedly done “in the name of the students”, but no one has asked the students what they think. Neither Superintendent Cynda Rickert’s incredibly close-minded addresses, nor any depressing video entitled I am… has asked the students their thoughts, so I set out to answer this question.
Strikingly, when asked “What do you know of the strike?” the youth of Jackson County School District 9 had a very clear idea of the policies that led to the strike. Each student interviewed knew of a lack of funds within the district, most knew of the abolishment of the teacher’s prep times, and surprisingly, a few even knew of the school board’s attempt to sub-contract classified staff. Overall, the students, of which this matter affects more than anyone, had more questions than they did answers, and these questions seemed to be shrugged off by the officials who should have been more than equipped to answer them. Seth Coy, a senior of Eagle Point High School, asked a question that hasn’t been addressed. “If they can’t afford the actual teachers and staff, how can they afford security guards and substitute teachers?” Questions such as these riddle the airways of hushed classrooms, and the students express genuine concern. Rest assured, the general student body understands the critical nature of this political debate, and how it affects their future, but also feel helpless at the hands of the two opposing forces.
Asked the question “How is the strike affecting you?” it was apparent that the students believed that this strike was disrupting their education. Many students have formed sincere bonds with their mentors through the years and are shaken to watch them go. Mo Bartolome, an 8th grader of White Mountain Middle School, stated that the strike was unreasonable, simply because it was taking away from the student’s education. Robbing the students of their time in school is unfair, as Andrew Thornton, an Eagle Point High School freshman, remarked “A week off is nice but unnecessary.” Many seniors of Eagle Point High School have been sent into a chaotic scramble as the last month of their time in school threatens to take away their chance at graduation, and potentially their future.
Throughout history, the oppressed citizens’ unheard opinions have always culminated into an action or a demonstration. In the case of the Jackson County School District 9 teacher’s strike, the students staged a walk out. In reflection, many admit that their actions were in the heat of passion, or that the walk out was put on at the wrong time, but all knowledgeable students agree that the walk out was to show that the students had a voice. Michael Bradley-Smith of Eagle Point High was one of the many that participated in the walk out, and claimed that “the walk out was a demonstration in order to show that the students have an opinion.” He said that “there may have been people there for the wrong reasons, or who represented the student body improperly, but the walk out was done in the spirit of their cause, and that cause was simply to be heard.”
As negotiations go on, and the education system falls into an even worse state of disarray, one must remember that it exists solely to provide guidance to the children. Whether the teachers are being unreasonable or the school board is being stubborn, the education of young minds must continue. Regardless of the picket lines or dead-ended debates, the students must continue to pursue their education, must continue to earn a diploma, and must strive to create a better world.