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Many schools will be celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week this week or next and hopefully students and parents will take that opportunity to let Bedford County’s teachers know they are, indeed, appreciated.
Unfortunately that sentiment didn’t come out from last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
District 6 supervisor Annie Pollard made some comments that were ill-timed, ill-advised and inappropriate for a board member to express towards this county’s teachers. “I don’t want to rob taxpayers, who can’t afford it, to pay for a bunch of crybabies,” she stated of the teachers, and their requests for substantial pay raises. At one point, she referred to the “crap” the board had to take from some teachers.
It’s almost certain Pollard’s email box filled up with responses about those comments—all three area newspapers quoted her. Such statements make for good copy, without a doubt. Pollard also likely got a number of phone calls as word spread early last week.
There are a number of problems with her statements, first among them the tone and words that were used. Like it or not, the supervisors ultimately hold the purse strings for the school system and members must be willing to hear views that differ from their's—not everyone thinks raising the tax rate on real estate by a couple of pennies to fund more education spending is a mortal sin.
But Pollard is not the only one to blame for this.
Over the past several years, as budgets have become tight, the school system and its administration has at times become the target of such attitudes, expressed in one way or another. School Superintendent Dr. Douglas Schuch has been referred to as a wolf in the henhouse and a copperhead by previous members of the board.
Crafting a budget is never easy and is even more difficult when the dollars are tight. In the midst of that employees of both the county and the school system have faced rising costs while salaries have stayed stagnant. There are certainly facts to consider: Bedford County routinely ranks near the bottom of local spending for education; Bedford County teacher salaries rank near the bottom when compared with surrounding school systems; teachers—like most employees in both the public and private sector—are being asked to do more with less.
It would have been nice if another supervisor would have spoken up at last week’s meeting to at least encourage civil dialogue, whether they agree or disagree with the teachers who have come before them asking for additional funding. But no one did.
And that’s a problem.
A lot of effort has gone in to trying to repair the fragile, and sometimes broken, relationship between the school system and supervisors. Last week’s comments won’t help.
This week would be an especially good time to let a teacher know they are appreciated, whether you think they deserve a raise or not. The fact is, they’re training many of the future leaders of this county—and this nation.
They’re our friends, our neighbors and they sit next to us in the pews. And many of them pay taxes in this county, too.
So take time to thank a teacher this week with a note, a card, a gift. And the supervisors might consider an appreciation note of their own to the county’s teachers. It could go a long way to healing some recent wounds.