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It Takes a Community to Educate a Child
Guest Commentary: Darlene Schottle
Ready or not, here they come! Of the more than 80 million students in the United States who will start school within the next two weeks, approximately 10,000 of them will be walking through the front doors of the Flathead Valley school system.

As we prepare to start a new school year, it is time to celebrate. Celebrate new beginnings, new opportunities, as well as first and sometimes second chances. The most important day of a child’s education is when they gather up their school supplies and with great anticipation meet their teacher(s) and classmates on their first day of school. One of the key areas to academic success is to help foster this feeling of excitement for our students on the first day of school every year.

Just as you go on vacation with high expectations, students head off to school with high expectations as well. Students come to school ready to get an education, meet friends, participate in activities, have fun, study and learn. Their entire day revolves around school and their friends. It is an exciting time of their life! We know that enthusiasm for learning radiated by parents and teachers help to create this sense of excitement and as a community we must all do our part to sustain it.

Our community is one that places a high value on academic achievement and involvement in activities. School staff will work to make our schools a place where students are welcomed, nurtured and expected to meet or exceed their learning goals. Parents will send their children off with high hopes for the future and meanwhile the community can create an environment emphasizing the importance of academic success and graduation achievement. The frequently quoted African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” can be expanded to, “It takes a community to educate a child.” During the hours of the school day it is the school’s responsibility to set expectations and provide instructional support to ensure that learning is taking place. However, it remains the responsibility of family, friends and the community to let all of our students know that they have the potential to be successful and they are supported in their learning endeavors.

During the Aug. 12, 2010 Governor’s Forum at Glacier High School titled “Building a Skilled Workforce,” it was stated that 62 percent of all jobs in Montana (331,000 jobs) will require some postsecondary training beyond high school in 2018. It should also be noted that almost 90 percent of the fastest-growing and highest-paying jobs require some postsecondary education. Having a high school diploma and the skills to succeed in college and the workplace are critical. The skills and desire to be a successful graduate and enroll in postsecondary training begin in the earliest years of life and should be reinforced at every opportunity along the student’s learning path. A fundamental indicator of how our schools are doing is the graduation rate and the road to graduation starts early. According to the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, about 76 percent of all students in Montana graduate from high school within a four-year period. Our local rate for students completing graduation requirements within a four-year timeframe is slightly over 80 percent. Although this rate is slightly higher than the state benchmark it indicates the need to provide continued support to all of our students.

In addition, as our dedication and devotion to our student’s success increases; the resources we have to utilize in our efforts continue to dwindle. Economically speaking, investing in a student’s success initially is less expensive than paying for their inability to achieve in the future. We appreciate both the financial and moral support that this community provides to its students.

As this new school year begins, let us all pledge to celebrate learning and encourage all of our young people to be successful and have high aspirations. Together, we can plant the seeds of enthusiasm and a desire for knowledge in the hearts and minds of each of our students as they head off to school.

Darlene Schottle is the superintendent of Kalispell Public Schools.
 
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