A Good Night to Come to School

T.A. Barnhart

I'm sitting in the auditorium of the Linus Pauling Middle School here in Corvallis. The room is full: parents and siblings, bands, and music. Tonight is the school year's final concert, and we're here to see how much the kids have learned this year.

I don't have a kid in this school, though. My son goes to Corvallis High, but he plays in the band there and I agreed to help Marshall Price, the band teacher at both schools, with some slides and music before and after the concert. So I'm sitting in a corner, the band with the youngest kids has just finished playing the "Spiderman" theme (back from when I was younger than these kids; that Spiderman theme), and now I have to move for a while...

...and that band has finished, and I'm back in my chair in the corner.  There are three bands at the middle school, and they are spread from corner to corner, across the front of the auditorium. So my corner became the focal point for about 10 minutes, and I didn't think I should be sitting back with a bunch of 7th grade percussionists.

I played clarinet. That's not my section.

And like I said, this is not my school. My son did not attend this middle school; he was at the middle school that used to stand on this spot through 7th grade, but had to go to another school for 8th grade when that one was demolished. Now we have this wonderful new middle school (and named it for absolutely the right person) that the good people of Corvallis decided was worth paying millions of dollars for. In addition, the new Corvallis High School will be ready by fall; that was another chunk of money. $84 million altogether: 2 new schools and major repairs to other schools.

The legislature did not do this for us. The governor did not do this, nor did our members of Congress. We did it. Citizens worked with the schools and school board, they got the initiative on the ballot, and they passed it -- and they did it in the middle of a huge recession.

This is what it will take to fix Oregon's schools. Not the big bucks, although there is no denying we need to increase spending significantly. Our schools will get fixed when parents and other concerned citizens join together to not merely demand solutions, but to think the damn things up themselves. Somehow, parents have to find a way to overcome the intransigence of Karen Minnis and her minnions, the penny-wise, pound-foolish caution of Ted Kulongoski, and the grotesquely inadequate budgets of local school boards to make Oregon schools once again among the nation's best.

I think we can do this. I'm encouraged that on a beautiful night like this, the families of these kids are here listening to music that is somewhat painful at times (this is middle school after all; but Marshall Price does have a knack of bringing some wonderful sounds out of his bands). This is a start. Being present for their kids. Now we need to go further, taking primary responsibility. For all the kids.

Mine's at home, at his mom's. I'm here with other parents' kids. And I'm just glad I get a chance to do something extra. Putting my money where my mouth is.

  • keyfur (unverified)

    you're right. parents and communities can do amazing things to help their schools and themselves. but we should not stop pushing our elected leaders to do more than they are. minnis, kulongowski, the good, the bad, and the ugly at the state, national, and city levels need to know that the population values schools. those people we have elected to do the public business need to know that their jobs depend on strong schools with adequate funding.

  • Peter Buckley (unverified)


    This is a wonderful post, thank you for it. I feel exactly the same way when I attend events at my sons's schools in Ashland. At the middle school graduation a couple years back, the school orchestra blew me away, and there was a young girl who sang a solo that brought down the house. And we did that--our community--we passed a levy on ourselves to make sure our kids had these programs. I'm in the legislature now, and one of my goals is to try to convince our entire state that the investment is more than worth it.

    Thanks again for posting this.

  • (Show?)

    keyfur, you are right & i did not mean to imply we give up on politics. not by any means. but i am a true-blue deanista, and i believe in what tip o'neill said: "all politics are local." i also believe in the feminist saying, "politics are personal." to make govt work right (our elected officials), we have to show them the way. there are precious few leaders, but a committed community will bring forward its own leadership. and with parents leading the way, we can open doors for the politicians to go thru -- knowing they'll be doing the right thing because they are working with their communities and constituents.

  • Marty Wilde (unverified)

    Great post and kudos to you and to Corvallis for making it happen for your schools. I only wish that the Legislature could get its act together so that less fortunate (and less activist) communities could have effective schools.

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