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Plenty in the midst of less | Editorial
Oak Harbor and Coupeville schools open for the 2011-2012 year this week and in the face of declining state financial support both have to do more with less. Teaching and support staff positions have been eliminated, bus routes consolidated, some offerings cut entirely such as Coupeville’s Cedar program for home school families, and some athletic teams will be traveling less to save money.
Both districts have managed to keep the core classes essential to a good public education, and in one case there is a surprising amount of plenty in this time of want. That plenty can be found in Oak Harbor, a Navy town that received a whopping $2.16 million grant from the Department of Defense to create a Reading Academy to boost reading skills during those critical ages from preschool through fifth-grade. Landing the competitive grant was an amazing achievement and everyone is interested in how it is implemented and how to measure its effectiveness over time.
Oak Harbor school leaders point out that without solid reading skills, academic education basically comes to a screeching halt. And to a large extent those skills are picked up at an early age. Lucky children have parents who read to them regularly and who see reading as a daily part of their parents’ lives. Watching Dad read a newspaper every night or Mom regularly researching topics on the Internet leaves a lasting impression on kids as they emulate their parents’ behavior. Kids who aren’t so lucky at home have to depend on their schools to instill the love of reading, and that’s what Oak Harbor’s Reading Academy program hopes to accomplish. Training has already started for teachers in how to “strategically teach reading skills.”
Overall, both Coupeville and Oak Harbor school boards did a good job cutting the budget while maintaining what it takes for a quality education. The way the economy looks, more cutting may be on the horizon, or local taxpayers may be asked to pick up more of the costs. Either way, Central and North Whidbey’s public schools are ready for another productive year.