Letter: Kirsten Shabanowitz, Leesburg

Editor: Students are not failing in pandemic learning. Students are surviving.

Every year there are students who do not meet our educational standards for a variety of reasons. Reducing the number of students who are left behind by working to close the opportunity gap has been part of education’s evolution for many years. But failure is not an isolated occurrence. 

To suggest students in Loudoun County Public Schools are failing during this tumultuous time is to suggest the educators who are making the best of pandemic learning are also failing. It suggests the school administrators who have gone above and beyond to support their school communities are failing. It suggests the parents at home- some working, some not—are failing in their level of support for their children’s education. It suggests the funds that secure salaries, initiatives, and necessary resources for our students are failing, too.

This is a dangerous road to travel.

Our children are surviving because this past year has not been normal, in any sense of the word. It has been challenging for parents, students and educators alike. For every person, every family, there is a different right answer, but I feel I can confidently say that we all want our students back in school full- time and on a traditional schedule. However, that is simply not a luxury we can be afforded in the middle of a pandemic. 

Safety needs to remain a top priority and we must trust the health experts that understand the risks involved and follow their guidance. We perform tornado drills, active-shooter drills, and fire drills all in the name of safety for our students and educators. We have cameras inside and outside schools, locked doors, first-aid bags in every classroom and alarm levers to pull throughout buildings—all in the name of safety. This same level of precaution must be expected and applied to protect our students and educators from the risk of COVID-19 as we prepare to open school buildings. 

A suggestion by Supervisor Turner to withhold 10% of funding from the education budget until in-person learning can resume in its entirety is detrimental to the 80,000+ children in Loudoun County, not the administrators in the room. Over the past three years, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has funded the LCPS budget within 1% of the proposed amount. Even with these small adjustments to the proposed budget, programs had to be scaled back, specialists could not be hired, educators were lost because of competitive salaries and initiatives designed to ensure the success of all students were put on the chopping block. Decreased funding by 10% would significantly and harmfully reduce learning opportunities. With continued uncertainty on community spread within Loudoun, withholding funds from a school district in the middle of a pandemic, due to circumstances outside of their control, would set a troubling precedent for future budget discussions. 

Failure to fund schools is a failure to our children.

Kirsten Shabanowitz, Leesburg

10 thoughts on “Letter: Kirsten Shabanowitz, Leesburg

  • 2021-02-11 at 10:37 am
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    Very well said and I completely agree! Withholding funding only hurts the students and teachers. You cannot penalize the children for the occurrence of a pandemic. All adults need to work together to create the circumstances under which being in enclosed spaces does not perpetuate the spread of disease.

    Anyone who wants to see students inside classrooms like in 2019 needs to limit their activities outside their home around other people, especially in enclosed spaces. Going to bars, restaurants, breweries, and wineries are a luxury we cannot afford if we want our children in school. When people MUST go out, they should wear properly fitting masks over their nose and mouth and keep their distance from other people.

    Until people are willing to put their money where their mouths are and do their part to make this happen, the children will continue to be negatively impacted by the actions of adults. The children are paying the price for adults to do as they please, even as those same adults demand life as it was in 2019. We all must do our part.

    • 2021-02-11 at 2:58 pm
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      The supposition that people going to restaurants and other local business is the reason kids are not in school is based on… what exactly?

      I disagree with supervisor Turner on pretty much any policy, but he’s right on this. It should be 20%.

      One positive thing to come from these self-inflicted economic and education shutdowns is the exposure of just what a fraud the industrial public education system truly is.

  • 2021-02-11 at 3:33 pm
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    No , Citizen A, I find her letter full of errors.
    History has proven that throwing more money at education does NOT make it any better.

    Not sure why the writer pretends that our kids are not failing at very high rates. That our kids are battling mental health issues at very high rates and that chemical dependency problems have also increased.

    “…we all want our students back in school full- time and on a traditional schedule. However, that is simply not a luxury we can be afforded in the middle of a pandemic.”

    Science proves that kids are not at risk. Science also proves the kids don’t transfer the virus. Private schools have been OPEN with NO increase in transmissions or illness. Science additionally supports that teachers (nationally) that have come down with the virus, got infected at the STORE.

    The schools should be open.
    That would be following science, but Loudoun is lacking in leadership.

    I agree with the writer. Our kids are paying the price and are obviously not a priority.

    We just want you to do your jobs or find another line of work.

    • 2021-02-12 at 1:26 pm
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      Actually, cases in children have increased dramatically. And schools being open in many places is largely the reason.

  • 2021-02-11 at 6:49 pm
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    This letter is as tone deaf as the PTA doing fundraisers and saying “yay” all the time during a pandemic. Obviously you aren’t a military veteran. Obviously you don’t know someone in the school system that took their life and gave up hope. Obviously you only surround yourself with “elected” leaders above a certain paygrade and that makes you feel superior over others.

    Your letter is an insult to all those that have had to pay for childcare because they couldn’t afford to go to a vacation house, as your family did, to get away from the stress. When you weren’t supposed to travel. How about you start supporting the adults and start listening to ALL of Loudoun, instead of kicking veterans, like me, out of a public meeting that was discussing parent liaisons on 9/11 a couple of years back. This letter screams, “entitled fraud” and that is what the PTA has become. A lobbyist group that takes people’s money and uses it for their own personal agendas.

    So bravo, you know people with titles. Well, I know veterans with battle scars and their children being neglected by the school system. Try having PTSD and finding out your child’s teacher won’t return to the building and in third grade will be led in school by a “proctor”. What even is a “proctor” besides someone that just watches kids take tests to make sure they aren’t cheating.

    I call BS on you Kirsten. Total BS. You should have titled it, “Yay elitism” or “Yay entitled families”, because you left out all the EL students and staff that are struggling, low income families, homeless families, people that lost their jobs, and students that have taken their lives. Only Hunt District would ever say “yay” during a pandemic and do fundraisers while parents barely can afford childcare. How about you start giving money to the county that wasn’t afraid to be around kids the whole entire time. PRCS didn’t let us down. But the PTA politics and shaming parents that are struggling because their kids are suffering from SPED is just very below the belt. You have a target audience of people in bubbles. I live in the real world and the county isn’t saying “yay” right now. They are doing their best to bring down community spread. How about you convince teachers that saying schools aren’t safe are traumatizing children who thought of their teachers as role models and start repairing relationships? Instead of “avoidance” and “shaking your head” while you gossip with your other entitled out of touch friends. Just a thought. Grow up.

    • 2021-02-12 at 2:16 pm
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      Hear, hear!

      And since the letter writer chose to not disclose the fact that they draw a paycheck from LCPS, I will.

  • 2021-02-12 at 11:48 am
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    Kirsten,
    Not everything is as simple as politicians present it. A lot of the bravado is mere theatre. Please tell us how a kindergarten student with working parents who perhaps don’t even speak English nor have a quality internet connection can sit at a computer assuming it is working for 5 hours or so a day and learn? How about a special ed student under similar circumstances? The concept that everyone is at risk and unless there is 100% safety guaranteed there will be no work is beyond absurd. Has the teacher union types heard about the risk of an asteroid hitting the earth. NOTHING is guaranteed so get go back to work making the best sensible and most efficient decisions possible or replace the staff starting with the school board and LCPS executives 🙂

    • 2021-02-13 at 6:36 pm
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      Very true Bob.

      As a reminder: We have 7 new school board members out of 9. Only 2 returned (Sheridan and Morse)

      Superintendent – moved to Texas to be superintendent
      Chief of Staff – moved to North Carolina to become superintendent
      Director of Communications – retired
      Director of School Administration – retired
      Director of Elementary Education – retired
      Director of Teaching and Learning – left to go to another district and be a principal again
      Asst. Superintendent of HR – left to be interim superintendent, hired because last year’s Asst Superintendent left

      The turnover at the executive levels is enough to raise your eyebrows and say obviously the school board is not a pleasant group to work for and that things ARE failing. Things are changing, and they need to, but when so many abandon ship — I pay attention.

      We can’t pretend everyone left because they were doing a “great job”. They left because they didn’t want to stay and deal with the chaos. Now there are a LOT of new people in big roles and promotions. New relationships with the community and in January — school board members switched up their committees. So there are new school board members on committees.

      What LCPS needs to succeed is a clear communication and start repairing the relationships of the families that trusted them to put their kids first instead of last. There is movement forward, but some lobbyists are so intertwined that there has become a bubble of elitist members of the community that shun some and accept others. That is called discrimination. I believe in inclusion. Nobody who has children in the school system should ever feel that the school doors are locking their children out. And the county never stopped working in the LCPS buildings — only the LCPS teachers stopped working in their buildings. PRCS and CASA were still there without any outbreaks. Doesn’t that prove that the buildings had been safe all along but LCPS didn’t pay attention to that data? They should have. It would be negligent not to.

      Looking forward to what school board member Mahedavi does with LCPS Communications. I hope that will be the gamechanger we need.

  • 2021-02-13 at 6:06 pm
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    We should reduce the funding of LCPS and provide vouchers for students who attend private schools that have been open the 292902921 school year, How is it all thes private schools were able to open and LCPS was not? Does LCPS employ incompetent people? Are administrators not smart enough to figure out how to open schools when all their private counterparts have? Maybe Kristen should shed some light in this.

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