Saint Paul Public Schools Superintendent Silva talks with students during the Opening Week 2012 events.
By KIM HWANG
AAP staff columnist
ST. PAUL (Sept. 21, 2012) — Each day adults are faced with a myriad of opportunities to make decisions for children and future generations. We valiantly search for opportunities to make a difference. We strive to ensure that children have what they need, from sharp pencils for school, to positive friends who help shape their development. We formulate menus with adequate nutrition. We expose children to a variety of healthy role models who reflect our values, provide music lessons when possible, sports opportunities, library cards and occasionally, even the latest pair of jeans?
Some decisions for adults and parents are easier than others. Thank goodness! Come November 6th, 2012, you will have a wonderful opportunity to make a decision to pass St. Paul Public School’s levy referendum towards maintaining funding for children in St. Paul Public Schools. Passing the levy ensures that the children of St. Paul will continue to receive what Superintendent Valeria Silva believes is the best education in town. Silva, along with administrators like Dr. Fatima Lawson, (administrator at French Immersion School) and hundreds of staff in St. Paul Public Schools have tirelessly worked to increase awareness within the St. Paul community about an absolute need to pass the upcoming levy referendum as a way to provide for students strong schools.
St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Valeria Silva, along with French Immersion School Administrator Dr. Fatima Lawson, and hundreds of district staff have tirelessly worked to increase awareness within the community.
Silva stated that, “Students need to continue to receive educational opportunities to compete in a multicultural and global society.” Silva further stated that the district of committed educational professionals believe that rolling out the long view means continuing pre-kindergarten educational programs, full-day kindergarten and moving forward to increase graduation rates. Both students and faculty need to continue to receive educational experiences, which mold them to lead in the 21stcentury.
Therefore, she said St. Paul educators and the community must continue to invest in St. Paul children on the front end of their lives towards ensuring life long success and fantastic options.
Silva recalled having missed kindergarten as a five-year old child. She remembered beginning her educational journey at age six.
“I started first grade in a class size of about forty students,” Silva said.
Despite old, tattered wooden desks and pretend linoleum floors Silva was always motivated to learn and do well in school. At the same time, she knew all too well about struggles that present themselves in larger class sizes and starting later than other children in her age group.
Now as a school superintendent, Silva said she believes that children deserve to start kindergarten at the same place of achievement. She said it is imperative that students have the option to attend pre-kindergarten programs to be ready for kindergarten and grade school.
Equity for all children, regardless of class, race, religion or ethnicity, she said Like all educators, Silva said she is committed to children starting at an equal place.
It is unacceptable that children are left behind, given that St. Paul Public Schools continues to have one of the lowest referendums in the metropolitan areas as a way to titrate costs to home owners and community members.
Passing the upcoming levy referendum will allow for all children to continue to receive expanded learning opportunities that engage students towards meaningful and rich, core curricular experiences. With rising costs, only 15 percent of students have access to technology, which needs to increase so that St. Paul Public Schools can adequately prepare students for college and the work place.
Instructionally preparing students to work in the community in which they may one day reside is critical to continuing St. Paul’s strong community and businesses. Passing this levy referendum according to Silva and Mayor Chris Coleman is one way to reinvest, reduce the cycle of poverty and increase a trend of ongoing and professional success in our community.
While Silva will tell you quite expediently that she is beneath no job, she has high hopes. She, along with St. Paul teachers, holds out hope that upon graduation, the strong, brilliant and young students will have in front of them a broad range of academic and professional options.
Silva, along with so many administrators, faculty, staff and parents want a life full of rich educational opportunities, professional growth and endless options for children to follow dreams that they are passionate about. She envisions for students great memories of sports and athletics, like she once had, running track, jumping hurdles and participating in the high jump, social time with friends on the playground and studying long hours with the individual mentoring of teachers who are passionate about making a difference.
Keeping class sizes reasonable, maintaining vigorous instructional programs, supporting strong core curriculum such as math, science and technology are ways in which the St. Paul Public School community can support young people towards thriving in today’s society.
Silva, along with St. Paul educators, are looking to the St. Paul community to elevate expectations of learning and amalgamate efforts so that St. Paul students can have the best of what everyone has to offer. This referendum will help maintain what’s in place and assist the district in generating increased technological opportunities. She believes that it is time recommit as a community to their educational journey. Passing a levy referendum is one way towards securing a better future.
When Silva was in junior high and high school, she was blessed to excel in math and science. She was a critical thinker and achieved high grades. While at the top of her class, Silva also received some tutoring because like most students, not all subjects came as easily as others.
Nonetheless, Silva went on to earn a bachelor’s of science degree in special education in three and a half years, which at that time was typically a five-year program. No stranger to hard work, Silva realizes now that additional opportunities for St. Paul’s children now, may mean less complicated challenges later.
Throughout Silva’s life, her father spent an incessant amount of time ensuring that she was exposed to a broad range of diverse ethnic, racial and socioeconomic communities. Quickly, Silva realized that some children had more money than others and that some children had less money than others.
Immediately, she was aware of the financial chasm that left some children at a tremendous disadvantage and felt a sense of injustice about this. She became concerned about the welfare of all children and those who did not seem to have access to an equal education.
From Silva’s childhood to her life as a professional adult, she said she knows what it’s like to live in the world as a professional woman of color who has enjoyed advantages as well as what it’s like to experience racial and ethnic barriers. Her unique experiences, professional and educational opportunities have helped her to visualize what’s needed for St. Paul Public School children to be successful in the 21stcentury.
Along with the committed educators and staff in St. Paul, she believes now more than ever, it’s time to, “Vote Yes,” to the levy referendum and reinvest in our young people’s education, dreams and futures. Silva’s education, while challenging at times, helped her to surpass her dreams, therefore, she is hoping that the strong St. Paul community will help the 64 schools and 5,376 staff help more than 39,000 students in St. Paul help realize the plethora of important dreams that lie ahead.
The decision that will come before us on November 6th is one of the easier decisions that we will make as adults because all of the outcomes are positive according to the Superintendent.
Like a fresh new pair of jeans that helps launch your child into the new school year. Passing the levy referendum will create a high level of instructional opportunities and tempo, which will prepare your child for the 21st century and equip them for options with regard to college or the work place that will can only come full circle when all is said and done.