Editor's note: The following statement was submitted to Summit Patch by Speak Up Summit and written by Speak Up Summit President Melanie S. Wilson.
Speak Up Summit is a community advocacy group designed to promote excellence in Summit public schools. Two parts of our mission statement are to provide independent oversight of the schools, the board of education and the superintendent’s office to ensure that our schools are providing the best educational experience possible, and to speak up on those issues affecting our children’s ability to receive an excellent public school education.
To that end, Speak Up Summit is endorsing the addition of Full-Day Kindergarten in our district. We have a responsibility to our students, and based on the facts that have been presented, from an educational perspective, there exists enough data to support that FDK would be beneficial to the students of Summit. FDK sets our students up for a lifetime of academic learning.
Even though the proposal would increase our taxes, the quality of our public schools is what continually draws people to Summit. Investment in our children’s futures will reap benefits for the long term educational and fiscal health of our town. On the flip side, a growing number of similarly rated schools (called I and J districts) are adding FDK, so we need to develop programs that allow us to stay competitive with our fellow schools. FDK, as part of an aggressive five-year program, which looks at facilities/space enrollment needs, curriculum changes and personnel, is critical to maintain our excellence.
We are disheartened by the haste in which Common Council has discounted FDK as an option. Council and the Mayor were publicly unsupportive of the FDK option even before the BOE held its community forum last week. We are respectful of the necessity to consider the additional burden on our taxpayers; however, FDK is a prospect that will better our community. Many parents are now paying to enroll their children in a full-day program… they know the benefits. It is the most at-risk kids that are not being included in longer curriculum-based programs. For several cycles now, the BOE, after many community-wide sessions with key district communicators and stakeholders, has identified focus areas that point to closing the minority achievement gap. A FDK program is one of the keys to closing the gap.
FDK and continued facilities upgrades should be part of our Bigger Plan. Council argues that 65-70 percent of Summit’s families don’t have children in the public schools and therefore it is more fiscally responsible for them to consider the needs of this majority of constituents. Speak Up Summit urges the BOE and the administration to remain diligent in its pursuance of FDK. The onus is on you to prove continually — both to the community and to Council — that the benefits are there for everyone in the Summit community, whether or not they have children currently using the public schools. And Speak Up Summit urges Council and Mayor to be open minded and consider what will truly be most beneficial for all of Summit in the long term.