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Wed, Sept. 18

Detractors unfairly malign PUSD programs

The Mission Statement of the Prescott Unified School District reads:

It shall be the philosophy of the Prescott Unified School District, within the available resources, to provide all children with an equal opportunity to reach for their highest potential, promote healthy competition, provide strong educational choices and satisfy the basic needs for a successful adult life.

The PUSD offers a variety of required and elective programs in its attempt to satisfy the objectives of this Mission Statement. Not everyone agrees with every program the PUSD offers. However, those who take the mission seriously recognize that the district must offer this variety to parents to meet the individual needs of their children. It has become even more essential that the PUSD develop these programs to compete with the charter school movement. The tri-city area now has 13 charter schools, each catering to a segment of our community.

The elective programs the district offers "provide strong educational choices," yet they may not appeal to everyone. Some parents choose to educate their children on cultural, environmental and sexual issues at home.

However, in today's complicated social structure with many children deemed "at risk," it has become necessary for schools to include these aspects of education. In addition to the excellent basic academic instruction (including phonics) provided in the PUSD, here is a sampling of successful elective programs offered:

• PEAK (alternative high school housed on the Yavapai College campus)

• Traditional School (Washington Elementary School in its fifth year)

• Camp Unitown (an elective high school club devoted to cultural awareness)

• All-day Kindergarten (now offered throughout PUSD)

• Sex Education Program (award-winning program contributing to Prescott's lowest teen pregnancy rate in the tri-city area)

• Substance abuse program (age appropriate program supported by community groups in partnership with PUSD)

• After-school programs (federally supported programs which met the needs of 1,200 PUSD and Chino Valley students last year)

• Partners for healthy students (free medical care for uninsured and under-insured elementary school children)

Some of these programs have come under attack by candidates in the upcoming election. As a parent of children who are successful students at the elementary, middle and high school levels in the PUSD, these attacks disturb me. Apparently, some among us oppose public education, refuse to acknowledge the successes of our district, or fail to vest themselves fully in the district by enrolling their children elsewhere. I am suspect of the actions of these people when they:

• Quote out of context questions used in elective sex education or cultural awareness programs approved for some students by their parents. To imply that we ask these questions of all PUSD students is to deliberately mislead the public.

• Criticize successful elective programs only because they don't align with their personal education preferences or fit their own political agendas. These elective programs are educational choices. Parents may opt for their children not to participate in them.

Antagonists of the PUSD also seek to mislead the public when they:

• Suggest that the PUSD administration and board promotes mediocrity when our district was fifth highest out of 89 unified school districts in Arizona in last year's Stanford 9 scores for grades K-12.

• Insinuate that PUSD teachers have no classroom discipline. I am present in PUSD classrooms weekly and am continually impressed that my children's teachers are able to keep classes of 28 to 35 students under control.

• Imply that PUSD gives out private information to obtain grant money. While it may exchange statistical data, it certainly does not use individuals' names!

I am no proponent of "big government" nor do I invite increased government intervention into my life. However, I strongly believe that one place where government needs to be involved is in the education of our children.

We as parents and we as a community need to support Prescott's schools and school children by voting for those candidates who will work cooperatively to promote a public education system which provides an "equal opportunity" for all children to "reach for their highest potential." Please vote! Your vote may make the difference.

(Julie Huck is a 20-year resident of Prescott. She and her husband have four children who attend PUSD schools.)

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