Aberdeen school cuts too heavy handed

I am writing this letter to plead for help regarding the recent decisions made by the Aberdeen School District. Superintendent Alicia Henderson, with the blessing of her five school board members, has made massive cuts to many programs such as elementary band, elementary PE, counselors K-8th grade, orchestra program (no schools will have it), occupational therapy, physical therapy, swim therapy, CTE, ELL, title teachers, special education teachers, para educators and so many other programs and staff.

I have been just overwhelmed with concern and devastated for my community as a whole. The superintendent and the school board have made these decisions preemptively assuming that the school district will be losing funds and be totally online in the fall. No other school district in the state to my knowledge is doing this. My son and daughter are in the Aberdeen School District and I am extremely concerned for my children’s quality of education under their leadership.

My son, Jacob is 11 and in fifth grade at Steven’s Elementary School. He has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which is a muscle debilitating disease, and he depends on his occupational and physical therapy staff members to include swim therapy, which brings him so much joy. These services keep him mobile, able to stay walking and help him to maintain a better quality of life. Jacob relies on special educators and para-educators to help him with his classroom work and to give him extra support academically.

My son has an IEP (individualized education program) set up with these services in place to be carried out by the occupational and physical therapy staff. So this means that Jacob is not going to be provided the help that he desperately needs if these services and staff members are taken away. I am extremely concerned because his mobility and quality of life depend on these important special education teachers and staff members who provide these services and programs.

Superintendent Henderson and school board members: I would ask that you please take into account special needs students like my son who desperately NEED these essential services to help them to be successful and to feel included with their peers. Not to mention for their safety and security in the school environment. How will the school district provide an appropriate education according to the law? Are our students with special needs not worth funding? Of course they are. Special needs students are being overlooked, which unfortunately happens to them everywhere they go. Please reconsider, for their quality of life depends on it.

My daughter, Aliyah is a 14 and in 8th grade at Miller Jr. High and has played the violin in orchestra since 5th grade. She and her fellow orchestra students unfortunately lost their orchestra teacher Ms. Meikle to cancer early in the school year so they have already been devastated enough this year and the orchestra program has been completely taken away from them. It is not fair that they are being denied their ability to have an orchestra program. Music is a HUGE part of her life and she is devastated. Music is more than just a class; it’s life to these students and it’s a way to express themselves and to be part of a community. Music has been proven to help students to be well-rounded academically. How is it fair to tell these students that their orchestra program doesn’t matter? The answer is simple it isn’t fair.

By phone, mail and email, I have pleaded to Superintendent Henderson and to the other school board members to reconsider the cuts they have made. I have yet to hear back from anyone. As students, parents and community members we are appalled at the lack of care and consideration. We feel like our concerns do not seem to matter and that we have no say in these decisions that will affect our children and our community as a whole. As a concerned parent, I believe these massive cuts are being made irrationally based on COVID19 fears and misguided projections instead of wise, informed and sound decisions.

Devastating cuts like these to essential programs, amazing teachers and staff that are vital and essential to our students make no sense. Our community may be small but our students deserve better from their superintendent and the school board members. They are not serving our students by denying them a quality education that includes programs like music, PE, AVID, CTE and many more. Our students deserve and should not be denied quality teachers to teach them, counselors to help them through tough times, para educators, special education teachers who provide support to the many special needs students in the district, occupational therapists, physical therapists who provide quality care, and the list goes on. Most importantly the students of the Aberdeen School District, their parents and the community of Aberdeen as a whole deserve better.

I hope you will join us for a rally Monday, May 18, at 5 p.m. at the district office to show the district our opposition to the cuts.

Tiffany Burkett