Good stuff happening in the schools |

Good stuff happening in the schools

While it’s a fairly common practice in Tahoe-Truckee to complain about the schools, it’s time that you were provided information on the good things going on with our local education system.

Society tends to focus on the negative, with good news buried on the back page or presented as a warm-hearted story at the end of the nightly news. While we should always push to make things better, we should celebrate the good going on in our schools.

I’m not saying we need to put our heads in the sand. There are a few bad teachers, bad administrative decisions and schools that need work. But there are also caring, hard-working teachers and staff members. There are new, well-designed schools being built. We have parents volunteering to make things better for their kids and the rest of the students. There are hundreds of interested and interesting students working hard, having fun and learning a lot. Some are scoring high on college entrance tests and getting into top-notch colleges.

Most of the success or failure of students at Lake Tahoe and Truckee is based on whether they take personal responsibility for themselves and their actions. In our litigious society ” where a common motto is, “It’s not my fault” ” it’s easy to blame the school if your child isn’t doing well.

In my opinion, if your child isn’t doing well in school the first thing you should do is find them (bad sign if you can’t). Once you find them, together you should look in the mirror and ask yourselves, “How come you’re not doing well in school?”

Perhaps it’s time studying becomes a primary focus.

We’re producing well-rounded kids. They can dance, ski, run, snowshoe, play soccer and still pass that biology final. I spoke to the parents of one former North Tahoe student now attending a top-notch school in the northeast. Their son is doing fine and feels that the well-rounded person he became here has been an asset in the Ivy League. As parents we sometimes forget that it’s not the facts we learned at school that we remember, but the experience of learning.

I remember Mrs. Farr teaching us about manzanita and Jeffrey pines in fourth grade and a report on Switzerland in Mrs. Fouts’ seventh-grade class. I remember sitting on tacks and finding my desk in the girls’ bathroom.

In high school I remember trying to get a girl to notice me, a great party in Alpine Meadows, and dissecting pigs in Mr. Lingles’ physiology class. I can still smell the formaldehyde.

It’s not just the facts ma’am, it’s what kind of people we are turning our kids into.

So where am I coming from? I went to Tahoe Lake School from kindergarten through eighth grade, although I took a brief two-year hiatus for fifth and sixth grade when my parents decided to move to Marin County in the late 1960s for better schools and to get my older sister away from her wild mountain boyfriend.

They soon discovered that Marin was wilder than Tahoe (wasn’t the ’60s drug scene invented in Marin?) and that education was so touchy-feely we didn’t learn anything. We moved back to Tahoe City. My sister later this year will celebrate her 34th wedding anniversary to that wild boy.

I guess the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. After Tahoe Lake School it was off to Tahoe Truckee High School. TNT was big and overcrowded and in the winter it wasn’t uncommon for the bus to take an hour to get to school. We were all pretty excited about the new North Tahoe High School that opened for my junior and senior years, although many of us missed our Truckee and Squaw Valley friends.

Twenty years later my daughters went to Tahoe Lake School, Rideout, North Tahoe Middle School and now will both be in the new and improved North Tahoe High School this coming year.

While we should keep working to make things better, let’s rejoice in all the things that are going right. In this space I intend to do just that. Here’s one example:

The recent newspaper reorganization has once again brought up the time-worn North Tahoe vs. Truckee battle. While Truckeeites and North Tahoeians may be counting stories to make sure their side is getting enough coverage in the daily paper, a battle in our schools has been going on for years.

North Tahoe and Truckee High Schools have been rivals since they split into two schools in the mid-1970s. My North Tahoe kids even chided me one time for having the audacity to accidentally wear red to a school function. Given this environment, I was happy to see two combined performances this past year of the Alder Creek and North Tahoe Middle Schools. Last fall the two schools met and learned how to play a number of songs together. The pieces were conducted by Alder Creek’s Randy Humphreys and North Tahoe’s Patti Jo Struve.

The audience at North Tahoe Middle School was full of people who didn’t care which school they were from, just happy to see the students performing.

Since we really are one community, with lots of people who live in Truckee working in Tahoe City and vice-versa, I think this is a big step in the right direction.

This spring, the two schools then formed a combined honor band that practiced for 10 hours together under the direction of Elaine Wersky, a former Truckee High School student. They then performed at Alder Creek Middle School, again to a good turnout and a great response. To me the combination of these bands is an example of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District really living up to its name.

Now that the Sierra Sun is a regional paper, it has the responsibility to help in the process of unification of the two communities and their schools.

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