Monday, September 11, 2006

Pine Street Needs Our Help

“Push up / every morning / 10 times / not just / now and then / give that chicken fat back to the chickens / and don’t be chicken again.” These words blasted from the record player sitting on the corner of the table in the gym at Pine Street Elementary. “Go You Chicken Fat, Go” was our favorite song for exercise during P.E.

Always being a more cerebral child, P.E. never was the highlight of my grammar school day. Reading circles and trips to the library caused more excitement in my life, but I kept that little secret under wraps. Since the cool boys loved P.E., I tried to smile as if I loved it as well. As we walked to P.E., I would say a little prayer that it would be a jump rope day, or a parachute day, or, most importantly, a “Chicken Fat” Day.

Mrs. Nancy Elliot, my kindergarten teacher, greeted me at the door on my first day of school. She hugged my sobbing father and ushered me into the grand new world called school. That year, she presented me with paints, books, and new friends. My world was perfect.

Mrs. Elliot taught me a lesson about life that kindergarten year. She called my house as I was watching “The Muppet Show” to tell me about a classmate who had died in a tragic accident. Mrs. Elliott soothed me by saying, “Caroline, we have lost Cole from our class, but we have not lost him from our hearts.” She was right. A huge fish tank still sits at Pine Street celebrating the life of young Cole McWilliams.

On Monday and Tuesday, I had the privilege of sitting with a strategic planning team for Pine Street. A few community leaders joined a handful of faculty from the school to brainstorm and create a strategy for building a stronger school. The report they shared astounded me. Pine Street has 86% of its students on free and reduced lunch. This is the highest percentage in our county.

With such a high percentage of low-income families, Pine Street suffers from a lack of funding. Students do not receive the books, materials, play ground equipment, or filed trip opportunities if the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) does not have the budget to cover them. Those Pine Street teachers formulated limitless ideas for involvement and support. However, their ideas continued to hit the glass ceiling of no funding.

So, Conyers, it is time for us to embrace our family school sitting gracefully in the heart of Olde Town. If each of us joined their PTO, we could give the students and teachers of Pine Street more resources. The costs for PTO membership is only five dollars. Of the 500 students at Pine Street, only 42 families have joined. On Saturday morning, I plan on placing my check in the mail for PTO membership instead of buying my iced tall hazelnut latte. I dare you to join me.

Our community has changed since I last walked the halls of Pine Street. However, those Pine Street teachers taught me every child mattered, learning is the key to my future, and a school is really just a big family. These truths still hold at Pine Street.

Let us take up the new commandment that Jesus gave us. We will love God with all of our hearts and we will love our neighbors as ourselves. Did you join your child’s PTO? Now it is time to join your neighbors. The students at Pine Street matter to God. Now, let us show them how much they matter to our community.

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