This article was originally published in the Reading Eagle: https://www.readingeagle.com/2022/09/29/superintendents-forum-great-schools-offer-benefit-to-us-all/
By: Dr. Heidi Rochlin, Antietam School District Superintendent
Thursday, September 29, 2022
What makes a great community? Great public schools. End of story. Want to know why?
I will use my own community as an example. I live in the very small Antietam School District, where I also serve as superintendent. I have four children who currently attend Antietam schools and one who has already graduated.
In our small community, the school district IS the community. Sure, we have great churches and amazing small businesses, but the rest is three school buildings and about 4 square miles of housing.
We have no choice but to be close-knit, and rally around a common cause. That common cause, in my opinion, should be our public school system. Regardless of your age, the number of children you have; if you have lived in your community for a lifetime, or only a few years; if you rent your home, or if you own it: we are all in this together. Communities and school districts are joined at the hip.
This is an amazing partnership that began way back in the time of our Founding Fathers, later solidified by 19th century education reformer Horace Mann.
America’s founding fathers believed that preserving democracy depended on a strong public system of education. They proposed that a public school system was a way to bring communities together regardless of social class or economic status. They also believed that the most powerful force in any country is its education system.
Because of them, in the United States, every child is entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE. How powerful is that? People know that no matter where you live, or what your economic status is, you are entitled to a world-class education right in your own community. You are entitled to classrooms staffed with highly-trained and highly-qualified teachers who are experts in their content area or grade level.
We, as citizens of this country, and more specifically, residents of Berks County, share this responsibility. We have the opportunity to support this nation’s greatest resource — the 70,000 children who attend our public schools every day across the county. We, together, share this opportunity that affords us the ability to continue producing the next generation of the world’s greatest scientists, artists, teachers, medical professionals, lawyers, the list goes on …
We must work together to shift the narrative on public schools in Pennsylvania. Public schools are what is right about America. They are what is right about Pennsylvania. They are what is right about your community, and mine.
However, what about when I get older, and no longer have children in the school district? Will my opinion of public-schools change?
I will say with certainty, absolutely not. When I get older, I will still have that wondrous opportunity to support my local district to continue to produce the great thinkers and doers of the world.
The crucial infrastructure our communities are built on, those strong public schools, need our support. A lifetime of support. All of us have a shared responsibility and vested interest in our public schools.
Our children, our neighbor’s children, and the children across town, are counting on us to work together. It is we, not me; and we can do this!