Letter to the Editor from the Vermilion Association of Educators (VAE) Leadership Team
Freedom of speech is the concept of freely expressing opinions, questions, or ideas without fear of retaliation or censorship. However, this constitutionally supported freedom was trampled upon during the Jan. 8 Vermilion Parish School Board meeting when an educator who asked a question was asked to leave and was then arrested. On Thursday, Jan. 11, a crowd of more than 200 people- consisting of Vermilion Parish educators, leaders, and community members- gathered at Magdalen Square to rally for freedom of speech. A unanimous voice was heard at this rally- we teach Vermilion Parish and we will not be silenced.
Although test, school, and parish scores have risen significantly in the past few years, most schools in Vermilion Parish face a lack of funding. Some students are forced to go to schools in deplorable conditions - in classrooms that are falling apart, that have mold growing in the ceilings and floors, and that are overcrowded. Because of underfunded classrooms, teachers are forced to either go into the community for donations or spend thousands of their own dollars to purchase the basic items that are needed to make sure that all students of the parish get the quality education that they deserve. There is a serious problem when- in a parish that boasts such progress and success- not every student has a textbook of their own to study from.
Vermilion Parish School Board employees and community members may still fear what will happen to them if they speak out at a school board meeting, but we urge you to not let this fear silence you. It does no good to stand by and let this fear keep anyone from speaking up for what is right.
We are currently gathering questions and concerns from all Vermilion Parish school employees by various means. We are asking what changes need to be addressed in order to help build unity within our district. These concerns and change recommendations will be presented to the School Board at upcoming meetings.
Even if you are not a school board employee, there are various things that you can do to have your voice heard and to become involved. School Board meetings are held at the school board office and meeting dates are publicly posted in The Abbeville Meridional. These meetings are open to the public and have a “concerns” portion in which you have three minutes to voice your concerns to the board. You can also call your school board representative. A list of school board members and the districts they represent can be found at vpsb.net. If the recent events have bothered any parent, employee, or community member, please contact your representative to ask for a rescindment of the vote for the superintendent’s pay raise in good faith until time has been given to negotiate options that benefit all employees as well as the superintendent.
A committee meeting will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 23 and a board meeting will be held on Thursday, Jan. 25. Both meetings will be held in the meeting room at 220 South Jefferson St. at 6:00 p.m. Please do not let fear silence you; have your voice heard. It is time that all unite and truly come together in the best interest of the students.
The Vermilion Association of Educators (VAE) Leadership Team