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Kids are gone but support for local schools remains

When my wife and I drove by Elton Hills Elementary School on the way to church on Sunday, there was a note on the sign outside proclaiming that meet-the-teacher day is Aug. 30. It wasn't until then that it hit me that for the first time in 18 years, my wife and I won't have a student in a Rochester public school when classes start up again this fall. The youngest of our three children graduated from Century in June.

It's sort of sad really. For nearly two decades, being a Lincoln parent, or being a Friedell parent, or being a Century parent was a big part of who I was. I commiserated with other parents about how much homework kids have these days. I attended plays, concerts, football, volleyball and hockey games.

I proofread compositions, helped with science fair projects, gave practice spelling quizzes and spoke to classes about journalism. Until the kids were 8 or 9, I was even able to help them with math.

Although I'm feeling a bit melancholy about the end of my days as a K-12 parent, there are some things I won't miss about it.

I won't miss nagging kids to get to bed because they have school tomorrow, or nagging them to get out of bed in the morning so they aren't late for school.


I won't miss perpetual school morning grumpiness.

I won't miss those automated calls from the high school notifying me that "Your child was marked absent for the following periods...," often because he/she was late for first hour because he/she stayed up too late, so he/she couldn't drag him/herself out of bed in time to get to first hour.

I won't miss driving a child to school because he/she missed the bus.

I won't miss having a child remember on his way out the door that he needs money in his lunch account or he'll have to eat a peanut butter sandwich, which is the same as starving.

I won't miss extra-curricular activity fees, and school trip fees, and project materials fees.

I won't miss fundraisers to pay for stuff that used to be provided free of charge, like band uniforms (back when schools could afford marching bands).

I won't miss late-night trips to the store to get an ink cartridge for the printer so my child can finish a paper for government class that's due tomorrow — or yesterday.

I won't miss asking a child if he/she has any homework and being given the same answers day after day — by order of frequency:



"I did it in school."

"It's not due until (pick any random weekday.)"

"We had a sub today."

I won't miss searching the house, garage, car, yard and dog kennel like a murder detective when a child can't find a book that was supposed to be returned to the school library last month.

I won't miss back-to-school shopping. (Actually, my wife did almost all of this with the kids. But I had to put up with complaints from one kid that he/she didn't get as much cool stuff as the another kid, or that Mom refused for no good reason to buy her those jeans she really wanted.)

I'm still the parent of students. Two of our kids will be in college this fall, and the third has been accepted into graduate school. That creates another set of parental challenges. But our three children are all adults now, so I don't feel nearly as much pressure to steer them down a path of responsibility, promptness and fiscal prudence as I did when they were minors.

As I noted in a previous column, I'm planning to continue my strong support for our public school system, even though I no longer have a child in it. With funding cuts, and seemingly constant squabbling in government over "how much is enough" when it comes to taxpayer money for schools, it's more important than ever that people like me continue to advocate for our schools.


What's more important to the future of our community, or our state, or our nation than K-12 education? In my mind, there is no more accurate way to gauge the health and future viability of a society than by evaluating the quality of education it provides its young people. We'd all do well to ponder that as we prepare to head into another election cycle next year.

Good luck, parents and kids, with your back-to-school shopping. I'll see you at the first football game.

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