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All in for the LRSD

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I was born in Little Rock and have lived here for my entire 42 years. I attended Baseline Elementary, Cloverdale Elementary, Henderson Junior High and Hall High School. I graduated with a B.A. in professional and technical writing at UA Little Rock and an M.A. in teaching from the University of Arkansas at Monticello. I've worked in Little Rock and paid taxes since I was 14 years old. Twenty years ago, I married a longtime public school educator in the Little Rock School District. My 19- and 17-year-old children have attended public schools in this city from pre-K until secondary lives. Sixteen years ago, I took a pay cut to become a career educator with one goal in mind — to love, impact and make a difference in the lives of the children in my community, in my Little Rock.

Despite the common misconception that I have it easy because I am only contractually obligated to work a certain number of hours a day or days in a year, in the words of my Sonshine (my nickname for my son, who is just as important to me as the sun) and often echoed by my JEM (my daughter, whose initials are meant to remind her that she's as precious as a gem), I'm "neva not working." Every day, regardless of the political climate, level of support or negative and inaccurate press, I get up and fight for everyone else's children — sometimes at the expense and detriment of my own. After I have completely given of myself intellectually, emotionally and physically, I leave work to fulfill my family and community obligations.

I'm not sharing this to paint myself as a martyr, because I'm not. But I am a taxed resident who financially pays into an educational system that currently has no local control. I am a professional who has not had a pay raise in four years. I am an employee whose workload has increased while her benefits and paycheck have decreased. I am a spouse in a household where our entire livelihood is directly connected to public education. I am a mother who pays more for her family's health care as a public servant than I did as an employee of a private business.

This fight — this journey — has been exhausting, especially lately. I am tired. I am skeptical. I am scared. But make no mistake about it, I am 100 percent invested in the success and future of public education, including and specifically what happens to the students and educators in the LRSD.

In an ideal school setting there are not adversarial relationships, but instead authentic and trusting bonds between all parties involved, wrap-around services for all students who need them, professional living wages for the educators that match the educational and experience level of their peers in other fields (and at the very least in other districts and other states), a community that views teaching as a serious profession, teachers allowed to simply teach, parents involved in their children's education, an elected school board that understands and truly represents its constituents, a safety net for students who find it hard to navigate through the system, lessons that prepare students for the real world, less emphasis on standardized testing, and a whole plethora of other things that I don't have room to list.

But in reality, as a parent and educator, I can only control what I do in my house and, to some limited extent, what I do in my classroom. In order to make systemic changes in the school system that will get us closer to the euphoric picture I just painted, we — the entire community — have to have a seat at the table. And more than that, our voices have to be heard, bridges have to be mended and we have to all put in the work.

Stacey McAdoo is the 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year. She teaches communication and Advancement Via Individual Determination at Little Rock Central High School.

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