Archive for April, 2016

Hello, 911?? We Need Help!

April 27, 2016

There is nothing like it…

The crack of the bat, the swoosh of the net, the amazing catch in the end zone, the roar of the crowd!

The torn ACL, the dislocated shoulder, the shin splints, the concussion!

Yep, that’s right!  The reality is high school athletics, or any athletics for that matter, can bring both exhilarating joy and…excruciating pain!

Playing high school sports exposes our children to increased risk of injury.  Middlesex High School does not currently staff an athletic trainer although one was requested in next year’s budget.  Whether or not it makes the cut has yet to be determined; however, the importance of a qualified individual certified to establish preventative measures to decrease sports-related injuries who is readily available to accurately assess those that do occur is without a doubt a crucial element that we can no longer ignore.

Athletic trainers are recognized by the American Medical Association as health professionals who evaluate and monitor athletes and help them maintain peak physical fitness as well as prevent and treat injuries. They are often one of the first health care providers on the scene when an injury occurs; and therefore, they must be able to recognize, evaluate and assess injuries and provide immediate care when necessary. They know how to prevent an injury from occurring initially, prevent further injury from occurring and prevent the recurrence of an injury.

Athletic trainers educate athletes on how to avoid placing themselves at risk for injury. Quite simply, they help make sports safer. In addition, athletic trainers advise athletes as to the proper use of athletic equipment and protective products such as tape, bandages, ice and braces which help manage an injury.

One cannot pick up a newspaper during football season without seeing a headline on the dangers of concussions.  The disastrous long-term health consequences of concussions including ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or severe cognitive impairment are frightening and should not to be taken lightly by parents, coaches or athletes.  Certified athletic trainers play a key role in the identification and initial sideline screening for concussions in high school sports, as well as the critical “return to play” decision.  They are on the front lines in the concussion safety battle.  The presence of an athletic trainer can dramatically increase the chance that a concussion will be correctly diagnosed and in a timely fashion, both of which are necessary to avoid not only a more lengthy recovery but the risk of permanent brain damage.

At a recent MHS sporting event, an athlete laid injured on the playing field for over ½ hour waiting for the volunteer rescue squad to arrive…coaches and adults on the scene afraid to move the athlete for fear of causing additional injury.  What if this athlete’s injuries were life-threatening and immediate assessment and action were necessary? Thankfully this was not the case; however, one never knows when an emergency situation will occur, and an athlete’s life will hang in the balance.

Some states have introduced legislation requiring a licensed athletic trainer be on staff at every high school.  Perhaps Virginia will follow that lead and appropriate funding for the hiring of athletic trainers.  Better yet, let’s hope that MCPS is given the necessary funds for next year’s school budget to hire a certified athletic trainer, reaffirming that the safety of our high school athletes is a priority…before one of those athletes becomes another statistic in an alarmingly growing list of athletic-related fatalities.

NOW is the Time for Action!

April 14, 2016

When school districts face budget cuts, teachers, students and school programs are the usually the ones who take the hit.  As money becomes scarce and school boards grapple with diminishing funds, tough decisions have to be made. For some schools, the cuts may result in little or no pay increases for teachers, fewer opportunities for teacher professional development, a reduction in classroom materials & supplies, larger student/teacher ratios, and a decline in student enrichment activities. While these are not choices most schools want to make, what other options do they have when the money simply isn’t there?

Teachers feel the brunt of educational budget cuts in many ways. In a field where in good times about 20% of teachers leave the profession in the first three years, budget cuts mean less incentive for educators to continue teaching.  As the cost of living increases, but teacher salaries remain the same, what is the motivation for continuing to teach?  Many teachers leave the profession for positions in other fields where they can earn more money and have greater opportunity for upward advancement.  Healthcare rates are continually on the rise, and when a small raise is not enough to offset an increase in health insurance premiums, the net effect results in a decrease in take-home pay.  Many school districts including MCPS pay for at least part of teachers’ benefits. The amount that school districts are able to pay typically suffers under budget cuts. This too, in effect, is like a pay cut for teachers.   

Less school funding can also result in fewer teacher professional development opportunities.  While this might not seem like a big deal to some, the truth is that teachers, just like any professional, can become stagnant without continual self-improvement. The field of education is changing and new theories and teaching methods can make all the difference in the world for new, struggling, and even experienced teachers. However, with budget cuts, these activities are typically some of the first to go.

Dwindling funds also impact the already shrinking discretionary monies that teachers receive at the beginning of the year to pay for classroom supplies & materials including photocopying paper, classroom manipulatives and other learning tools.  As budget cuts deepen, the pressure to purchase these necessary items is felt in the teachers’ or even the parents’ pocketbooks, and when teachers’ salaries barely cover their cost of living, teachers are less willing and less able to subsidize school funds for classroom materials & supplies.

To put it simply, budget cuts that negatively impact teachers in turn negatively impact their students.

But the effect on students does not just stop there.  Some budget cuts can result in larger classes.  Research has shown that students learn better in smaller classes.  When there is overcrowding, there is a greater likelihood of disruptions.  Furthermore, it is much easier for students to fall through the cracks in large-numbered classes and not get the extra help they need and deserve to succeed.  Another casualty of larger classes is that teachers are unable to do as many cooperative learning and other more complex activities. They are just too difficult to manage with very large groups.

With school districts struggling to keep their noses above choppy budget waters and voters howling about taxes, should schools really be funding athletic programs, the Future Business Leaders of America, the concert band, and the Lego Robotics Club?  As it turns out, maybe they should!  True, there is not a straight line between the chess club and an Ivy League education, but a growing body of research says there is a link between afterschool activities and graduating from high school, going to college, and becoming a responsible citizen.  Students who have a significant involvement in an extracurricular activity have a capacity for focus, self-discipline and time management that is sometimes lacking in students solely focused on their GPA.  Extracurricular and enrichment activities introduce children to new ideas and interests, teach them to study more efficiently, develop their social skills, and expose them to caring adults.

NOW is the time for action!  Let your voice be heard!  There is a Middlesex County Board of Supervisors public budget hearing on Thursday, April 21st at 7pm in the Board Room on the second floor of the Historic Courthouse, 865 General Puller Highway, Saluda, VA.

Challenging Great Minds

April 6, 2016

MCPS OM TEAMS 2016.jpgMiddlesex OM Teams Head to State

Saturday, March 19, 2016- Middlesex County students matched wit and whim at Lancaster High School with students from neighboring counties in a day of problem-solving at the Rappahannock Regional Odyssey of the Mind competition. Odyssey of the Mind promotes creativity by challenging students of all ages to solve divergent problems working through teamwork. Middlesex County teams competed in three of the five possible problem categories.

The Middlesex Elementary School Something Fishy team including Victoria Dunham-Quigley, Elliott Austin, Gracie Wynberry, Owen Wynberry, Abigail Smiley, Alexis Alley, Hudson McMinn, and Coach Stephanie Shelton placed fourth in their division; the Furs, Fins, Feathers and Friends team including Catie Lowe, Chessa Lowery, Ella Hodges, Carina Bednarczyk, Hali Valadez, Courtney Harrow, Sara Hale, and Coach Kendra Reiley placed FIRST in their division and will advance to the state competition.

The St. Clare Walker Aesop Gone Viral team including Gabe Smith, Dean Tennant, Sara Paige Murray, Madeline Hurd, Nikki Adams, Julia Young, Samantha Wright, and Coach Kate Messner placed fourth in their division; the Something Fishy team including Mikayla Dunham-Quigley, Natalie Cutler, Delaney Ruark, Lillian Taylor, Ryan Mahr, Peyton Bishop, Emma Hale, and Coach Claire Evans placed second in their division; the Furs, Fins, Feathers and Friends team including Wyatt Evans, Kaydence Congleton, Autumn Satterly, Jordan Hershberger, Dominic Buzzell, Eddie Tennant, and Coach Kathy Ruark placed FIRST in their division and will advance to the state competition.

The Middlesex High School Furs, Fins, Feathers and Friends team including Emma Barnhardt, Kimani Robinson, Celia Moore, Alyssa Deel, Mackenzie White, Will Fochtman, Noah Cannon, and Coach Grace Smith placed FIRST in their division and will advance to the state competition.

The Odyssey of the Mind state competition will be take place at Menchville High School located at 275 Menchville Road, Newport News, VA 23602 on Saturday, April 16, 2016.

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