As a long-time employee of the St. Helens School District currently working at McBride Elementary, I need to write to let the community know that this school is a fantastic place for kids to learn.

A recent visitor to our school remarked: 'What a positive atmosphere you have here!' It's true. You can feel the unity and enthusiasm when you walk into the building. Everyone working at McBride is here for one reason: To help kids succeed in school and to prepare them to be good citizens so that they may succeed in life.

This is accomplished through the many efforts of the entire staff, from principals and teachers, on to every one of the support staff.

On a typical day at McBride, if you were to visit, these are some things that you might see and hear:

The day would begin with morning announcements made by students, with a different theme for every day of the week. Children are learning to speak publicly and lead their peers in the flag salute. You might hear a funny joke, or an interesting fact, which the kids come up with themselves.

You'd see classrooms full of kids engaged in hands-on learning: kids using manipulatives and math games to master math concepts; writing in personal journals to discover their voices and the power of their written words; reading on their own or in small groups, or with support from one of our dedicated Grandparent Helpers or parent volunteers; or children working on computers to gain content knowledge as well as technology skills needed for their future.

If you visited the cafeteria during breakfast or lunchtime, there would be hundreds of kids at a time, eating nutritious meals prepared by classified staff who know the kids' names and serve up their breakfasts and lunches with smiles and personal encouraging remarks. Teachers often spend precious personal time to help their kids get through the line, and sometimes eat with the class, just for fun. Children are overseen by our wonderful duty assistants, who help with every problem and keep lunchtimes orderly and safe.

At recesses kids are monitored for safety on the playground by dedicated classified staff, who know them by name and who help them solve their problems in a positive way. You'll also see the frequent presence of teachers and our wonderful Assistant Principal, Mr. Mangan.

McBride has adopted a Positive Behavior Support approach, which rewards good behavior and systematically reinforces positive ways to solve problems by directly teaching expected behaviors in each area of the school, based upon our three school rules: Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible.

All staff work on building relationships with students, for we know that learning takes place best when kids know and trust the ones who are teaching them.

During the school day (and at night) our custodial staff must be everywhere at once. It is an enormous job to clean and maintain such a large building, and they accomplish it with smiles, serving the kids and teachers by handling the nasty jobs that happen when kids are sick or accidents happen, as well as routine cleaning and repairs to help our building be a clean and safe place to learn.

Walking through McBride you would see parent volunteers everywhere. They support our teachers in many ways: helping kids read and practice their letters; cutting and preparing teaching materials; working on bulletin boards; planning school events such as the Fun Run and Book Fair, etc. Their support enriches our school in many ways, and the PTO organizes fundraisers to help support field trips, Artists in Residence, and educational assemblies, technology and more. We love and appreciate our volunteers!

I share all of this with you because I want you to know what we are in danger of losing. Over the past two years, approximately $6 million has been cut from the St. Helens School District budget. This is because of the state revenue shortfall, resulting from the economic recession that has hit us so hard. There is no fat left to be cut.

The previous $6 million revenue loss has already cut to the bone. Unless we can pass the upcoming Local Levy for Local Kids, we are looking at losing another $4.2 million from the budget over the next two years. This puts so much at risk. Schools are already doing a lot with a little. If we don't step up to the plate, entire programs for kids may be eliminated, such as music and physical education.

Class sizes will grow to close to 30 students in a class. This is bad at every level, but especially dire at the early elementary level when kids are just learning to read and write.

I urge you to get involved. Come to the schools and see what is going on. Find out more about the levy being presented to the voters in May. Talk to your friends and neighbors and urge them to help.

Let's work together as a community to keep the great things we have going here in St. Helens Schools.

Don't our kids deserve it?

- Becky Franz, Warren

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