On Saturday, Aug. 17, while children were preparing for school which would start two days later, an individual or a group of individuals broke into a storage shed at Hyde Elementary, cut the lock and stole several bikes that were earmarked for children with special needs. A week before over $7,200 in sports equipment was taken from Watsonville High’s athletic department. On Aug. 13, a classroom was broken into and 35 iBook laptops were stolen from Lakeview Middle School. These are not isolated acts of thievery but a repeated pattern by certain individuals to exploit any opportunity to steal from local schools.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that in the last several years, schools have made drastic cuts to their budgets. Classroom size, school supplies, sports equipment and even staff have been cut significantly in the face of a very tough economic environment. The unfortunate reality is that the people who have really suffered are the children of this community. They have had to endure the consequences of state budget cuts and insufficient education resources.
As is true in many communities across the state, the outpouring from the public to try to fill the gap has been significant and has made me proud to be a member of this community. Individuals, civic groups and businesses, both large and small, have come together to donate both their time and money all in an effort to shore up the shortfall and ensure that the youngest members of our community get the best education available. Teachers and parents have stepped up and donated many hours of their personal time and money. Local businesses that ship their products around the globe have donated tens of thousands of dollars to help students here in their backyard. Fundraisers are held across the district all in an effort to help educate children. They do this not because they have to, but because they care about the community as a whole and the children that live in it. These community members also recognize the future success of the Pajaro Valley can be built in a local classroom.
Unfortunately, not every member of our community is so exemplary. In our midst we have individuals who will steal bikes from some of the most vulnerable members of the community, presumably without remorse. They will take also take sports equipment that was bought with donated money as soon as the opportunities arise.
As upsetting as this is, what is even more upsetting is that someone knows who victimized these students. Somebody knows who stole the bikes or took the iPads and instead of protecting the youngest members of our community, they turn a blind eye. These individuals who refuse to uphold a common level decency instead allow students to be victimized. They could stand up and do what they know is the right thing to do but instead they take the easy route and allow it to happen. Shame on them.
Make no mistake; students are without bikes because of these thieves. Students within our local school district are without some of the latest technology in the classroom as the school year begins because of not only the individuals who grabbed it and ran but because of the person who turned away when they could have done something about it. They could have done what they knew is the right thing to do but instead chose to look away.
The individuals who committed these crimes will be caught and will ultimately pay for their crimes. The people who know what happened but turned away need to make a decision about what type of community they want to live in. Most members of this community have already decided as evident by their very generous gifts of time and money. Now it’s time for the group of individuals who are victimizing students or allowing it to happen.
What type of community do they want to live in?
Jeff Ursino is a trustee of Pajaro Valley Unified School District.
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