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Taking Action: Washington State Schools Are In Trouble! What Can You Do To Make A Difference?

Working in a technology company, I feel as though I watch things evolve at an alarming rate day after day. I love my team and my work, especially the businesses I get to help, but cybercrime grows at a rate that I can lose sleep over. Nevertheless, I continue to advocate, educate, and support local business owners and I love it! I wasn’t always in this line of work. Not too long ago I had a different career. I worked for the schools in Washington State as both a teacher and speech and language pathologist. Many of you may not know this story. I had my second child in 2007 and asked for a leave of absence to stay at home with my children. The school district did not want to honor my leave of absence, I believe mostly because my students were attaining some of the highest test scores in the district. I chose to honor my heart and my family and decided to put in my resignation anyway. I had no idea what would come in the months to follow and how it would change our lives forever. Shortly after I was planning to roll my sleeves up and jump full sail into “momming” full time, the housing market crashed and threw our world into a tailspin.  Cybertools supported many businesses in the construction and surrounding industries and my husband, David Stone, watched as so many clients went out of business or rapidly downsized. It was one of the most challenging times in our lives.  Cybertools also had to downsize. David wanted to fight to keep Cybertools running so he could help the businesses that were struggling. I offered to become the indentured servant wife and came to work at Cybertools. I dove in and began to learn about technology and business strategy. I read books, attended training, worked with consultants, and did anything I had to. I quickly learned that I could be passionate in any position that allowed me to learn and help others learn. We weren’t sure we would make it through that time. But we did, together with our small team. We look back at that defining moment in our lives and are so thankful for how it turned out.  I always thought I would return to the world of education, but I have found a whole new passion in the process. I have a dream of opening a non-profit one day that will allow me to connect my love and passion for schools and my career in technology. It will aim to help children learn how to use technology to better themselves and the world. Stay tuned! In the meantime, I need your help.

An organization that is near and dear to both Cybertools, and me personally, needs our support. The Washington State PTA is an association I have been a member of throughout my kids’ education. This organization plays a vital role in promoting the well-being and success of students, families, and schools throughout the state. Due to my background of working in the schools, I know firsthand how important this association is to a school.  The PTA has experienced a rapid change in membership over the past few years. This change has occurred as a result of an experience like the one Cybertools went through way back in 2008, a major event that altered our daily living. Due to a game-changing COVID-19 pandemic the involvement of parents and support of the PTA has dwindled in our state at an alarming rate.

During the pandemic, the role that parents were able to play within the school setting drastically changed. For several years most Washington schools could not allow parents or other volunteers to come into the school. These parents also faced challenges in keeping their family units supported and their energies shifted to the home and their careers. When the schools reopened their doors to volunteers and parents, the shift of priority over this three-year period made it very challenging for parents to return to role they had previously played in the schools. I personally felt this shift. I was a very active participant in my children’s school and volunteered weekly. However, since my time was absorbed by other priorities, I also have found it challenging to get back into the classroom or school. But I feel strongly that our schools need us now more than ever.

Since the pandemic students have faced some troubling issues. Salem University in Oregon recently pointed out some of the issues that continue to linger. First, they say that student’s mental and physical health have suffered significantly and nearly all data indicates that academic performance has also been impacted. They highlight the fact that social isolation and loneliness are contributing to children who are hungry, scared, and lonely. Anxiety and depression are running rampant among school children as they try to make sense of today’s complicated world. I am a mother of 3 teenagers, and I can tell you this time of parenting has been the hardest I have ever faced. We are involved with and available to our kids and they still have experienced anxiety, depression and I have seen a shift in them that we put our blood, sweat and tears into overcoming every day.  Our precious youth have also developed a reliance on devices, apps, and digital communication since they were introduced to this system as a way of learning during COVID. This is now how they communicate with peers and friends. Because of that their time on technology has increased and I believe this has also contributed to their anxiety and depression as cyberbullying, peer pressure, and online predators have heightened at a level that make the hairs stand up on my neck. I have had to learn more about iPhone time limits and how these social media platforms work than I ever thought I would have to. The amount of pressure I feel as a parent to combat these issues feels overwhelming. It is a mountain that would be impossible to climb alone. During a time when our kids are facing difficulties like this, we need associations like the PTA to support our schools more than ever.