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posted: 9/2/2011 5:00 AM

Cary parents can be part of solution

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Daily Herald Editorial Board

Cary Elementary District 26 for years has had to borrow money to pay its bills. Last summer, leaders finally determined -- after the state threatened to take control of the district's finances and implement its own corrections -- to ask voters for $15 million to clean the district's financial slate and stop the costly borrowing.

That decision came with a list of austerity measures that included continued cuts to the teaching staff and the elimination of art and music instruction. There would be lean years before the district would return to solvency and begin to breathe easier again, it was stressed.

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Members of Congress will find this scenario eerily familiar.

And what do you know? Now that the difficult measures have been taken, not everyone in District 26 is pleased with what's occurred.

The reality of sending your kids to a suburban school without art and music must be a jarring one. We get that. But it should not have been a surprise to anyone. It was explained in painstaking detail in the lead-up to the referendum.

Parents need to accept this reality.

It was never going to be hunky-dory immediately after the $15 million was approved through referendum in November. And it's important to maintain that sense of imminent danger and not think that the district is out of the woods yet.

Thank goodness the board and teachers union say they came to terms Wednesday on a new contract. A strike would have been disastrous.

Recently, a group that calls itself District 26 Parents With a Voice have begun meeting to talk about its displeasure with both the school board and the administration. Its stated goal is to provide a united front for better schools in Cary.

Its first action was to release a petition showing that some parents do not support the leaders of the school district. The parents who signed complain that the board hasn't played fair with the teachers union in negotiating a new contract, that the board is breaking its own internal policies (such as not bringing contracts with outside agencies to a public vote) and that the board isn't being open. If these indeed are the group's issues, then pursue them with vigor. If the underlying complaint, though, is that the board cut teachers and programs, then the group probably has more constructive avenues to pursue.

Last week, we wrote about parents' reactions to the lack of art and music classes. A dozen parents are working to introduce supplemental art and music lessons for students in each grade level, starting with art. But some are concerned that since not all kids can afford to participate, it's creating haves and have-nots.

If the people of District 26 have shown us anything over the years, it is that they aren't afraid to get involved. We have to think that if enough parents feel art and music are important to all kids, they'll channel their energy to ensure it happens.

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