By Morgan Cottle: While each elementary school building may have its individual personality, I firmly believe that we share more similarities than differences.

I have had the privilege of being an Ashland elementary teacher for the past 21 years. During that time I have worked at Briscoe School, and after its closure for two years at the district level, and then on to Walker. One of the qualities of the Ashland School District that has sustained me during these many years is the knowledge that while teachers may have different styles and approaches to their craft, we all firmly have the best interests of our students at heart. I have worked with four different principals, and while I may have had philosophical differences with each, I have always felt supported and encouraged in my designs and ideas for my classroom.

While each elementary school building may have its individual personality, I firmly believe that we share more similarities than differences. This includes high academic expectations, as well as expectations that students be able to think and problem solve, which sometimes is not as evident on a state test or quick answer test.

It is with this background that I find the current comments about our educational leadership to be divisive and harmful. While it is completely against the best interest of children to lose a fantastic principal like Christine McCollom, so are the cuts to the arts, the loss of young dynamic teachers and core programs. I feel great concern when I read negative comments about people and entire schools, from people who have not spent time working with those very people. Christine and all those who are suffering from the cuts need our support and encouragement, but not at the cost of divisive and hurtful comments and actions.

I have worked with Michelle Zundel for many years, including having her as my principal at Walker. She is an intelligent, resourceful and thoughtful educator who has the interests of children and staff at the core of her belief structure. I have always appreciated her willingness to listen to my ideas for the classroom and the support she provides.

I hope that the Bellview community can stay open to the idea that another set of eyes can see a situation with the same sense of celebration, and see opportunities that may have not been seen before.

I proudly say that I am a Walker teacher. We have seen much change within our building over the past few years. We have absorbed many of the student and teacher populations of Briscoe and Lincoln, and through the ups and downs have emerged a stronger, more well-rounded community. We have incorporated beliefs and traditions from all three elementary schools. Patty Michiels continues to be a thoughtful principal who listens, gathers information and supports her staff. I appreciate her leadership and desire to work with the entire staff at Walker. I am also proud of my students, the academic success they have attained, and of the caring and thoughtful young people they are becoming.

This is a difficult time in our society, and those difficulties are being felt at each of our school communities. I hope that by playing on our strengths, and supporting each other, we can minimize the negative effects.

Born and raised in Ashland, Morgan Cottle has taught in the Ashland School District for 21 years.