Josh Waldron has repeatedly been honored by the local Rotary Club as high school teacher of the year. He loves teaching. He planned a career as a teacher. But he is leaving. He explains why he is leaving here.

You probably know why. It is always the same story. Budget cuts. Frozen salary. Every year, the district or the state invents new goals, new hoops to jump through. A parade of new ideas, the latest thing, new mandates.

What are the district’s priorities?

“I don’t fault our district for a worldwide economic downturn. I do fault it for how it’s handled it. For six years in a row, we’ve cut, cut, cut. And for six years in a row, students and teachers have paid the biggest price.

“When times are tough, human beings and institutions have the rare opportunity to reflect and refocus, to think differently and creatively. But instead of seizing the opportunity and gathering stakeholders for collective conversations and solution building, we’ve wandered around aimlessly hoping to make ends meet.

“We should have a clear plan for sustainability. Instead, we’re really just worried about balancing the budget.

“When we have a desperate need like football bleachers that have to be replaced, or turfgrass that isn’t up to par, we somehow find the money. We — through public or private avenues — meet those needs. Why can’t we find funds to address the areas that seem more pertinent to our primary mission?”

The pressure to get higher s ores every year has warped the classroom and the school:

“I’ve seen teachers cry over Standards of Learning scores. I’ve seen students cry over SOL scores. I’ve seen newspaper and TV reports sensationalize SOL scores. These are all indications of an unhealthy obsession with flawed standardized tests.

“SOL tests are inherently unfair, but we continue to invest countless hours and resources in our quest for our school to score well.

“This leads me to the following questions:

“Do we care more about student progress or our appearance?

“Why can’t we start a movement to walk away from these tests?

“Why can’t we shift our focus to critical thinking and relevant educational experiences?

“It’s tough to acknowledge that people in Washington, D.C., and Richmond (and sometimes decision makers in Waynesboro) develop systems and policies that affect my students and me negatively. But as they retire and sail off into the sunset, we’re the ones left with the consequences of ineffective measurements and strategies.

“Our new teacher evaluations focus heavily on test scores. But while teachers are continually under pressure to be held accountable, there seems to be very little accountability for parents, the community, or district offices.”

Josh concludes that until the community cares about education and respects educators, nothing will change. And he is leaving.

When will wake up to the fact that test-based accountability and other fake reforms is ruining education?

We can’t afford to lose our committed, idealistic teachers like Josh.