Big city - small town: Many things are the same

(From The Pasadena Citizen- December 3, 2003)

Being new to an area, it is easy to criticize and praise things that are different, but sometimes it amazes me how many things are the same.

I just moved to Pasadena from a South Arkansas area where the largest school had a population of about 3,000. The entire population of the city where we lived - about 2,500.
Pasadena schools have a population of about 46,000. The school district has a higher population than the county where I was working.

Wal-Mart, which was the only store open 24 hours a day, was about 20 miles away.
Here there are several stores that are open 24 hours a day, and they are a lot closer to home. However, even though we could shop any time, any day, we still make a list Saturday morning and go shopping either Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning, when the stores are not so crowded.

Although we are travelling shorter distances, the condition of the roads and road construction is about the same.

And, finding something to do in the area hasn't been a problem since we moved. We were able to go to the cat show last weekend, which my wife really enjoyed. I was amazed at the Friskies cats, which would do tricks. I have trained my wife's cat to sit, shake and to get up on her hind legs, but nothing like those cats at the show. Visiting a cat show in Arkansas would have been at least a two-hour trip to Little Rock or Texarkana, and we would have most likely encountered about the same traffic as we did during the 40 minute trip to the George R. Brown Convention Center. We spent a couple hours at the show and arrived back home around 6 p.m., which would have been impossible where we were living before.

Public school funding in another problem that appears to affect both large and small communities. Arkansas is currently under a judicial mandate, and the state is trying to correct a problem of unfair state funding of schools. Here many schools support a lawsuit which contends that the state's method of allotting school tax revenues is not fair.

School size is another issue. Parents in Arkansas want their children to go small schools and are opposing consolidation of schools. However, with larger schools there tends to be more opportunities for children. When I was in school - a very small school - for my senior year I had signed up for advanced placement chemistry, but there were not enough students at the school, which had about 200 students from the freshman to senior grade levels, for the class to make, so it was cancelled. Bigger schools seem to offer a variety of classes so that students will have more choices and areas in which they can excel.

Teacher salaries is another contention in school funding.

In Texas and in Arkansas, the argument is made that teachers are not receiving enough compensation for their contribution to society. I have always wondered about that statement because most teachers know what they will be making when they choose a career. I have heard several teachers say they don't teach for the money; they do it because they enjoy working with children. However, everywhere I have lived, low pay has always been an issue in public schools.

Teachers in Pasadena Independent School District start out make about $36,200 for nine month's work. Teachers are off at least two months in the summer and a month during the school year.

A rookie Pasadena police officer, who also makes a contribution to society, earns about $38,600 in the first year and has three weeks off for vacation. The rookie is working about 59 days more than the first-year teacher.

Since I have been reporter teachers' salaries have always surpassed mine, but I love my job, and every once in a while I can make a difference too.

As a reporter I get to meet the people of a community and hear their stories, which is one of the reasons I love my job.

I can say, even though there are a lot more people and things to do here, the people I have met have taken the extra time needed to for someone who is new to the area.

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