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Letters to the Editor - Lakeville Journal - 3-16-17

The broken rung at HVRHS

During the last month, the administration at Housatonic has moved to revamp the class schedule to implement personalized learning. The new schedule must necessarily be an extended-period schedule (block schedule) in order to provide time for extended instruction. Parent complaints about this change are mounting. I believe that the community should be aware of some aspects of the situation that may not be obvious, to the parents or to the boards of education.

For some years now, the schedule of such classes at Housatonic has been controlled by the teachers’ union. Teachers at the high school should teach five courses by contract. However, any teacher must be given preparation time before classes, or their workload can be reduced to four, or even three, classes. And scheduling conflicts occur.

Some years ago, as a member of the Region One Board of Education, I became concerned with the very high cost per student at Housatonic. As a result, and with help of the superintendent, I did a detailed study of our budget by sitting down with the business manager from another comprehensive high school. We were spending about $500,000 in excess of the monies necessary to run our classrooms.

When I disassembled the high school schedule, I found that it had been used to create as many conflicts as possible in order to maximize teacher employment. Indeed, a majority of the monetary excess came from such conflicts, either through direct poor scheduling or anticipation of higher attendance. The schedule was being built as though little private school loss would happen.

This situation has not changed significantly over the years. Just two years ago, over half of the teachers at Housatonic were teaching four classes or fewer due to schedule conflicts created by union control of the scheduling program. That is about four extra teachers, in case you were not counting.

The change to block scheduling at the high school would remove most of the scheduling conflicts with a subsequent reduced need for teacher positions. With the declining enrollment at Housatonic, this change would be even more obvious.

I believe that the teachers’ union, for obvious reasons, does not wish to accept the change to their employment. They seem to have spread information among parents in order to cause the reversion of the schedule to their own control.

As Region One Chairman Andrea Downs said in a letter to the parents of Housatonic students, “Unfortunately, it would appear that a lot of misinformation was disseminated throughout our broader community in a way that is causing all stakeholders to feel fearful and anxious about this change.” (http://bit.ly/2mPxo0u)

Meanwhile, the performance of students at Housatonic continues to be unacceptable, both at the low end with too many failing grades, and at the high end with really poor AP performance. Change is needed through knowledgeable administrative function, not union coercion. Please act according to the better interests of the students.  Thanks. 

John Mauer

 

Kent

 

Thanks, and an invitation to all

Jenny Hansell had a very moving article in The Lakeville Journal last week (March 9), expressing her “horror, revulsion and fear” at the expressions of anti-Semitism that have emerged lately in our region. She correctly urges people to “speak up” and stand with others, “not just Jews,” in support of all marginalized groups. I applaud her remarks, and second them, with one caveat. 

Fear and reaching out is not enough, one needs to reach in as well. As Ms. Hansell may know, anti-Semitism is a tremendous spur to those who have relinquished their ties to the Jewish community, drawing them back to a neglected heritage. Yet Judaism is a multifaceted culture in itself, and in this area the Jewish Community of the North West Corner (JCNWC), centered in Salisbury, has attempted for years now to offer lectures and social events to keep the community informed and vibrant. We welcome all, Jews and non-Jews, who would like to join with us to continue and strengthen our efforts. 

As Hillel said a long time ago: “If I am not for myself, who will be? Yet if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” 

Alfred Ivry, Chair

Steering Committee, JCNWC

Salisbury

 

Living in interesting times

“I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore!” Those words, sung by Maurice Chevalier in the movie “Gigi” came to mind the other day. You can watch him singing the tune on YouTube. He was referring to the ups and downs of his love life, but I was thinking about what is going on now in politics in the USA.

When I watched the movie in Denver in 1958, things were not so complicated. We were worried about the Russians having the bomb, but Eisenhower was president and we had faith in him. He’d been successfully treated at the Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Aurora after a heart attack a couple of years before. Friends stationed there were excited about that.

But now I just can’t listen to the news. There is a Chinese saying: “May you live in interesting times.” 

I guess we are, but I liked the old days better. 

Carolyn A. McDonough

North Canaan

 

Looking for fairness

The nightmare continues, why can’t I wake

Of the events unfolding, no sense can I make

The lies, the hate, our world under siege

His tweeting only makes us screech

But then the fallout is real

It’s going to take a lot to heal

America no longer seen as great

Increases in all crimes of hate

Health coverage, most say a basic right

Only here it is a plight

More money for the special interests group

All sense of fairness gone in a swoop

No leadership from him in the house

Only vacation, fly and carouse

We pay for it all in dollars and cents

He needs to be kept inside his fence

But our souls are where we pay the most

If we don’t act then we are toast

Stand up and shout “We’ll have no more”

Until we see him out the door

Then once again take pride in who we are

And help the country raise the bar

At no time is our action more consequential

Our voting is absolutely essential

It’s not too late to get engaged

If you are also enraged

Connect with those we elected

And tell them what is expected. 

Michael C. Kahler

Lakeville