Chariho School Parents’ Forum

March 27, 2007

Letters defending RYSE

Filed under: Uncategorized — Editor @ 10:58 pm

Board Member Bob Petit’s letter in the Westerly Sun was accompanied by two others.

The first is from Maria Glass.  She has worked at Chariho for 19 years and is or was the NEA-RI Area Vice President and a member of the Political Action Committee for Education (NEARI PACE) Steering Committee

March 25 Westerly Sun 

“School Committee comments about RYSE program show lack of respect” 

When I heard the remarks that were made at the Chariho School Committee meeting of March 13 about the RYSE School and its students, I wondered how I would respond if my students asked me about it. After much thought, I decided that maybe the children are not the only ones who need to hear a response from someone who really knows what we do at RYSE.  

At our school, we are Reaching Youth Through Support and Education, and our students and staff are doing a great job at that. Our students, many of whom have struggled in school are working to improve their grades and themselves.

With the help of the most highly dedicated staff I have ever worked with, the students are actively learning in a program that gives them the opportunity to be educated in an alternative learning environment. They are also learning to become productive members of society irrespective of all whom they may come in contact with. 

To judge these students and their staff without having even been to their school or met them is an injustice to all that we do. To speak in such a manner about children whose parents are actively working to make things better for their children is unacceptable.

Every child has the right to a good public education the students at RYSE are getting just that. The Chariho Regional School District has employed me for the past 19 years. In my years at Chariho, I have never met a child who does not deserve a proper facility to learn in, a good education, or the respect of others.

These students are the future of our community, and it is our responsibility to give them an education and whatever support they may need to succeed. They will learn a lesson from the comments that were made: That’s the lesson that not everyone, including adults who represent our towns, do so with dignity and respect. 

Recently I moved from Richmond after 30 years to the town of Hopkinton, and I hope the elected officials in my new town remember one of my favorite sayings: “I live here, I work here, and I vote here.” 

Marie Glass Richmond  

 

The next is also from a Chariho instructor, Catherine Stahl.

March 24 – Westerly Sun 

“RYSE students deserve better than wrongful Columbine comparison” 

On April 20, 1999, one of our nation’s worst tragedies occurred. 

This was the day that two Columbine high school students decided to take the lives of 13 peers and ultimately their own.  Most of us can remember where we were and what we were doing when this happened. We were glued to our televisions in the weeks that followed searching for answers to why this happened and wondering if it could happen in our community.  

We have come up with some answers to our questions, but many questions still remain. One thing that we can all agree on however, is that this was a terrible tragedy orchestrated by two disturbed and misdirected teenagers. This should not have happened. 

This being said, I resent William Felkner’s ( People’s Forum March 16) comments about The RYSE School, which is part of Chariho Regional School District.  In his letter, Mr. Felkner makes reference to Columbine, stating that, “In today’s world of Columbine and other acts of school vio­lence, is placing this facility (RYSE) near our children a good idea?” 

I can only assume that Mr. Felkner is hoping that the readers will make the assumption that RYSE is full of students that have the potential to commit such an unspeakable act. This is simply untrue! In fact, this could not be further from the truth. 

How do I know this? I have been a special education teacher in The RYSE Alternative Learning Program – previously Greenview Academy – for the past five years, and I know the students very well.  

These are not students who are secretly planning the demise of their school. Nor are they students that are frequently participating in acts of violence against others. On the contrary, these are students who are doing normal teenage things: going to school, getting their driver’s licenses, hanging out with their friends and trying to make their way into the adult world. These are also students who are planning careers, preparing for their futures and graduating from high school. 

However, these students just learn a little differently or face more emotional issues than their peers.

For these reasons, some of them need more support to get them through their high school years but this does not make them violent. It certainly does not make them worthy of being compared to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. 

I can only hope that my students do not realize that someone is publicly comparing them to Klebold and Harris. They have worked so hard to respect themselves and do not need this type of criticism from members of the community. This reference does not have a place in a financial debate.

It is putting yet another inappropriate label on these students/members of our community. I appreciate Mr. Felkner’s passion toward the debate over Chariho’s building plan, but I challenge him to stick to the statistics without making accusations about the students.

I feel that his reference to Columbine is a scare tactic to sway the opinion of voters against a program about which he does not seem to have all the facts. The voters of Chariho need to realize that RYSE is an excellent program for the non-traditional learner, and Mr. Ricci has worked hard to see that students who need this type of environ­ment are not left behind.

However, like everything in life, there is a price tag attached to this type of individualized education. I for one. feel that the students are worth it. If they were not worth this basic right, I would not have spent my teaching career working with this population. 

Catherine Stahl Westerly special education teacher, RYSE ALP   

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2 Comments »

  1. In reply to Ms. Glass’ letter:

    I did not hear the remarkes at the March 13th meeting, so I won’t comment on them, but I am incredulous that a teacher who has been working with children for 19 years has never met a student who “does not deserve the respect of others”? Shoot, I’m not a teacher and yet I’ve met dozens of kids whose behaviors deserve no respect. I guess I’m one of those that believes respect is earned. Perhaps that lesson would serve children better than pretending respect is a right?

    I understand the need to try and teach some students outside the mainstream learning environment. I appreciate those that dedicate themselves to this effort, but saying that we can’t judge people without meeting them is plain silly. In the course of every day life we judge people we’ve never met all the time. I do it in every election.

    I suggest that students be taught that they will be judged by their actions. I’ve known many seemingly good hearted people who have acted badly. When I was in school, many of the most likeable kids smoked pot, disrupted classes and spent as much time with the disciplinarian as in class. Should bad behavior be overlooked or tolerated because we don’t want to make students feel bad? Should student making good choices be penalized because we don’t want to judge those making bad decisions?

    Are we to assume that RYSE students all have parents “actively working to make things bette for their children”? I find that hard to believe. While there are children who have innate emotional problems, I am sure that there are just as many that have emotional problems that stem from poor parenting. Does RYSE have the ability to turn negligent parents into attentive parents? Please tell me how you pull that one off?

    I’d also like to know Ms. Glass’ definition of a “proper facility”? It seems to be the habit to call buildings “trailers”. These are no more trailers than my house is a trailer. The floors function the same as any other floors. The walls function the same. The ceilings function the same. The only difference I can see is in the outside appearance. Assuming children are usually taught inside buildings, and not outside, I find “trailers” to be a very “proper” place to learn. At least as proper as my home is for raising children. Maybe while visiting the RYSE students, we can also visit the “trailers”?

    Are you sure these students are “the future” of our community? Perhaps you were misquoted and you said they are part of the future? Surely you expect mainstream students to also be part of the future? Are you also sure that it is our responsibility to give them “whatever support they may need”? Is there no cost too high for you? Are taxpayers bound to spend any amount of money to ensure every kid a successful life? Do you think it is healthy for normally functioning students to learn that society guarantees success regardless of behavior? Are consequences verboten in RYSE?

    I also vote here and I do not want my elected representative to treat all people the same. I expect my elected officials to treat all people equitably. Bad choices should not be rewarded. Good choices should not be penalized.

    I’ll leave you with this to ponder. I once asked a wise, elderly woman why she thought teenage pregnancy was such a problem today versus when she was young. Her answer was simple – “shame”. She explained that in her day getting pregnant meant societal shame would be cast upon you and your family. Pregnant girls were quite often shipped out of town in the dark of the night. These children felt shame, and their families felt is as well.

    Some of these pregnant girls were top students. Many of them were well respected until they made a bad decision and were “shamed”. As tragic as this was for them personally, the sage story teller said that all the other children looked at the “shame” and vowed to avoid it at all cost. She went on to say that her generation had the same hormones. The same urges. They also had shame.

    I think subsequent generations would have greatly benefitted from shame. I don’t know where shame went, but when it was lost, it took a heck of a lot of our children with it. I have empathy for challenged students. Many of them come from dysfunctional families and they are a product of that environment. I also feel empathy for mainstream students. Many of them also come from dysfunctional families, yet rise above their circumstances and contininuously make good choices. I wish we would spend more time praising the good choices rather than excusing the poor choices. I can’t think of anything more valuable to teach our children.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 28, 2007 @ 9:01 am | Reply

  2. In response to Ms. Stahl’s letter:

    Where would the Columbine students have been placed if they lived in the Chariho district and their emotional problems were known? Where would any child with violent tendencies be placed? If not RYSE, then where?

    I am happy that Ms. Stahl is confident that she knows each and every student well enough to guarantee Chariho will not be visited with a Columbine type tragedy. I also offer my assurances. Thankfully, Columbine was a rarity, and lets pray it remains that way.

    Mr. Felkner’s concern about RYSE should not go unheeded. Although not to the level of Columbine, students around the country deal with disruption, violence and inappropriate behavior in schools. There is no denying this fact. It is my understanding that RYSE targets students most likely to engage in disruption, violence and inappropriate behavior. Students with learning and emotional problems are typically the children who act out in this manner. Please correct me if you know differently?

    If I’m right, then Mr. Felkner’s comments were appropriate and he should be commended for his willingess to state the obvious. The RYSE program is the place where students at risk of violent behavior would be placed.

    Mr. Felkner did not say that all RYSE students pose a risk. Does anyone disagree that troubled youth are placed in RYSE? Does anyone disagree that troubled youth are much more likely to be disruptive, violent and misbehave?

    Obviously, Chariho administrators see no problem with exposing pre-teens to teenage behavior which has a negative impact on them. RYSE is just more of the same. While I have much empathy for RYSE students, I see no reason to purposefully put all students in an environment which can negatively impact their learning.

    If RYSE can have a positive influence on learning and emotionally challenged students, great, I support the effort, but until these students are able to function in a traditional academic environment, I believe we need to look at the risk for all students. To do otherwise is a foolish experiment. Chariho needs to stop experimenting with our children.

    Comment by Curious Resident — March 28, 2007 @ 9:37 am | Reply


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