Placing blame does not excuse your responsibility to offer quality education

© Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

© Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

I’d like to offer a response to the comments of the Warwick City Councilor who I’ve started a conversation with about my own high school experience.

Maggie, It is apparent that you were completely dissatisfied with your HS experience in the Warwick School District. That is really unfortunate but not peculiar to public school systems or the City of Warwick. You are convinced you would have “thrived” at the Met School which offers an alternative learning experience. Perhaps, perhaps not.

Yes, I was pretty dissatisfied with my experience at Pilgrim High School. You can learn more about why in this last post. But indicating that my experience is not “peculiar” does not excuse my high schools responsibility to offer a quality education. Claiming that other schools are not better, does not excuse your responsibility to offer a quality education. I’d like you to spend less time putting other school options down and working to fix your own schools.

I have been a mentor to students while they were enrolled at the Met. They did not flourish or enjoy the rigidity of public school education and sought a different educational platform. One dropped out of the Met because she lacked the discipline to take charge of her own education and could not handle the responsibilities or the freedom. A second graduated from the Met but left college for lack of preparation and found competition in college too stressful. In both cases, the students washed out of traditional secondary education. And others succeeded at various levels, the same proportionally to traditional schools.

I applaud your efforts to mentor students at The Met. However your story only relates to these two students in particular. The fact that they were are at The Met in the first place, indicates that they were searching for something OTHER THAN traditional public school. Can you say they would have performed better in their traditional public school? They made an effort to try a different type of school. So it did not work for them, but they tried. Clearly they were looking for another option. Perhaps a third type of school would have been appropriate. We can’t limit options because some students don’t do well. We need to continue to offer options so that as many students as possible have the opportunity to try something new to be successful. Again, it is unfortunate that those students were not able to or successful at attending college. But can you say they would have been more successful in college had they stayed in their traditional public school? I doubt it. Your own admission that the rest of the students succeed at various levels proportional to traditional public schools indicates that alternative education schools are AS SUCCESSFUL as traditional public schools. And for those students, maybe they needed a school like The Met. Maybe those students wouldn’t have been as successful in traditional public schools.

Alternative ed is not a magic button. It may work for some but not others—just like any other school. My Resolution to withhold financial support to Mayoral Academies is based on the belief that our taxpayers should NOT be forced to pay for the charter school experience for anyone but their own children. Warwick school district pays over $1.2 million for students to be educated outside the city. If a student decides to return to their city of origin after 1 October of the school year, the money stays with the outside charter school and the Warwick school district must make up the difference. Why is that fair?

So, if I read this correctly, your only complaint is that IF a student returns to their how city after Oct 1, the city doesn’t recover those funds. How many students does this actually apply to and how much money is that? Because I bet the Warwick residents who ARE sending their students to another school in another city of their choosing expect their tax dollars to pay for that education. So while you may be helping the few exceptions, you are not helping the majority who likely stay in the school of their choice.

We have students who live in Warwick and choose to attend parochial schools, which are also charter schools. Should we augment those costs next? 

There is a clear separation of church and state so, should public money go to private schools? Not necessarily. But what do we say to the parent who determines that the public education they are paying for isn’t good enough for their child and they choose to pay out of pocket for those costs? They are literally paying for two educations. Granted we make a similar argument that residents without children still pay for those education costs, but that can be seen as contributing the society as a whole AND those residents are not paying twice for their education. I’m not saying we should allocate public funds for private schools, but I think we need to recognize that these parents have a valid concern and the least we could do is provide the public funding for public charter schools to support the students who choose to attend.

the school system has its problems but you don’t fix them by pulling the kids out and bringing financial resources to charter schools.

Obviously, it doesn’t improve schools to loose monies – but what are the schools doing to FIX the schools? We pour money into schools and seldom get results. If the schools could start implementing some bolder ideas, perhaps learn from some of the successful elements of charters, maybe they would be better. But you cannot tell parents and student, “Just wait, don’t leave your school, it’s going to get better.” Are you seriously going to tell that to your constituents? “Our schools are going to get worse if you don’t attend here, and we lose the funding from your child.” A parent would laugh at you. Their best interest is in their child, and you are NOT taking their child’s best interest into consideration.

 If a child will THRIVE in charter school because of smaller classrooms or specialized instruction, then Warwick should create District charter schools or academies or “school within a school.”

I hate to have a “duh” moment here…but yes! Implement some of the strategies that have worked in charters into your public schools. But where are they? When is this progress going to come? Talk is cheap. Until you ACTUALLY have the programs in schools students want and will thrive with, you can’t make them stay there. DO IT and then you can argue all day long that you  should keep the kids in traditional public schools.

Why bus our kids outside of their neighborhoods? I went to school during a time of forced busing. It was nothing short of a nightmare. Why send Warwick tax dollars to Providence or other municipality schools? How does that improve the issues that made you so unhappy when you attended school so many years ago?

I believe my prior statements answer these questions. We aren’t forcing busing anymore. That argument doesn’t stand. Why send tax dollars to another municipality? So your residents can get the education they desire and deserve and their funds should travel with them. Even if the money stayed in the school district, wouldn’t you equally argue that Warwick shouldn’t have to pay for out of city students?

Because money isn’t the problem. Policy is the problem. Sometimes, teachers and unions are the problem. Sometimes its principals, or superintendents. We have been pouring money into problems for ages and haven’t seen results. When you can implement the strategies that all students need in your schools, make the argument all you want. But until you can accomplish that, don’t deny students and parents the right to put their child’s best interest first and send their child to a school better suited for their success.

I appreciate your comments but as you said, you no longer live in the community where you were educated. I was elected to represent the folks who still live here and while my responsibilities do not extend to educational policy, my fiscal duties remain steadfast to Warwick tax payers. Be well.

I believe I addressed the issues of fiscal responsibility to residents of Warwick above. In your attempt to protect Warwick tax payer funding, you are putting those parents and students who aren’t satisfied with their Warwick public education at a severe disadvantage. And those students and parents don’t have anyone, especially not you representing them. Your role is to ALL residents, not just the ones you are choosing to represent.

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My public school was not a quality education

My public school was not a quality education

RI Mayoral AcadmiesI no longer live in the community that I went to K-12 school in but I am still connected to many folks through FB. This morning a Warwick, RI city councilor posted an article I did not agree with, making a comment about how she was against the Mayoral Academies. I thanked her for the post, but told her I disagreed with her position. My experience at my high school was not quality and here are some of the various reasons why:

  • There was no direction. We took classes but it didn’t mean anything. There were some outside the box classes, I was part of a marine program once a week that I left the building for, there was a business/finance class I took, we had some history electives I liked where we actually read novels of people in history. Those made sense, whereas “history class” did not. I made no connection between my classes and my life.
  • There are no guidance. In fact my guidance counselor was the worst. and guess what? She was also the head of the RI Guidance Counselors Association for a period of time. What a union waste of time. Never mind that there was no guidance in terms of what you might want to do with your life, but guidance was basically just college applications. My counselor was obnoxious and rude and did not actually help me. I had a healthy list of 7 or so schools, with at least one reach school, one safety school and several match schools. My reach school was GWU. She told me I’d never get in.
    • First – that’s a terrible thing to tell a student.
    • Second, if you are going say something that abrasive to a student you MUST offer some alternatives. I had two schools in Wash. DC on my list. She “nixed” one of them. She NEVER suggested any other DC schools. Could I have done more research, sure. But at the college fair I went to, I only saw those two schools in DC (GWU and Trinity U.) She should have asked me if I knew of others schools in DC besides GWU that I may want to apply to. Because maybe I could have gotten into UMD, or American, or Marymount or something else
    • Third, She never talked with me about what I was interested in or help me find any other schools that might have fit my needs.
  • I graduated with a B+/A- grades and had no idea what I wanted to do. As I ended up in more a social service field – why couldn’t more of the classes fill those topics?
  • The best teachers were the newest ones, which a few exceptions. One of my worst teachers was a senior teacher and he just talked all day. I don’t even remember doing any work. Years later when I returned to get involved in the community, turns out this teacher is the President of the Warwick Teachers Union. What a croc! You want to know why I don’t like teachers unions, because they have leadership that I know was a terrible teacher! What kind of representation is that?
  • I never really learned how to write. I was baffled in senior year English why I couldn’t get a higher grade. I just didn’t learn to write in the way the teacher had expected. All I could do was write in a research based manner. Look something up, and regurgitate it onto the paper. I never learned any analysis or persuasion. I didn’t figure this out until college, where I quickly figured it out and managed to learn how to write in other styles.
  • I could go on but it actually is making me sad how much high school didn’t help me. If you really want to know more, ask.