To The Daily Sun,
As a teacher part of my job is to deal with a certain amount of criticism. At any given time, students, parents, administration, or community members may question or disagree with the way I do things such as assigning homework or running my class. In general, I welcome the feedback because it helps me reflect on my teaching and grow as an educator. However, I do take issue with some of the inflammatory remarks that have been said about me and my colleagues recently in the newspaper as well as in social media regarding the Alton Central School Washington, D.C., trip, and for that reason I'd like a chance to set the record straight.
As it is apparent that the major issue people have expressed is that someone surveyed the students, I felt it necessary to step forward and say that it was my idea to do so, and I'd like to clarify why, because although it has been called a "bonehead move" and something that should not have been done at all, I would like to respectfully disagree.
A student came to the teachers to discuss a trip that she had been raising money for over the last two years. As a result of the presentation, two things became clear. The first is that there was still a lot of fund-raising to be done with an approaching deadline to book the trip looming relatively soon. She said that over the last two years they were actively raising funds. So far they had approximately $4,500, and according to her figures, a conservative estimate of what the students would still need to raise is at least an additional $20,000. Also, a parent survey that they had distributed and compiled earlier this year had a very low return (approximately 20 out of 51 students). Those two factors led me to suggest we survey the students about their interest and commitment level to this trip.
When the results came back, it was clear that there was not an overwhelming majority of students willing to do the work it would take to get the trip where it needed to be in time. I went forward with the information and asked what to do with it. At no time did the teachers "kill it". The only part we played was to collect the data in an unbiased, anonymous format (the students took it on the spot on remote clicker technology and were not able to discuss any of it before, during or after the survey) and to try to interpret and pass on the information provided.
I care a lot about my students. I spend many hours deciding how to reach them most effectively. I think about them about as much on weekends as I do weekdays. I worry about them, I try to help them achieve successes, and I fight for them to have a voice in as much as they can in their education. Realistically the vast majority of a student's day is out of his or her control. Teachers, parents and other adults still have a significant amount of influence over what an adolescent does during the day, which makes sense. They aren't developmentally ready to make all choices for themselves. However, I do believe in allowing them choices when possible. Best practices in education state that voice and choice are particularly important to student success in middle school. This is also an essential component of my own educational philosophy. In fact, my colleague and I have worked tirelessly this year to bring a stronger voice in decision-making to our students through transforming our pre-existing student council into a student leadership group. We believe that what students think and how they feel about things does matter.
I feel strongly that students should have a voice in planning their 8th grade trip. Ironically this one would be to the most democratic place in the nation. We have historically asked for student input for the 8th grade trip, so it is also based on past practice. In fact, these same students were apparently polled in fifth grade and had a lot of enthusiasm for the idea at the start. However, since this was both quite a while ago in the life of an adolescent and before much of the work of fund-raising had begun, an updated student survey just made sense.
I want to be clear that at no time did I think this trip was a bad idea. In fact, I was on-board and willing to chaperone, leaving my own family for the time it required, especially since this group of students is one of the best groups I have ever had the pleasure to teach. If this was something the majority of them wanted, I would be more than happy to do so. As it turned out though, only 19 percent reported they wanted to pursue this trip.
Part of me was reluctant to write this letter, as I know in doing so I may invite additional attacks and disparaging remarks; however, I decided to write it for a number of reasons. One is for the students who don't want to go on the trip. They should know that their opinion is important and matters to many of us. Another is for the students who are continuing to fight to go on the trip. They see this issue as a problem, and they are working to solve it. I applaud them for their perseverance and follow-through. I will continue to advocate for all of my students to have a voice. Though, I also want those particular students to see that the way to discuss and solve problems should never include name-calling, questioning ethics, besmirching reputations or misrepresenting facts.
Lastly, I write this letter for me, because if I am trying to teach my students to stand up for themselves and for what they believe is right, I also need to be able to do so myself.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 09:38
To The Daily Sun,
We regularly read about people being arrested for using recreational pain-killing drugs, but never about how they got the stuff.
It seems that if there is a valid use for it, there must be a way to locate it, and with that warnings as needed. Like pot, which has many good uses, well defined in some states, but ignored in New Hampshire. Anyone with good info on that please write me at 38 Briarcliff Rd., Gilford, NH 03249-6705
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 09:31
To The Daily Sun,
We are in a special season that many Christians call Lent. The deacon of our local church has added his own interpretation of what it is or how it could be used for our benefit. He asked that we use the letters in lent to create a phrase to guide us during this season: Let's Eliminate Negative Thoughts. As we approach the election season in our various towns perhaps we could keep that phrase in our approach the ballot box or while attending town meeting.
This is the season when we decided who will administer the business of the town. It is also the culmination of all the efforts to present a warrant that represents the list of needs to get us as a town through the coming year. All those that depend on funds raised by the town have been heard and a proposed funding level has been put forth by the budget committee with the help others in the town governing body. The foregoing is an arduous task with little appreciation put forth by those requesting or those on whom the tax burden falls.
What is the nature of the needs to be met? How can we eliminate negative thoughts while we consider the various requests. First in line are the employees that the town requires to see that the work of the town gets done in an orderly fashion. There are usually some negative thoughts expressed about them but most of us recognize and appreciate those who serve us in their various capacities. Volunteers are welcome to sit on committees but certain jobs are necessarily requiring the full attention of people hired to take the responsibilities. Next in line in most town is those that care for our waste stream. Transfer station cost relating processing items delivered to that location and the collection of garbage at the curb. There are always complaints about sanitation but most of the complaints are generated by those who don't understand the finer parts of the process. The other major department is concerned with the roads of the town. The maintenance of streets and roads usually creates the most rancor. Everyone wants a smooth road connected to their driveway. To balance all the needs against the available funds requires the wisdom of Solomon and a high tolerance of criticism about how you do your job. Negative thoughts not withstanding, I submit that the road crew deserve high praise in my town.
In the grand scheme of things, the articles dealing with raising major sums are handled with heated discussion and eventually approved. So much for new equipment, so much for paving roads that have deteriorated to the point of dire need, so much for the bridges that keep us from falling into the river or streams, and so much to replenish the capital reserve funds relating to the those problems just mentioned. Some questions arise, but good humor prevails when explanations are forthcoming from the department heads.
The article dealing with financial support to agencies and organizations providing services to the residents usually is the one most hotly discussed. Many of those who provide the service are very dedicated people used to working with meager funds. Some depend on multiple towns for funding and until after town meeting have only a vague idea of what funds they will have to work with. The budget committee and the select board recommend but many times those assembled have other ideas. Sometimes egos get bruised by those voicing negative thoughts. Alas, that's the down side of living in a small community.
So, as the vernal equinox approaches, lets concentrate on eliminating negative thoughts. Support your local government by participating in a positive way. Go vote and attend the town meeting. Maybe you could actually volunteer for a committee.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 09:27
To The Daily Sun,
Tuesday (March 3) Congress passed the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. If it had not passed, 87 percent of the department's personnel would still have been working.
The Congressional Research Service, which is a non-partisan part of the Congress that does research, says funding the Department of Homeland Security and funding the president's amnesty executive action, would entitle illegal aliens who get a Social Security number to file back taxes and they would be entitled to earned income tax credit and additional child tax credit. An illegal family with three or four children could be entitled to a $35,000 check. The IRS agreed with the finding of the Congressional Research Service.
I would like a $35,000 check from the government. Instead I pay taxes. I bet you do, too. So we work and pay and they will collect.
Senator Shaheen said, "It is time to put an end to partisan politics." What a load of crap! Senator Landrieu was in a tough re-election race. Thirty-one Democrat Senators broke ranks and voted for the Keystone pipeline just before the 2014 election and then voted against it just last month. I did not hear her say anything then about partisan politics.
None of our federal representatives voted to defund the amnesty executive action. Whether you are against this or not is not in the big picture. The president said over and over again for years that he did not have the authority to do this. Yet he did it. He broke the law ... again.
Our representatives did not stand up for us or the Constitution. Little by little our inalienable rights that are part of our Constitution and that have been fought for by our citizens to preserve are being taken away and we do nothing.
The Republicans said over and over before the election that they would stand up to Obama. Well, the two Republicans from our state did not stand up. They surrendered.
I am an independent. I voted Republican because they said over and over that they would stand for us. This vote was important. Our rights are important. They took an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution. As far as I can tell, they are not. Why did I vote Republican? Should I again. For the lesser of two evils.
I want a representative who represents the citizens of New Hampshire and the USA. I will not agree with everything voted on, but there are some that are more important than others. Our representatives let us down. They let the Constitution down. They let the world down as people all over the world look to the U.S. for guidance.
Shame on Senators Shaheen and Ayotte and Representative Guinta.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 09:24
To The Daily Sun,
From an article in The Laconia Daily Sun on Feb. 14, 2015: "Mill Society looks to volunteers to raise funds for repairs & operations," by Michael Kitch. Attorney Pat Wood suggests that the Mill could save money, "by persuading the City Council to forgive the $6,000 in property taxes levied on the rented space in the building. Wood anticipated that the society might require financial assistance from the city, perhaps as much as $50,000 a year, for a limited period of time." What Pat Wood is suggesting is that the taxpayers of Laconia pay $6,000 in property taxes for the two law firms who are renting space from the Mill Society.
In another article in The Daily Sun Jan., 13, 2015: "At City Council, Mayor Addresses 'Disinformation' About Belknap Mill" In this article Mayor Ed Engler says that the two law firms renting space in the mill are not paying an "unfairly low rents". He claims that both tenants, "could relocate for comparable, if not lower rents, than what they pay at the mill." I'd like to see some facts to back up that statement. "He pointed out that until recently there were three tenants at the mill and the annual rental income was $35,000." If each unit pays a third of the $35,000 that would mean the Mill Society is getting $225 a week for each rental before the cost of property taxes. Deducting the $6,000 for property taxes the Mill is getting $186 a week for each rental. If the Mayor and City Council are having non-public sessions on the Belknap Mill, how can the public have the correct information?
What the mayor fails to mention is that the Mitchell Municipal Group rents from the Belknap Mill Society and is also Lacoina's City Solicitor, which is a conflict of interest.
If the Belknap Mill Society wants money from the Laconia taxpayers, then all the Mill's records should be public records subject to RSA 91-A Right to Know law. That would include the costs related to the rentals, including the costs for electric, heat, water and sewer if these costs are included in the rent.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 09:13