December 18, 2014
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LETTERS
ALAP has always been about filling a gap

To the Editor:

After attending the Warwick School Committee meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 13 and listening to the discussion of the ALAP program being cut, I realized the issue is not about a lack of funding for the ALAP program, but rather it is about the idea that this program is about “elitism.”

I listened as Karen Bachus spoke of her idea for a new after-school program to take the place of ALAP. As she stated, this new program would be for all children and held after school. Students would not need to “take a test to get in,” Ms. Bachus continued to explain. She went on to say she had spoken to students who said they feel “dumb” when classmates are pulled out to go to ALAP and they are left in the classroom. As I pointed out at the meeting, this after-school program will exclude children. You may not have to “take a test to get in,” but you will have to be fortunate enough to have parents that can be available to pick you up. Many students attend after-school care and are bused there directly from school at the end of the school day because their parents work until 6 p.m. So, again, certain children are excluded.

We, as a society, have been preaching to our children and each other to celebrate individuals’ differences and talents. Every individual is special and unique. Yet, it seems to me, this idea only works when it is convenient for some. In my opinion, if you have a “gift” for being an advanced level learner, smart or highly intelligent (whatever term you may use), it is not a “gift” at all. It is a curse. These students should not be embarrassed or apologize for being “smart.” Yet, this is exactly the message some members of the School Committee and Warwick School Department are sending. They are trying to make everyone appear to be the same. As the saying goes, you cannot place a square peg in a round hole. 

They believe that differentiated learning is the answer. I have had numerous meetings with numerous teachers asking for this very same thing to occur for my children through the years. I have asked for it in addition to ALAP, not in place of ALAP. I have had some teachers who have done so, and as much as I have appreciated their efforts, it is still not enough. These students need more.  

Preventing ALAP students from being pulled out is not going to change how students feel about themselves or their classmates. When Mary continues to be the first one with her hand raised, always has the correct answer, and is consistently directed by the teacher to help Tommy or Joey, the kids will make their own assumptions. ALAP does not cause this. Just as much as it is a problem to be labeled as “dumb,” it is equally a problem when you are labeled “smart.” What is going to happen in junior high or high school when some students go to honors classes and others do not? What will classmates think of each other or themselves then?  Should we discontinue those programs as well?

Many children are “pulled out” of class for a variety of reasons: Resource, speech therapy, OT, PT, etc. This is done so the children receive the one-on-one or small group attention they need and deserve to reach their potential. ALAP serves the same purpose.

We celebrate the star athletes each week in the paper. Walk into most high school buildings and you will see the “Athlete of the Week” display on the wall. Should we stop this so those who may not be athletic won’t feel bad about themselves? How about the baseball team? There are only a certain amount of spots on the team (contrary to the beliefs of some, ALAP is open to anyone who meets the requirements). Maybe we should stop funds for baseball since students must “take a test” (otherwise known as tryouts) to be able to participate on the team. Isn’t this a form of elitism?

On a side note, I am also extremely disheartened by the lack of a professional librarian at Gorton Junior High School. This tells me two things: 1. The plan to close a junior high school will happen. 2. Providing a quality education to all students truly is not valued here. The Basic Education Plan states every school should have a quality library program. How is this possible without a professional librarian? Many students do not have access to the public library. Not all students have access to literature at home. Contrary to popular belief, Wikipedia is not a reliable source for information. Without access to a library and knowledgeable staff at all times of the school day, children are being taught reliable sources for research and literacy are not a top priority for their education.

The Basic Education Plan states, “Every public school student will have equal access to a high quality, rigorous, and equitable array of educational opportunities from pre-K though 12.” (Basic Education Program, p. 3). This is not happening in the Warwick School Department. I have never spoken the word “dumb” or any similar word in my house with my children. I find it highly offensive. I have taught my children about diversity. I have taught them that everyone has talents. I have taught them that no one is perfect. I have taught them to be proud of who they are while being humble. They should feel a sense of pride and accomplishment for being a part of the ALAP program, not shame and guilt. The ALAP program is not about serving all children. It is about filling the gap for those whose educational needs are not being met in the regular classroom. These students, like all students, have a right to an education that meets their needs and during the regular school day.

Pam Dillon

Warwick


Comments
3 comments on this item

Thank you Pam for taking time to write this letter. The School Committee still has a chance to save the program if they can see the value in it. Sincerely, Patrick

Fantastic letter Pam.

Especially pointing out the hypocrisy of many politically correct thinking politicians who actually punish gifted children for being “different from the other kids” by being labeled smart and actually disenfranchising them advancing and promoting their intellectual skills.

The comparison to how gifted athletics are recognized is spot on in contrast to how "ALAP" kids are being rebuked by Ms. Bachus.

It seems as if ALAP has been cut. I expected the School Committee to meet to discuss it. I guess they chose not to even look into it. At first they said there was no money in the budget but then they said they had the money but didn't want to fund a program that helped so few, .5% of the children. The numbers were off. .5% of the children would be 50 kids, the same number as a football team. The sports programs gets $90,000 for referees, $45K for Ice Rink Rental, $12K for Pool rental, uniforms, 63,000, etc. ALAP required only 2.5 Teachers, a cost of approximately $180,000. Sports rates higher than education apparently.

When I was on the school committee, I was the committee member most knowledgable with technology and IT information. I reviewed the current budget. The IT software budget was increased after I left from $336,000 a year to $669,000 a year. This is DOUBLE THE BUDGETED AMOUNT IN 1 YEAR! Do your kids have all new computers in school? Do they all have new ipads and/or tablets?

Why did the School Committee let the IT department run amok with their budget? Why did NOT ONE MEMBER of the committee question the request for DOUBLE the IT budget? Why would they approve a budget for any department to be DOUBLE? Why is no one questioning this? If the Police Dept doubled their budget would it be questioned? The fire Dept?

There would be more than enough money in the budget for great programs like ALAP in the schools if the committee didn't approve absurd requests like twice the amount of the previous year. Demand that your child get more computers in schools with twice the funding for IT.

Please note, the computers that were installed in the schools last year were purchased with the previous year budget not the increased amount. The IT department should be completely outsourced in my opinion.

Contracted Nursing Services in 2010, $183K. Nursing services in 2012...$304K, in 2013.... $446,244.

Transportation costs also went from $4.6 Million to $6 Million. Is ANYONE asking why?

Here is a link to the School Budget. Do you see anything that should be questioned?

http://webmail.warwickschools.org/scpublicdocs/FOV1-0005CEAD/

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