To the Editor:
Kudos to the Warwick School Committee for delaying action on the school administration’s plan to close Aldrich and Gorton, and turn Warwick Vets High School into a junior high. Before making a decision of such magnitude, it would have been great to hear the “other side” of the story from concerned parents, teachers, students and others who could present the human side of the argument along with some pertinent facts that might contradict those of the administration.
Schools are an important part of any community and Warwick Vets High School is the glue that unites thousands of people. For a city of over 90,000, with good fiscal management, is three high schools of 900 to 1,000 students a problem?
In the 1960s, Pilgrim and Vets were huge schools of almost 2,000 students each. That was over 50 years ago. Many of those classrooms no longer exist. Today, we have computer rooms, resource and special education rooms and areas that are used for different purposes. Will everyone fit comfortably in each school? Changes will have to be made and, in my opinion, it is not a “slam dunk” that all will be well.
Last Wednesday, on Dan Yorke’s talk show, Mr. Cushman, a former school committee person, stated that there is a ratio of 15 students to one teacher. That sounds great, but it does not reflect the true ratio of classroom teachers to the students in their classes. Is he not aware that some teachers don’t have classes, such as guidance councilors, librarians and nurses? Some, by law, have classes under the norm, like shop teachers, special education and resource teachers. Physical education and music teachers have more than the norm. Core curriculum teachers have about 25 in each class. For a former school committee person to state that another five or six students won’t affect student education is ludicrous. His remarks show a lack of knowledge of today’s comprehensive high school.
For the Planning Committee, I have a few questions:
1. Did you do your own research, or did you take what the administration fed you?
2. From what part of the city did you come?
3. Did the members from the Vets area like the plan?
4. Did the committee spend several days walking through the schools while they were in session?
5. Did the committee talk to any parents, teachers or students regarding a possible change?
6. How much “impact” did the committee have, or did it “rubber-stamp” the administration’s plan?
7. Did the committee meet often during the past year and have substantive discussions about all the options, or was it directed by the administration?
8. Would the committee still feel that this was the best plan available to them?
In 1986, the then-administration attempted to close Aldrich and Gorton and move them to Pilgrim and Vets, respectively. Parents, teachers and students were told enrollment was declining and they had to accept this plan. Well, parents from both communities fought this dictate and the administration backed off. Several years later, it proved to be a smart move because, lo and behold, the population of Aldrich and Gorton went up and a major disruption to our school system was averted.
I don’t know if the above increase will occur again, but I do know that the first consideration for any future change should be our students. I also am a taxpayer and I understand that many are hurting, but our students deserve the best education we can afford to give them. Our superintendent, also on the Dan Yorke show last Wednesday, spent 10 minutes talking about how hard he worked on the plan; how much educational experience his staff has; how disappointed he was; and it was not until the last minute that he talked about those most affected by this process – our children.
The question that should have been put forth by the administration and the planning committee at the beginning of this process was, “What plan is the best one for our children’s education going into the future,” not “Which plan will save us the most money?”
Warwick is not a rich, nor a poor city. It has been managed extremely well by Mayor Avedisian and the City Council. If our kids are our most important asset, treat them as such within reason. If the numbers keep dropping, it may be time to begin preparing for the 1986 plan, Pilgrim and Vets becoming junior-senior highs so that each section of the city can retain its community identity through its junior-senior high schools.
and coach in Warwick for 32 years