Friday, October 17, 2003
RSC weighs in on accreditation process
To the Editor:
It was very disheartening to read in a press release of the Concord-Carlisle Teachers Association's (CCTA) plans to disrupt the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation of our high school.
The Regional School Committee would like to reassure parents, students and citizens that the NEASC accreditation process will be completed, if not now then after the contract with our teachers has been resolved. The head of the CCHS accreditation team has assured us that the recent well-publicized action taken by the CCTA will not negatively impact our students this year, or the eventual accreditation of our high school.
The NEASC accreditation is one of many criteria utilized by colleges and universities to determine the caliber of the CCHS academic program. We anticipate that any delay in the accreditation process will be viewed by colleges and universities merely as a delay, and will not negatively impact the rating of our academic program.
The action taken by the CCTA is unfortunate, but not as dramatic as purported. We will vigorously pursue plans that limit the impact of this or any other action which potentially disrupt the academic opportunities we offer our students. In addition, we will continue to work in good faith towards the settlement of a fair and reasonable contract with the teachers.
Michael E. Fitzgerald, Chairman
Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee
CCHS Teachers Association writes
To the Editor:
Our Association has bargained in good faith with the Regional School Committee for the past eleven months. We stand willing to submit our disagreements to a neutral, third-party in the hope that mediation will allow for a prompt resolution.
Andrei Joseph, President
Concord-Carlisle Teachers Association
Keep the schools strong
To the Editor:
I love my job. Isn't that a wonderful thing to be able to say? I get to be present when children first ask life's big questions. I can see their entire demeanor brighten when the difficult concept finally clicks into place.
I work hard for my students. Seeing my enthusiasm and commitment, they work hard for me. I arrive at 7 a.m. to meet with kids before school; even then, I'm usually one of the last math teachers to arrive. After school, I offer more extra help, attend numerous meetings, advise the Academic Bowl team, correct tests, and finish my preparations for the next day. I usually leave between 5 and 6 p.m., and on my way out, I say goodbye to my colleagues who are still at their desks and wonder when they'll finally get home.
Part of why I can love my job is the support Concord has historically offered its schools. When I arrived fifteen years ago I taught five classes a day. I remember the physical and emotional exhaustion I felt at the end of each day as I struggled to prioritize how to spend my ten hours at work should I tell that student I can't give extra help so that I can plan for tomorrow's lesson, or should I take the time to help and chance being less prepared tomorrow in class?
I was relieved when, three years later, the School Committee and Teachers Association negotiated to forgo significant pay increases in lieu of a four-class teaching load. That next academic year, although inflation well outpaced my minimal salary increase, I was relieved that I finally had enough time to do the right thing: to help the children who needed it and still be able to prepare for upcoming classes. All the children benefited.
Concord is an extraordinary town with extraordinary schools. I hope this generation of Concordians will understand what previous generations have known: there is an intimate connection between the superb quality education their children receive and the healthy working conditions of the faculty and staff they employ. Please keep your schools strong.
Brookline Street, Boston
Mathematics Department, Concord-Carlisle Regional High School
Don't increase the teacher class load
To the Editor:
Last week a good friend and long-term school supporter referred to the"fat" teacher contract, especially its four-class teaching load. This comment confirmed for me that the community has lost sight of the fact that the faculty's working conditions are the students' learning conditions. Moreover, these working conditions were negotiated in good faith by the teachers and the School Committee with the best interest of students in mind.
One critical outcome of the four-class load is that teachers have time to be available to students and to get to know them well. Trust develops; students talk openly about their and their friends' lives, often leading to the discovery of risky or life-threatening behavior. Students feel comfortable seeking help from adults because they have time to develop sound relationships and they know the adults will act on their behalf.
As a guidance counselor at CCHS since 1967, I know that we have always had troubled young people. Nothing new there. The good news is that we now have a greater understanding of the many manifestations of adolescent dysfunction and better treatment methodologies. The resources in the school and the community to help young people are a source of great pride. We have a level of knowledge and sophistication unequalled in the past. The bad news, however, is that, given the pace and complexity of today's world for all of us, adult and student alike, there are more stresses and crises in people's lives than ever before.
The bottom line is that we are holding our own responding to the challenges before us, but we can never be sure when we may face, as have so many other communities, an adolescent drug death or suicide.
I am quite certain, however, that much of our success is due to the positive, caring, and responsive environment we provide for students. Their learning conditions and our working conditions are inextricably entwined. changing the four-class load will seriously undermine the good relationships and sense of community the current schedule supports for students.
Holdenwood Road, Concord
Guidance Department, CCHS
Support a strong faculty with a fair contract
To the Editor:
We moved to Concord last year in part because we wanted our son to grow up in a town that valued education. Having been connected to CCHS for nearly a decade, I believed that Concord was where my family should live. I knew that Concord-Carlisle High School is truly something special.
If you enter CCHS at almost any moment between 4:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m., you will find teachers hard at work. Teachers at CCHS are truly dedicated to having the best school possible and regularly work with students outside of the classroom and well beyond contracted hours. Class size and course load allow teachers to look out for the needs of individual students and to do more with all students.
CCHS teachers need a contract that will protect the things that make our school strong. A teacher's contract dictates not only the teacher's working conditions but also the learning environment of the students. Class size and course load greatly impact what we can do for our students. If class size or course load increase, what we can offer to individual students will shrink.
Over the past year I have worked extensively on a report for the school's NEASC accreditation process. We have put a great amount of time and effort into the process of evaluating strengths and needs of CCHS. Our reports, however, are based on the current working and learning conditions in the school, including course load and class size. Because the reports document current conditions, the faculty, in its professional judgment, voted to table the reports until a contract has been settled. It would be unprofessional and a misrepresentation of ourselves to do otherwise.
What the town is faced with now is not the issue of greedy, overpaid teachers. Instead, it is about the importance of public education and our responsibility as a community for our children. We must ensure that we preserve this great school by maintaining the best possible learning conditions for our students and by supporting a strong faculty with a fair contract.
Elm Brook Lane,Concord
CCHS Social Studies teacher
Dark Days Ahead
To the Editor:
I've been teaching at Concord-Carlisle High School since 1971, and during my tenure, I am proud to be associated with a school system that has treated the teaching staff fairly. More importantly, the financial support of the community and the teaching conditions have created a unique, positive, and caring, environment that both facilitates learning and supports young people during difficult teenage years. We all know that a school is more than bricks and mortar, and that the cooperative work of parents, administrators, teachers, and support staff is most vital to success. The teacher-student ratio and the class load are key to keep our collaborative efforts on track. Excellent teachers stay in the system and provide continuity because these elements of the contract allow us to continue our own education, to have time to prepare effective classes, and perhaps most importantly, to meet with students outside the regular classroom to provide all manner of support. These one-to-one relationships make CCHS a special place where each and every student feels connected to the community and where teachers can use their skills to challenge the most talented, to support those who are having difficulty, and to be there every day for students who perform well because they know adults care about their progress.
But unfortunately, I now fear that my work and the time I need to continue to do my job correctly are genuinely imperiled. I have worked under a number of contracts and observed a number of difficult negotiations, but I have never before felt that the underpinnings of the system were endangered. The current financial climate and reluctance of the School Committee to maintain the key elements of the contract now endanger the ability of this special place to continue to maintain those services to students that create a climate of caring. Teachers are not here to just teach: we are here to connect with young people in the many ways that allow them to find themselves. Please permit us to continue to do so.
Kevin L. Harding
Another CCHS teacher writes
To the Editor:
As a teacher at CCHS for the last twenty-three years, and a Concord resident for eleven of those years, I always read the Concord Journal. Onthe whole, I find it to be an unusually well-written small-town newspaper.
That's why I was so surprised at last week's headline: "Teachers Could Block CCHS Accreditation: Union tables report to accelerate contract talks." The headline made it seem like teachers were capriciously refusing to approve the ten-year Evaluation Reportsand so putting our school accreditation at risksimply to put pressure on the school committee.
The truth is more complicated. Under a new contract, the teaching and learning conditions at CCHS may change so dramatically that the Accreditation Reports that have been written accurately will no longer reflect the educational nature of CCHS.
For example, I teach English, and the students in my classes give me a packet of writing every week. In some of my classes, particularly Rhetoric, I get a great deal of writing every week from each student. In fact, a few years ago one of my former students came back to tell me that he had to write a five hundred word essay every week in his Boston College English class. "The other students are dying," he told me, "but after writing two thousand words a week in Rhetoric, it's nothing for me."
If another class is added to my schedule, there is simply no way I could keep up with that writing load.
Twenty-three years ago, when I came to the high school, I was impressed by the rigor of the courses and the personal attention given to students. Through leaky roofs, budget cuts, and overcrowded conditions we've been able to maintain that quality; right now, however, we don't know what the learning conditions will be for students next year.
That's why we, as a faculty, are unable to sign the Accreditation Reports.
Mary Leonhard, CCHS teacher
Walnut Street, Devens
Another view on Hanscom Airport
To the Editor:
This publication recently devoted considerable ink and newsprint to the views of groups and individuals who oppose expansion of activities at Hanscom Field. Fair enough; I would also rather have peace and quiet instead of airplanes overhead. (Including by the way, those pesky, noisy, non-commercial Saturday-Sunday flyboys.) A reality-check, however, may be in order.
When I, a 23-year resident, and approximately 95% of current Carlisle residents moved here, the airport was here. It was not imposed on anyone. Airports tend to expand these days.
It is more than likely, given demographic and economic conditions, that per capita air travel in Carlisle is well above Eastern Massachusetts average. The burden of noise and pollution at Logan is apparently a fair burden on others, not on us.
Who made the vocal local groups the ultimate arbiters as to which merits more historic protection · Bunker Hill, the site of the Boston Tea Party, other Boston landmarks or the Minuteman Park?
George H. Lohrer
Spaghetti Supper thanks
To the Editor:
We would like to thank and commend all of the parents who prepared and served over 1,600 spaghetti dinners as members of the Spaghetti Crew and other food preparation crews for the fabulous Sixth Grade Spaghetti Supper this past week. The evening was a tremendous success due in no small part to your organization, energy and good humor. Thank you also to Barbara Culkins and Zelia Freita of the Carlisle School Cafeteria for their professional assistance and enthusiastic support for the proceedings.
Melinda Lindquist and Abha Singhal,
Sixth Grade Spaghetti Supper kitchen crew committee co-chairs
CORI checks are worth the trouble
To the Editor:
In response to Marilyn Harte's editorial ""Will volunteers be CORIed away' (October 10 issue): I seriously doubt that any dedicated volunteer will decide it is not worth the effort to fill out a form that takes less than a minute to complete unless, of course, they do have a criminal background, the purpose of the CORI check. I, for one, am not unhappy that volunteers are being checked. I feel more comfortable knowing that my children are safe. After all, we are not living in a bubble here in Carlisle; we are not immune from the ills of society.
More on Lonelyville
To the Editor.
The term "Lonelyville" describing the suburbs was first coined in an article printed in Good Housekeeping magazine in 1909. Yale Professor Dolores Hayden referred to it in her excellent book discussing the design of the suburbs "Redesigning the American Dream." At the planning meeting in March, I asked the question, "Does our blanket two-plus acre zoning really protect the environment, and/ or does it just create Lonelyville where we rarely see our neighbors, and have to drive ourselves and our children everywhere?"
Changing Lonelyville is not just about how we create opportunities for social interaction, it is also about how we design and develop the built and non-built environment. Is letting real estate developers determine the growth of Carlisle the best solution, or should the town re-examine the zoning rules so that we can encourage good development where it is best for the community? Carlisle will change in the future, as this is determined by the price of land; however, how it changes, and how we craft development so it maintains the feel of a rural town, with a lively town center, is up to us.
I am moderating a seminar on "Liveable Cities/Smart Growth: the dream versus reality" at the Women in Design Conference at Build Boston on November 18, which will discuss how towns should alter the way they permit development to occur to maintain/recreate their special qualities while improving the quality of life for their residents. On the panel are author Delores Hayden, Jos Boys, who will bring insight on how Europeans are addressing this problem, Peggy Curren, the former town manager of Telluride, Colorado, and Josephine MacNeil, who sensitively develops affordable housing in Newton.
If you are interested in attending what will be a lively and informative discussion, please see further details for the Women In Design Conference at www.buildboston.com
Debbie Bentley RIBA Assoc AIA.
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