2006-01-19 / Letters to the Editor

More than just numbers at school

The following letter to the School Committee was copied to the Town Council and the Jamestown Press.

Dear Members of the Jamestown School Committee:

I am writing about the budget meetings the Jamestown School Committee held during the past weeks on the upcoming budget.

I keep hearing: “The numbers are down; the enrollment is declining; we need to make cuts.” I can understand to a degree some of this thinking, but I urge you not to forget the numbers that are still in our schools, and how about we stop referring to them as numbers and remember to call them the children of Jamestown.

Every child is unique and learns at his or her own capability. It is all of our responsibility to meet the needs of all children from high-end learners to children with severe disabilities.

The rate of autism alone has risen to 1 in 166 births, and, yes, children are born in Jamestown with disabilities such as autism, dyslexia, behavior challenges and many other issues we need to address.

We also have a duty to challenge the children who are high-end learners. Cutting their programs and reducing the educators who are helping all children will have a detrimental impact on all children in the Jamestown School District.

You cannot appreciate the importance of smaller classes until you actually spend time and see how a child, who may have difficulty learning in a somewhat larger environment, is thriving and making significant improvement in a smaller class because of all the supports are in place for him or her. In the past, I have asked both the School Committee and the Town Council to come and spend time at the school. To date, this has not happened.

I believe firmly that visits by members of both bodies would help them to understand not only intellectually but the reality that smaller class size enables the teachers to also provide extra challenges to children who are high-end learners. You will also see how children with severe disabilities are sitting in class with their peers and how their peers are learning compassion and accepting and helping their classmates with disabilities. No price tag can be put on that.

I urge you to come and meet the children. Recognize the faces who are often referred to as the “low numbers” that you continue to discuss. Many of us would also like to hear from the constituents in this community who do not support the school budget. We have been told by some members of this School Committee and previous Town Council members that these people exist in large numbers. I have personally found that the people of Jamestown are very much in favor of providing the best education for Jamestown children.

Please come and visit our schools. Investigate the reality of Jamestown’s schools. Determine for yourselves whether the programs, the teachers, and the students are more than just numbers on a sheet of paper.

Karen Rafanelli,

Jamestown

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