2008-05-29 / Letters to the Editor

Jamestown an education model

I am writing in response to William Kelly's viewpoint in the May 15 edition of the Jamestown Press. I have struggled with this from the moment I read it for so many reasons. The main reason being the feeling his views evoked in me. The only other time I have felt such hurt and disappointment was when I was asked by a family friend if I planned to place my son, who was born with Down syndrome, in an institution.

Mr. Kelly's insensitive views hit home just as hard as that ignorant person who felt that because my son was born with a disability he was not worthy of a loving, caring home. Mr. Kelly's article left me feeling as though my son is nothing more than a tax burden to him and to the town we live in.

Yes, it is true, Jamestown is known for its incredible special education program; however, he failed to mention that we are also known for our amazing school system as a whole.

How do I know this? For the past year I have contemplated moving closer to my family in Bristol so I have thoroughly researched the Portsmouth, Bristol and Barrington school systems. I was told the same thing by their educators, administration, a principal, special education teachers and parents both of typical and special needs children, which was to stay in Jamestown because my children would never receive the type of education they are getting now. I was impressed with just how highly regarded our educators and administration are by their colleagues.

Mr. Kelly also failed to mention the powerful impact that children with disabilities have on our typical children and vice versa, which is facilitated through small, integrated classrooms. Please understand that it is not just the fact that my son is integrated with his typical peers but also our small classroom size that has such an enormous impact on his progress. He would get lost

in a large classroom. I cannot tell you how many parents have come up to me and told me how much their children enjoy being in class with my son. As a parent of a child with a disability, words will never express how happy that makes me.

My fears have been cast aside and my son has been embraced by his classmates and teachers. It is overwhelming. We are very fortunate that our children (please keep in mind that I also have a typical child) have the opportunity to grow up with children who have disabilities. It teaches them compassion, empathy and understanding far beyond anything they could learn from a school book. I see it every time I am in his classroom. His classmates are amazing little people that treat him with patience, understanding and love.

It is unfortunate that many of the previous generations did not have such an experience. I am sure it would have changed some of the shortsighted, ignorant views we see today. As not only a parent but also a taxpayer I feel members of our Town Council should be properly educated when casting such strong opinions regarding the fate of some of our town's most vulnerable members.

I feel Mr. Kelly would benefit greatly from seeing my son in his classroom with his typical peers and hope he takes the time to do so. It is an experience one truly cannot understand until they have seen it for themselves.

Mr. Kelly, you questioned at what cost is this program to the taxpayers. I would think it is as important as giving our policeman the safest vests and our fireman the most effective equipment. It would be unconscionable to do anything less, just as it would be unconscionable to lessen our educational standards to save a dollar. Beth Garcia Jamestown

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