2013-01-31 / Editorial


‘I have no confidence in Superintendent Lukon’

We withdrew our child from Melrose Avenue School last June. Like the teachers, my husband Rob and I have no confidence in Superintendent Lukon.

There are five nonmilitary families who withdrew their children between February and June 2012. While we don’t know their reasons, ours was for expecting better education, and doubting the administration.

The teachers at Melrose are kind and approachable. To the contrary, we experienced many incidences of dissatisfaction with the administration. I will share five:

1. In 2011, we attended Commissioner Gist’s Town Hall presentation. The room was full of town and school administrators and teachers. Very few parents were present. We were concerned about the Everyday Math program taught at Melrose. We wanted to discuss an alternative, Singapore Math, a program that teaches mastery instead of the controversial “spiraling” approach with Everyday Math. My husband referenced five Massachusetts districts that switched from Everyday Math to Singapore Math. Superintendent Lukon was sitting in front of him, swung around and barked that my husband did not know what he was talking about. We were appalled.

2. After attending a school budget workshop, and finding out that Everyday Math did not meet the new Common Core Standards, I inquired with the School Committee about plans to address the math situation and whether parents would be included. Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser forwarded my email to Superintendent Lukon and requested that she respond to me. No response.

3. During the first week of school last year, my child took a computerized math test. I was concerned about the test score and that my child had never taken a computerized test. I raised the concern to the teacher and she responded that most of the class did poorly. She agreed that testing one week after summer break was unfair, and she acknowledged that the children had never taken a computerized test. The superintendent required that the test be given then. I learned that the test would be repeated later to show a benchmark of improvement. I remain suspicious that if the test had been given later, the children would have had better test scores, and therefore, not as much improvement, and thus a less remarkable result for the superintendent to report.

4. After meeting another time with the principal and a teacher about some test scores, and diffi culty my child was having with math, I suggested that we should test my child to see if there was a learning disability. This was not my first request. The principal was quick to offer resources, but no testing. It wasn’t the first time I was frustrated with the way the administration dealt with potential special needs. Frustrated, I left and made an appointment to tour a private school for my kids. Next, I called my pediatrician.

5. My pediatrician immediately suggested testing for my child, and was concerned the school was throwing resources at my child without knowing or identifying the problem. She recommended that a physician do the testing rather than the school. It was costly. I decided to see if the school would provide the testing. I was told testing was not available because of budgetary issues. There is lack of consistency with how potential special needs are addressed. I am aware of other children who did get offered testing, and qualified for Individual Education Programs. Rather than pursue further, we decided to withdraw our child from Melrose and pay for the testing. I do believe my child’s rights were violated, and worry there may be others who did not get help they needed.

The silver lining is that our intuition was right. We made the right decision and our children are thriving in private school. But not every parent can or wants to take this approach. Jamestown needs to do better for our children.

It will be interesting to watch how the School Committee handles this situation. This isn’t the first time Superintendent Lukon has received a vote of no confi- dence. In 2006, the teachers association in Boylston, Mass., passed a vote of no confidence. I wonder why the School Committee here thought Lukon would be a good fit for Jamestown.

The author is on the executive board of the Taxpayers Association of Jamestown and is chairwoman of the town Republican Committee.

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