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Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings

High special-education numbers

“He saw the shadow of an average man
Attempting the exceptional and ran.”

-- Myla Goldberg

This statement can be taken two different ways. How do you view it and which way would you go? You could choose to run away and not take the challenge -- or -- you could run like hell towards becoming exceptional and a truly outstanding human being. Because as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Life is a great bundle of little things.”

If we view each obstacle as just a small bump in the road to cross and not as a raging river to swim, we will move from baby steps to giant strides.

We have many challenges facing us in Schenectady. Corruption, lack of funds, crumbling infrastructure, high poverty and failing education. Kind of overwhelming. But -- and I keep stressing this -- you must be tired of it and me! Working as a community goes a long way towards putting things in perspective.

I think this new superintendent is great. Someone who steps right up to the fray and wades in the river. New ideas, ideas that are mighty revolutionary to this city, but maybe it’s time to do something revolutionary. Bringing in new people and ideas not to just talk about but to implement. Seeing the problems as belonging to all of us.

The special education programs that I have been screaming about in these pages are especially noteworthy. Special ed has been a dumping ground for kids from impoverished areas for years... 18% -- that’s the percentage of youth in our special ed programs. If 18% of our kids are seriously not able to be taught by everyday means we are in big trouble. I can hear you saying now, oh it’s the parents, it’s the kids, it’s the poverty. No, it’s us.

The average percentile for special ed in cities with similar poverty and immigration issues is about 3 to 6%. We are at least 3 times that amount. If you accept 18% as normal, you just don’t get it. True, many of our kids are born with fetal alcohol/ drug syndrome. But that is because their parents already have that issue. We need to man/woman-up and start addressing these problems and stop pretending to ourselves that you can do nothing, because you can.

Business people and college students cruise our poverty-stricken neighborhoods to buy drugs -- some times, off 12-year-old kids. Why? You are a big part of the problem. As long as pot is illegal you have no right to be buying it in the ghetto, let alone from kids, just so you can have a little kick on the weekend.

You want a little kick, take a kid to the movies, there’s a real high.

Saratoga had 11 Santas at its Victorian street celebration, one of whom comes every year and plays the saxophone. I actually have a Santa uniform, brand new, never been worn; who wants to volunteer? I am betting that I hear from no one on this offer.

As regards Toys for Tots, we at QUEST have been confirmed and approved. The added paperwork this year was simply to send in a hard copy of your 501 C-3 Document. This is one page, every non- profit has one. This extra step takes about 7 minutes, if that long. We sent ours at least twice plus 3 follow up phone calls to make certain everything was in order and received. That’s all the extra time it took.

Except for churches. The poor small churches of our city got swept out this year because churches do not need a 501 C-3 to be non-profit. But gee, Proctors could have become the covering angel here. They are non-profit, they could have worked with these groups and made the request and then distributed the goodies. Too much to expect you say? It’s Christmas, I myself drive to get the toys and distribute them,even finding toys for families that are in need. That is what non-profits are. That is what they are supposed to do. Picking up those big green bags of toys and seeing what is in them is a highlight of the season. My daughter hits the streets and finds bikes being thrown away, brings them home and sets up a repair shop in the garage. We now have 5 spiffy bikes to give away.

“The power of a man’s/ woman’s virtue should be measured not by his special efforts but by his ordinary doing.”
-- Blaise Pascal

Simply speaking, do good daily in whatever way you can; everything helps.

Now, last Thursday and Friday was horrific. For those of you who read this blog and have been reading it for some time, you will remember my speaking of a young man who was on all kinds of psychotropic drugs and was struggling with depression. He was 16 at the time and one evening my staff and I got text messages saying that we would not be hearing from him anymore and that he loved us and was sorry for everything. I of course spent all night trying to reach him and call for help. Help didn’t arrive until the next day and when it did it came to my home and not his. Any way, after much dialogue he was sent to 4 Winds Psychiatric Hospital in Saratoga and I was informed to never call local C.P.S. again.

Fast forward to late Nov. 2012 the aforesaid young man had left home and his 3 brothers and a sister were living on the Hill with their Mom and her new boyfriend.

House was raided, not surprising to any of us. Mom was on a C.P.S. watch for one of her sons, who had burned himself badly playing with a lighter. And it was business as usual in the house. The police shot their dog in the face in front of the kids, there was blood and brains splattered all over the wall. This was a non-aggressive, loving animal, and doing this in front of 4 children (the youngest is 5) is something that will haunt them forever. Actually there was a letter to the editor in the Gazette, decrying the trauma facing those children.

In the house were 4 guns, multiple drugs and a lot of cash. Alleged to be in the house that is. I want nothing to stand in the way of justice here. But the perfect ending here is the mother, she is home and still has custody of those kids. The 11-year-old put it all on Facebook, the daughter who is 17 is finding out that she has seriously caring friends. We can only hope for the best for these children.

This is from The Daily Gazette -- on Dec. 8, where our new school superintendent Laurence Spring states, “Intense poverty deals like a trauma to kids.”

Recent studies indicate that children in poverty are as off balance, fearful and uncertain as those who have just experienced a sudden trauma. But traumatized children routinely get counseling while poor children do not, Spring said. He has lobbied for more money to provide therapy for thousands of Schenectady’s children saying the district could not otherwise afford it.

“We do not have enough resources to address all the mental health needs,” Spring says.

State Education Executive John B. King Jr., who gave a $2.5 million grant to our school system said, “Schenectady was chosen because of it’s needy students.”
-- Kathleen Moore

And these imported people who will work to get the job done, will not be pounding their chests and doing the money dance. They will not tell you how wonderful everything is. They will give a true and honest statement to the best of their ability. And this is what we need if we are going to move forward. I went to Bow Tie Cinema Saturday to see the "Life of Pi" -- besides my husband and myself there were 4 other people in the theater. In the entire movie theater we saw (maybe) 7 more. And there was no ticket taker and the food counter guy had to run down to our theater to make sure the lights were on. Tell us again, downtown people, how successful this buisness is. Please.

I also looked over across the street at Mexican Radio, a restaurant 3 floors tall and a half a city block large. Explain to me how this place is going to survive -- It will be the largest restaurant in the tri- cities area. As far as renting out their 3rd floor for office space downtown State Street is teaming with unused office space; this restaurant will be bigger than the failing movie theater across the street. And of course kitty corner to that is the old state office building with a "For Rent" Office Space sign in its window.

“Whoever shalt exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”
-- Matthew 23:12

And that goes for politicians, business people and business buildings as well.
Always remember

“Forgetfulness of self is remembrance of God.”
-- Bayazid Al- Bistami

Judy Atchinson is executive director of QUEST, a not-for-profit group in Hamilton Hill whose goal is to help children who are considered at-risk lead healthier, happier and more productive lives.

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