Cancellation of organic chem class leaves a foul smell
In response to Ms. Jane Slezak’s March 30 letter, I would point out that as an outsider, she is missing pertinent information.
She states that before taking organic chemistry, students should have a prior AP [advanced placement] chemistry course. As stated in a previous editorial and subsequent letter, there are no AP science courses at Duanesburg. The organic chemistry course was the students’ one chance at an advanced science. It was an introductory course, with content determined by the teacher and Dr. Brian Bliss, an organic chemist (assisting through a grant from the American Chemical Society.)
The fact that students had no prior AP courses was taken into account in determining the scope and content of the course. They made things like disappearing ink and aspirin in the labs, not particularly toxic compounds.
Regardless, a fume hood is available and was used when needed. Safety was the very first topic in the lab and Dr. Bliss has extensive lab safety and teaching experience. Goggles, aprons and gloves were required equipment.
Also, they did have sophisticated glassware. Incidentally, $2,500 of it was purchased by the teacher with her own money.
Additionally, Ms. Slezak misses the larger point, which was how the class was cancelled, and other irregularities that followed. We, the parents, had no contact from the administration. There was no meeting, no letter, no phone call, nor email to discuss whether this class was too hard or that grading should change.
After the academic quarter had ended, the shenanigans began. My son was called to the guidance office on two consecutive days and offered a withdrawal from the course, when he neither requested nor wanted one. He was told withdrawals would get a “WP [withdrawal no penalty]” when the guidelines of the course (signed by students and their parents) clearly stated, “There will be no pass/fail.” This decision would ultimately change the class rankings.
It was only when the majority of parents and students objected to this grading change with letters, and comments at a board of education meeting, that the administration and board, in their less than infinite wisdom, decided to cancel the course and claimed inexplicably that it was “...in the best interest of all our students...” They also changed the grades retroactively.
So the real question is: Why was all this necessary, who exerted influence, who benefitted, and why can’t we get an answer?
Schoharie’s stance on SAFE Act explained
Given the fact that our representatives in Albany, as well as Washington, have had no problem passing unfunded mandates to us, the taxpayers, which call for your increased tax dollars; given the fact that the 2 percent property tax cap in this state was supposed to be accompanied by mandate relief to the taxpayers and is something which has not yet taken place; given the fact that a “no new tax” budget merely represents possibly more new mandates and perhaps increased revenues for mandates already in place, it is hard to believe that many of our residents would not be in favor of informing Albany that we have had enough.
Our county, for numerous reasons, has lost the most population in the state. Loss of employment, flooding, extremely high property taxes, lack of willing investors, proposed pipelines, and unaffordable mandates — all, collectively, are driving our residents away. While there are many valued opinions in our communities, surely we are not sheep willing to be led to slaughter.
There comes a time when we must speak with one voice. I believe that time has come. It was not just a question of our county not funding the implementation of the SAFE Act, it was a question of whether or not our residents should fund another mandate given to us by Albany, knowing full well that more tax dollars would be needed.
Bear in mind that every resident of this state was deprived of due process with the passage of the SAFE Act, a new precedent set by Albany; and if this is to be the next common practice from our lawmakers, our opinions will never matter again. If we, as elected representatives, are not willing to fight for what is doable for our constituents, then what purpose do we serve?
I realize completely that elected officials, regardless of what capacity they serve, cannot be all things to all people and our opinions on issues will vary. I truly respect the educated opinion of the editor and residents on this issue, but I also realize that without resistance to laws that are becoming unaffordable, structured government can collapse.
The individuals that we, the people, send to Albany and Washington must be reminded that they were sent to protect our best interests; to ensure that current and future generations will experience the American Dream; to ensure a dignified lifestyle for our seniors who supported government their entire lives and in their final hours are deprived of the care that is necessary; and to recognize, constantly, the need to educate our youth, for they represent America’s future.
We are a society governed by laws, many of which have never been enforced. Mandates have been enforced and they represent taxation. How many more can you afford?
The writer is town supervisor.
Full-day kindergarten in BH-BL a no-brainer
The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Board of Education will soon make a decision that will impact the educational foundation of our children — whether or not to expand kindergarten to full day. We fully support full-day kindergarten and urge the board to vote in favor of the recommendations made by the task force created specifically to investigate this issue.
The task force report was well-thought-out, comprehensive, well-researched and done with the best interest of our children as its top priority.
Education is changing. We have two daughters, ages 4 and 7, and understand that their “today” is not the same as the “yesterdays” of our childhood. It is time for BH-BL’s kindergarten program to change in order to better prepare our district’s children for their “tomorrows.”
We have talked with a number of teachers from various grades and schools, all strongly supported expanding to full-day kindergarten. Teaching children and what happens in the classroom is their profession and their expertise. As such, we respect their opinion. More time will provide them a better opportunity to know and meet the needs of students. BH-BL has outstanding teachers, but asking them to get done what they and the children need to accomplish in two and a half hours is not fair for either. A rushed learning experience cannot be fun or successful.
This school year, New York state implemented the Common Core Learning Standards, which are new and challenging for both students and teachers. Additional classroom time will create an environment that is not rushed and provides ample time to learn, play and grow. At the same time, a full day will help better prepare our young students for the new standards.
For these reasons, and with the knowledge that there would be no budget impact for five years, we ask the BH-BL board of education to approve full-day kindergarten.
Kimberly and Jim Ireland
How parties’ moderates can keep radicals at bay
I am not inclined to give advice to incumbent Republicans, particularly those in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, I am wondering about those who, in good conscience, want to vote on an issue that might spur the threat of being primaried by a lobbying group or special-interest faction of their party.
Here is the response I would recommend: Call a press conference and tell everyone that if you are challenged in a primary, you will run as an independent. Using the power of incumbency, and financial resources from supporters who care strongly about about issues with which you might agree (say Obamacare, banning assault weapons, limiting high-capacity magazines, gun background checks, or perhaps immigration reform), you will run relentlessly for re-election — even if it means the seat will go to the other party.
If radicals in the Republican Party want to lose an otherwise secure seat in Congress to the opposition candidate, the loss will be on the heads of the radicals of the party.
This advice can also serve as advice to office-holding Democrats, who are being threatened in election primaries by the far left in that party. In short, incumbents should grow backbones and fight fire with ire [sic].
Fracking, tar sands no way to go fossil-free
Ten years ago, we embarked on a $4 trillion war, destroying Iraq for its oil.
A March 23 letter [“No good reason to oppose Keystone Pipeline plan”] pushed KeystoneXL TarSands exploitation. On March 31 an Opinion piece [“Fracking hardly the only source of river sediment”] again promoted hydrofracking. What do these have in common? They all push severe fossil-fuel extraction that permanently destroys lives, land, water and our very climate.
We are addicts who will do anything for one more fix. We are hitting bottom. Let’s admit our problem, our mistakes, and move down the road to recovery.
An independent Stanford study (Mark Jacobson, et al.) just documented how New York could become fossil-fuel free in 20 years, with a net gain from our investments.
We need to take the next step. We can do it. We have to do it. We need to do it ourselves. We need to push our politicians. And we need to redesign, divest from and/or decommission any pathological corporations that stand in our way.
Let’s be fossil fools no more. Let’s use less. Lets use clean, safe, peaceful renewables.
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