Sch’dy schools’ crisis reflects social ills of the community
The Schenectady City School District is a uniquely diverse school district. It is a melting pot of ethnic, cultural and economic diversity that reflects this area and a microcosm of the greater world picture that rural and suburban schools have yet to experience.
And with that, comes the challenging obstacles of learning tolerance, gaining understanding and working with vastly different family backgrounds. This make-up has the potential to prepare students for the growing diverse world population of our nation.
However, this population mix also requires a new approach to education and dealing with the social ill obstacles which present themselves. These “social ills” are no longer limited to just the adult world.
What is disturbing is that children are demonstrating violent acts which previously have been associated with adult actions. These actions have been seeping into our schools for years and are now at crisis levels. In adult society, we call it harassment, stalking, or assault and arrest adults. In public education we call it bullying and fighting and suspend students for a short period and hope when they return from their at home rest and violent video consumption, they have mended their ways and are now redeemed as a civilized student. These students jeopardize the safety and education opportunities for everyone in their buildings.
It is awesome that the Daily Gazette is at the ready to report and chastise the Schenectady City School District for every challenging incident and paint a negative picture of our students, staff and administration. How lucky is it that these incidents don’t occur in other districts. Or are they just not reported? Great things happen every day in our schools, and people are working tirelessly to try and fix our problems. Our reputation is in crisis.
I believe that when crisis occurs, it is a screaming call to make changes. Times have changed and the school district can no longer afford to operate in the traditional education model which was designed to provide education to cooperative, eager learners who seek to better themselves and create greater opportunity for their future.
This is a great opportunity for the Schenectady school district to think out of the box and create changes in the school day and curriculums to address the educational and social needs of our diverse population. All valuable learning does not occur sitting in a desk for six hours. Learning is an interactive practice. Students need to be engaged in school with something that matters to them, gives them a sense of personal value, a connection that can help them see that education is an important step to opening doors to their future. Then use these connections to teach students to read, write, comprehend math and develop appropriate social skills to help them be successful.
I have to believe that it is possible to embrace and change the education world, because what I see and hear daily is oppressive and exhausting. Really good teachers/administrators will be and are looking for alternative careers. Our communities have nowhere else to turn except to our schools to try to avert the issues facing our youth; bullying, assault, abuse, drug use, teen pregnancy, homelessness, hunger, violence, addiction, mental illness and every other social ill that weighs down our young and keeps us away from of our education mission.
It will require the efforts from the entire community to change the current trends. If our school district does not thrive, neither does our community.
Carol Harrigan Lupo
The writer is a teacher in the Schenectady city school system.
Cartoon on food stamps was offensive to farmers
Farmers are in the business of feeding people. We get up every day and work hard to make sure our families and our communities have healthy food to put on their dinner tables.
So imagine my surprise when I opened up your Nov. 5 opinion page to see the disgraceful editorial cartoon that I personally found offensive and wrong.
It showed a combine labeled with signs like “Big Ag” running over “poor” people on food stamps with a caption that said, “Dead Ahead.” No doubt it is making reference to the battle over the farm bill that has raged on far too long in Washington. The uncertainty of having no farm bill has left many of our fruit, vegetable and dairy farms vulnerable.
While agriculture makes up just about 20 percent of the spending in the farm bill, agriculture bears more than 80 percent of the cost savings in the Senate version, including doing away with direct payment subsidies altogether.
[The] New York Farm Bureau has also advocated that the farm and nutrition packages remain intertwined for the benefit of both. Farmers have a stake in making sure that people who need assistance have the ability to afford to feed their families and purchase local food. We need healthy farms to have healthy families.
The writer is president of the Montgomery County Farm Bureau.
Pension ‘de-riskng’ is really pension ‘stripping’
Americans love catchy phrases and buzzwords, but sometimes such marketing tactics are nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig. That is exactly what corporations are doing when they refer to a newfangled, risky financial transaction that they have named “pension de-risking.”
This is when companies sell off their retirees’ pension plans to investment funds or insurers, converting what were federally protected pensions into annuities. This has the impact of stripping defenseless older Americans of legal protections of both the federal ERISA [Employee Retirement Income Security Act] pension law and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. In addition, these annuities become subject to a variety of state laws, dependent upon where the retiree lives.
Last year, General Motors sold off 76,000 retiree pensions to Prudential Insurance and this year Verizon sold 41,000 pensions to Prudential. This is not just a GM and Verizon issue, it’s a growing national crisis likely to impact all retirees.
In reality, this practice is really “pension stripping,” a violent act against retirees and their earned pension funds. America’s retirees need help and real protections on the state level, where insurers are regulated.
The writer is a member of ProtectSeniors.Org.
Ed Noonan’s type of hunting no less ethical
Charles Rielly [Nov. 5 letter] and Syd Thomas [Nov. 9 letter] recently wrote letters to the editor denigrating Gazette columnist Ed Noonan’s choice of method to hunt deer in Texas. Ed has decided to blind hunt in a biologically well-managed area, thus giving him the opportunity to be selective of the particular buck he wishes to take. He has also, rather audaciously I might say, chosen to consider his self-comfort while doing so.
What may be a reprehensible hunting practice to New York’s hunters is not necessarily so elsewhere. Ed plans to hunt legally and ethically, per the traditions of the Texans. Some knowledge of the Texas landscape, miles of rattlesnake-infested thornbush tangles, helps in understanding why the Texans hunt as they do.
I expect Messrs. Rielly and Thomas would also like to condemn the Louisianans for hunting deer with hounds. Vast swamplands, numerous poisonous snakes, alligators, and the Southern traditions of hounding all play a part in understanding why it’s legal and ethical to do so there.
I would also caution Messrs. Rielly and Thomas on the one-upmanship. No matter how physically difficult you choose to make your hunts, someone else will eventually climb a higher mountain or sit on a bed of nails to outdo you. It doesn’t make them a better hunter or give them a more enjoyable experience. To each his/her own. Leave the judgmental garbage to the ignorance of the anti-hunters.
SPAC continues to reach for the stars
It was encouraging to see the Nov. 2 Gazette editorial spotlighting the dedicated efforts of Marcia White, president and CEO of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, to further elevate SPAC toward global recognition by getting the Bolshoi Ballet to come next summer and present four performances of “Don Quixote.”
The start next year of an annual summer residency in Saratoga by David Finckel, world-renowned cellist, and Wu Han, equally renowned pianist, with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, is another progressive cultural leap forward.
The full return of the New York City Ballet can, most likely, be expected to materialize as well.
The TV news outlets seem obsessed with covering the ongoing controversy over a gambling casino rising up on the Spa City’s landscape. But the fact is that the 150-year-old crown jewel of thoroughbred horse racing, plus a constantly expanding cultural environment tailored to the tastes of travelers, will primarily become the thriving economic engines that will result in firmly establishing Saratoga as an attractive, world-class, popular tourism mecca.
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