Yesterday was the Annual Amity Budget Referendum. Only 471 people from Woodbridge turned out to vote out of a total of 1412 people across the school district. While this was a disappointing result, it was only 16 less people from Woodbridge than the year before, and only 26 less for all of the three towns.
The individual numbers weren’t really all that different in Woodbridge either. There was a slight movement against the budget in Woodbridge this year with 23 less people voting for the budget and 7 more people voting against it.
Bethany actually saw six more people vote in 2011 than they saw in 2010. Fifteen less people voted for the budget and twenty-one more people voted for it.
Orange saw the biggest changes. Overall they only had sixteen less people voting. However, because of the increase in the number of students from Orange at Amity, they will be hit harder than the other towns in terms of the budget. This resulted in 95 less people voting for the budget and and 79 more people voting against the budget.
As people hung around the Center in Woodbridge waiting for the polls to close some suggested that the issue in Orange is a belief that they could build their way out of a financial problem. The problem with building more houses is that more people live in the houses and it costs more to provide services to these people, such as the cost of educating the children in these new houses.
Another interesting tidbit came up. I did not know that you did not have to be registered to vote in the budget. Besides registered voters, U.S. Citizens who are listed on the property tax rolls as having at least $1000 worth of property in town can vote. One person showed up in Woodbridge who was not registered, was a property holder, but it turns out was not a U.S. citizen and because of this didn’t end up getting to vote.
With that, here are the results for last year and this year:
(Cross posted at the Woodbridge Citizen.)
When I first heard about the unresolved bullying in Middletown, CT, a couple thoughts came to mind. One was about what literature I would recommend to students dealing with bullying. There are a couple obvious choices, a few less obvious, and many more that I probably should have thought of but haven’t.
Heading off the list is Lord of the Flies. It is pretty obvious and I would be remiss not to include a quote from that great book.
Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy
Another book that came to my mind was The Scarlet Letter. The reason it came to mind is perhaps less obvious. I have a tendency to look at things from a systems sort of viewpoint. I suspect that bullying is rarely simply a few kids being mean to a few other kids. Instead, I suspect that it often reflects something else going on in the culture, some hidden sin.
Is there something like this taking place in Middletown? Is it playing itself out, not only in the battles with the Board of Education to get Monique a proper and safe education, but also in other aspects of Middletown, with concerns misappropriation of funds, battles between the Mayor’s office and the Board of Education, conflicts over the chief of police, and perhaps other unnamed battles?
Then, last week, there was a fatal shooting. Some have suggested that it has to do with other unresolved issues of bullying in the schools and perhaps in the town.
When I read about this, my mind went to another story people struggling with bullying should consider, Romeo and Juliet.
In the final scene, the Prince proclaims:
And I for winking at your discords too
Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish'd.
I fear that until those in power stop winking at the discords in town, there will be more sadness to come.
A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished:
It has always been a tenet of American Education that students deserve a safe and appropriate educational environment, independent of any special needs that a student might have and there are various rules in place to protect this right. Yet sometimes these rules have to be used in new and creative ways to assure that a student gets the educational opportunity they deserve.
The first creative use of these rules was when a woman I knew who had a child with severe peanut allergies tried to get the school to make accommodations. The school balked and stonewalled until the woman brought in a disabilities act lawyer and the school came to understand that it would be much easier to comply than to fight. The school made some simple changes to its policies and the child managed to get an appropriate and safe education.
I’m now told that a similar legal maneuver might be taking place in a notorious bullying case here in Connecticut. In this case, the school district may be seeking to have the bullied student placed in special education. On the surface, this sounds offensive, especially from a school district that claims to have a zero tolerance for bullying. Requiring a safe classroom, free from bullying, shouldn’t be considered a special need. It is a need of all students. Suggesting that it is a special need seems to be an admission that the school is failing in its basic responsibilities to provide a safe, bullying-free environment.
On the other hand, it might also be an attempt to save face. By claiming that the student has a special need for a safe bullying-free environment, the administrators may be trying to assert that their environment is, in their minds, and perhaps even for most of the students, safe and bullying-free, while for the student in question, it is not.
Whether this is an admission of failure or an attempt to save face, there is a bigger issue, will the student get the education she needs and deserves? Given the actions of the school up to now, it would be easy to imagine that attempting to put the child in a special education setting might be seen as punishment. It may in fact be the case, if the school is saying that there are other special needs, beside protection from bullying. Yet one of the goals of special education these days is to ‘mainstream’ special needs students. This means having the students involved in as close to normal an education setting as possible.
If the school district can accomplish this, what they will essentially be doing is placing the student in a school where bullying is not an issue and where the same educational opportunities exist. It seems like that has been the goal of the family of the bullied student all along. If that is what the school district is seeking to do, then my thought is let them try to save face that way. Each one of us will decide whether we believe that the need to be in a bully-free environment is a special situation for the student or an admission of failure by the school district.
If, on the other hand, there is any whiff of a punitive approach where the student is not getting the same educational opportunities, then it would seem that the school district is acting in a foolhardy manner that will just end up increasing their legal fees and liabilities.
Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week for many Christians. It is a time of remembering the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, followed by his betrayal and even his closest friends turning their backs on him, before he was crucified and rose again. It provides a framework for my thoughts about two messages I recently received.
R.I.P., Marley Francis Jones........You will be missed.
With all our love,
The Red House Gang (your second family)
I only met Marley a couple times, at my Uncle’s funeral and at my Aunt’s funeral. He was a dedicated Franciscan and was always incredibly kind.
The message went on to say,
Marley was always there to help us through our sad times as well as the happy ones. He will be greatly missed by all of his friends
Always there to help... I guess it is something we all look for. We all have difficult times. We all have joyous times, and through all of it, we all need people to be there to help us.
The second email was from a person that has had difficulty finding someone to be with her and her family during a difficult time. It was from Alexa McClain, the grandmother of Monique McClain. Monique had been so badly bullied in a Middletown, CT school, that her family pulled her out and has been battling with the school district to get them to properly enforce their zero tolerance of bullying policy and to provide a safe learning environment.
Unfortunately, those whose job it is to make sure that children are provided a safe learning environment seem to be making the problem worse.
Fortunately, the North End Action Team eventually found a Wesleyan student to tutor Monique, but even with that, the school district’s stonewalling continues to threaten Monique’s education.
I just wish Marley was around for Monique. Perhaps, he, together with St. Francis, and others will pray for Monique. Perhaps her struggles with being bullied and having almost no one around to stand up for her will be transformed in to a joyful new life where she is valued the way Marley was valued. May she will be valued the way St. Francis and Jesus valued all those that people in power have overlooked or turned their backs on.
It has come to my attention that a group of adults are engaging in what appears to be a concerted and coordinated effort to compel a minor into an abusive and potentially dangerous environment and that they have attempted to draw the Department of Children and Families (DCF) into this effort.
Specifically, Michael J. Frechette, Charles Marqua, Diane M Niles, Theodore V. Raczka, Christine Chinni, and others are attempting to compel Monique McClain to return to Woodrow Wilson Middle School.
As an independent investigative reporter and blogger, I have reviewed police records and other information that documents a pattern of abuse and potential danger to Ms. McClain at the Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Middletown, CT. The evidence I have seen leads me to believe this has not been adequately addressed and any effort to compel Ms. McClain to return to Woodrow Wilson Middle School may in fact constitute endangering a minor.
The efforts to compel Ms. McClain to return to this environment is also well documented. Newspaper articles and other information indicate that the school has failed indicate that Ms. McClain’s absences have a good excuse, and instead, they have reported her to DCF as a habitual truant for having too many unexcused absences. It has also been documented that the school district has failed to provide the class work that Ms. McClain is missing and has requested, even when a State Marshal appeared to gather such class work. All of this appears to be a concerted and coordinated effort to compel Ms. McClain to return to an abusive and dangerous environment.
I ask the DCF to carefully investigate this to see if the named parties are in fact acting in a concerted and coordinated effort to endanger a minor.
While I am not an expert in child welfare, it is my understanding that a remedy often used when an adult is potentially endangering a minor is to have a restraining order placed prohibiting any contact between the adult and the child. Since the named parties are administrators at the school where they are attempting to compel the minor to return, it would appear as if any such remedy would require that the school district find a different school where Ms. McClain can obtain the education she deserves.
Beyond that, it would appear as if DCF should determine whether or not it is in the interest of the children of Middletown to allow the named parties to continue in rolls that give that place them in authority over other children.
Please let me know what DCF is doing to protect Ms. McClain and other students in Connecticut schools where bullying is an issue that is not adequately being addressed by the schools administration.