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Letters to the Editor - Lakeville Journal - 3-23-17

Ryan plan’s many flaws for health care

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is pushing a plan for health care “reform” that would create chaos for doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, state governors and millions of Americans currently receiving medical and mental health care under Obamacare. 

In 2010, the Affordable Care Act, a major promise of Barack Obama’s campaign, was passed by Congress and signed into law. Since 2014, the ACA has enrolled 20–24 million people with good, basic coverage who previously didn’t have health insurance or had “junk” plans. Important groups gained protection — those with pre-existing conditions and children up to the age of 26 who qualified under their parents’ plan. Many others who could not afford a plan qualified with Medicaid subsidies from the federal government.

Senior citizens have had medical insurance under single-payer Medicare since 1966. Nursing homes and long-term care can deplete family income; now those costs may also be covered with Medicaid subsidies.

The ACA quickly became known as Obamacare. Almost all Democrats voted for it; Republicans did not. This, despite the fact that many elements of the law were endorsed by Republicans before Obama was elected. Many parts incorporated into the ACA had been signed into a popular state law, called MassHealth, in 2006, by then Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have repeatedly voted to repeal Obamacare over the past six years. Their votes went nowhere because: 1) they had no replacement plan; 2) the Senate refused to vote on repeal; and 3) an Obama veto was certain. The GOP, which now controls the House, Senate, and the presidency, has seized the moment; Speaker Paul Ryan is promoting a three-step replacement plan.  

Ryan’s plan, Step One, faces opposition from both House and Senate Republicans, from Trump advisers, and of course, from Democrats. His wording is suspicious; he promises “access,” and “choices,” which are neither insurance nor health care. Lower costs and reduced federal deficits will come from the estimated 22 million people dropped from Obamacare. Block grants for Medicaid simply outsource costs from the federal government to the states and will wreak havoc with state budgets, which governors must balance, or deny care. Individual insurance costs will be covered through tax credits — a veiled plan that would also include tax cuts disproportionately benefiting the very wealthy. Premiums and copays would increase with the age of the patient, thereby hurting the poor, disabled and elderly the most. Planned Parenthood would be defunded, depriving many women of their primary care. 

Obamacare was never perfect, but it has helped millions at lower costs than predicted. It can be reformed. Unfortunately, the GOP assault prevents progress on that front. Paul Ryan’s plan is headed toward a Boehner/Hastert barrier. He may not get a majority of his majority in the House. Furthermore, he hasn’t announced Steps Two and Three, which may be blocked by Senate rules. Ryan’s plan should be rejected. 

Frances R. Besmer

Kent

 

The show(s) must go on…

Over many years I have been fortunate to witness some of the most dramatic, comedic, inspiring, motivating and purely magical theater productions. From witty screenplays to uplifting musical compositions to crowd-rousing one liners, one would think that I was sitting comfortably in a velvet-covered seat inside one of Broadway’s historic icons. 

However, that just isn’t the case. All of these performances were held at local elementary schools, regional high schools, churches and various community centers. 

The amount of time that is spent creating these youthful masterpieces is remarkable. When the public is fortunate enough to finally be graced by the opening act or the excitement of a drawn curtain, what ensues is the culmination of months, weeks, days and hours of hard work and dedication. These young children and high school students take the stage, with all fears aside, stare into the spotlight and ultimately bring these characters to life in a way that impresses the masses. 

The invaluable life skills that are taught in the arts are building blocks, meant to be taken head on and used as a firm foundation for growth. Time management, commitment, encouragement, confidence, public speaking, culture, acceptance, unification, diversity and adversity are just a few of the things that these young actors learn and will inevitably take away from these experiences. 

If you have never been able to attend these local plays I urge all of you to do so. If your child has ever mentioned the idea of being a part of the arts culture I urge you to consider their request. Reach out to local theaters and dance companies. If your child’s school doesn’t have a theater group perhaps now is the time to create one. Our children need these experiences and opportunities now and in the future. The friendships and bonds that are created and built upon are ones that will last forever. 

Congratulations to all of those who had a hand in the production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.” It was an amazing production and one that left me laughing all of the way home. 

Brian Ohler

North Canaan

 

Pat yourselves on the backs

Well, Tri-State Community, pat yourselves on the back! Sunday’s turnout for the second annual Taste of the Tri-State was fantastic! Hibernation ended as kids of all ages emerged and reconnected with neighbors and local businesses and area non-profits. Everyone found something to enjoy in the food court. It was chock full of culinary delights and the smiling faces of tireless volunteers. The first-time beer and wine tasting garden was an instant success!

Thank you to all our vendors, you keep this event buzzing with your creative displays and boundless energy. And to all who attended: thanks to you we will be back next year bigger and better!

One more time to thank our sponsors: The Hotchkiss School, ITW Lakeville Operation, Lakeville Journal Co., Rose Hill Kitchen and Bath, Sharon Health Care Center, Founders Insurance Group, Litchfield Bancorp, Salisbury Garden Center, Salisbury Visiting Nurse Association, Metz Family Enterprises and Mountainside. 

Jean Saliter, Vice Presidenton behalf of the board of directors of Tri-State Chamber of Commerce

 

Lakeville

 

Rethink scheduling changes at HVRHS

I am writing to you today about a very important issue at HVRHS. Suddenly we are being forced into a major schedule change that is not supported by many teachers, students and parents.  

I have two children in HVRHS who are very concerned about this change. Our high school in Dover, N.Y., had block scheduling. They found it did not work for them and went back to 45 minute classes. They are now looking into a schedule like ours with a long block that rotates throughout the week. My children (one is in honors) dread long block math or Spanish. How will that be when they have even longer blocks every day all year long?  

We have many legitimate concerns:

• Block scheduling has not been proven to improve academic success.

• Many schools have tried block scheduling and have gone back to the traditional schedule.

• Subjects like Math, Science and Languages have been proven to be more successful when taught in smaller doses.

• There will be long gaps in subjects ranging from eight months to a year!

• Students can finish their required math courses for example by the end of sophomore year and then have to take the SAT/ACT tests senior year after a very long gap in those subjects.

• Students with learning disabilities (and many without) do not have the attention span to be successful with these longer blocks. They forget over the course of a summer. Having long gaps in subjects would be very detrimental.

• Music programs are disadvantaged because they need regular year round involvement.

• Teachers end up with less time for actual teacher instruction over the course of the semester due to more group activities and inevitable homework time at the end of long blocks.

• When a student is sick, they are missing twice as much information as before.

• Teachers have not had the adequate preparation for a change of this magnitude.

• There will definitely be a limiting of electives that the students can fit in their schedule.

 The Agriculture Program will suffer for this and many other reasons: 

• Students need to be in the classes all year long to take advantage of everything that transpires over the course of the year.

• There are many great classes to take and a block schedule will not let them take everything they would like, which they can fit in with the current schedule.

• Many of the Ag students are already talking about transferring to Oliver Wolcott so they don’t have to endure the 80 minute classes. Our enrollment is already going down. Do we need students leaving unnecessarily because of this?

The teachers found out about this change only a couple of weeks before we did on Feb. 13, 2017.  Research says in order for this schedule to be successful the teachers need one to two years of professional development.  At the very least, what are we rushing this for? 

Kim Holback

 

Wingdale, N.Y.

 

Thanks for the EMS symposium

This past Saturday the Emergency Medical Services Institute, Inc., sponsored its annual symposium, held at The Hotchkiss School. The event has always been an outstanding training opportunity for EMTs throughout Connecticut and neighboring New York state towns. The symposiums are designed to bring together the EMS community, health-care providers of all levels, all who provide prehospital emergency patient care, and vendors that provide tools and services necessary to offer the highest standard and up-to-date care to everyone in our area. Unique among other training opportunities for EMTs, the EMSI’s symposium is affordable and accessible while at the same time it provides exceptional teaching in an intimate setting.

This year’s program featured a team of four nationally recognized speakers hailing from Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Connecticut. The interactive keynote address, delivered by all four presenters, engaged participants in a discussion of commitment to service and making a difference. Sixteen different workshops were offered to participants. Topics included: “A Fresh Look at Skeletal Injuries,” “Bringing Battlefield Medicine to our Streets,” “Surviving in the Crosshair — Response to Active Shooters,” “EMS Response to the Pregnant Patient,”and “Management of Chest Injuries.”

We are fortunate to live in communities that are served by dedicated and well-trained volunteer EMTs. Participation in the EMSI’s symposium ensures that all EMTs in our area have the knowledge and expertise to respond to us in our times of crisis and when we are most in need. When you meet members of your town’s EMS squads, please make sure to thank them and let them know that they make a difference. 

Molly Hinchman, Ph.D

Clinical Psychologist 

Board of Directors, Emergency Medical Services, Inc.

 

West Cornwall

 

Housatonic Valley Regional H.S. needs the right solution

Members of the HVRHS administration and Region One BOE would have us believe there’s a certain inevitability to the new block schedule: that academic performance is below where they want it to be, therefore we must adopt this schedule. But nobody ever explains why we must adopt this particular schedule; why core classes must be taught in 90 days; why we have to rush to make this change this fall. Maybe that’s because it’s not really about improving academic performance at all. There is certainly no logical connection between the stated problem (academic performance) and the alleged solution (4x4 block schedule). 

If the board and the administration are truly interested in improving academic achievement, perhaps they would do well to follow the lead of Jack Mahoney, former principal of HVRHS, who, in 1993, “took a special leave to travel around the U.S. to visit exemplary schools.” They wouldn’t even need to go far. Connecticut has 16 public high schools ranking among the top 500 in the U.S., according to the 2016 Best High Schools ranking by US News & World Report. The top 10 in the state in 2016 are:

Weston — eight full-year classes, five per day rotating in long blocks

Wilton — seven periods per day, rotating

Avon — eight full-year classes, four per day in long blocks alternating every other day (A/B blocks)

Ridgefield — similar to HVRHS, holds seven out of eight classes each day on an eight-day rotation

East Lyme — similar to Avon

Haddam-Killingworth — each week, each of seven classes meets twice in short blocks and twice in long blocks; four, five or seven classes per day

Farmington — traditional (40 minute periods)

Pomperaug — traditional (49 minute periods)

Newtown — similar to HVRHS, eight classes, six per day, in an eight-day rotation so each day starts with a different class

South Windsor — five-day rotation, first day eight short blocks followed by four-day rotation of six classes like HVRHS

 

The important thing to note is that all of those schools teach core classes all year long. None of them try to teach Algebra or English or History in a single semester. This new schedule is ill-conceived. Common sense should tell most everyone that education in core subjects like math will suffer if classes are taken for only five months out of the year. 

Now students are starting to receive mock schedules from the guidance office and serious flaws in the logistics are beginning to show. If the board believes that extended blocks are worth pursuing, they should consult with a few of the top schools in the state that make use of them in more sensible ways. Even if the board and the administration have other motives for changing the schedule, they should take the time to change it in a way that does no harm to students. 

Dennis Fallon

 

Sharon

 

Why all the secrecy about the mock schedules at HVRHS?

Assistant Superintendent Pamela Vogel has told parents and students of HVRHS that we will have this “new” 4 x 4 A/B modified block schedule instituted next year that will ultimately erase all the D’s and F’s and it will increase our school’s overall academic performance. This is great – please just let us know how this can happen so quickly because we are not seeing it. Our children were told to make their choices for next year’s classes and they did. Now the students and their parents want to see what their schedules would look like under our current schedule and the 4 x4 A/B block schedule; however, Asst. Superintendent Vogel has not been very accommodating in releasing that information on a timely basis.  

If this is such a wonderful idea — why the delay in supplying the students and parents with their requests? Could it be because there are numerous holes and discrepancies with the schedules? Could it be that the students are not being able to take the courses they signed up for? Or maybe is it because students are not able to take continuous math programs like they were promised? Or how about that the students cannot take their Foreign Language class next year because of the conflict with core classes?  

Or is it the fact we lost a very important asset to HVRHS when our Power School professional left to take a job in another district for more money? Many parents have been to the one “informational meeting” and the most recent Region One Board of Education Meeting, but the problem is … you in the administration just keep talking and not listening to the concerns of your teachers, students, parents and community. We would like to buy into what you are selling for the betterment of our students, teachers and school system, but until you come forth with the truth — we are just not in! 

Jessica Stedman

Parent of a 2016 HVRHS graduate, a sophomore and 

an incoming freshman

 

North Canaan

 

Please, isn’t it time to stop blaming the teachers at HVRHS?

It is easy to place blame on the teachers, but now it’s time for Assistant Superintendent Pam Vogel and her Region One Board of Education to take a long hard look in the mirror.

In BOE Chair Andrea Down’s letter to the parents and students of HVRHS, she stated that a lot of misinformation was disseminated throughout our broader community causing all stakeholders to feel fearful and anxious about this change. But, the information given to us was by Pam Vogel herself. Her email stated that she was instituting a new 4 X 4 Block Schedule for the upcoming 2017–2018 year because of HVRHS’s problems with Ds and Fs. Miraculously, a few days later, the schedule changed. Vogel and BOE representatives had been receiving complaints about students losing the abilities to take certain classes such as AP, ag, band, chorus and foreign language classes, so she quickly converted the schedule to a “new and improved” 4 X 4 A/B modification block which would allow the students to take four additional classes. Are you confused yet? Well, parents and students are very confused! So, stop blaming the teachers and look in the mirror because the misinformation has come directly from the top with Vogel.

More about misinformation … Mr. Mauer, in your recent letter to the editor you “believed” that the teacher’s union spread the misinformation and they also controlled the schedule. 

Fact: Our principal, Dr. Martinez, makes the schedule and assigns teachers with consultation from the department chairs.

Fact: Each full-time teacher teaches five full-year classes or 10 semester classes. 

Fact: Department chairs are required to teach only four full-year classes or eight semester classes. 

Fact: This year HVRHS has nine department chairs and three of them teach five classes!

I would briefly like to touch on our top-achieving AP students. In the last R1 BOE meeting, Vogel handed out a map of Connecticut Public Schools depicting the AP participation by districts. She indicated that our school for 2016 showed amongst the worst in the state with only 10–19 percent participation. I would just like to make a clarification that it stated at the bottom of her handout that “the most recent data available was from 2014–15 school year and a degree of caution should be exercised when reviewing participation estimates.” 

Fact: Her handout was not the most current data report. I did however find a report by U.S. News & World Report (www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/connecticut) that revealed that our actual performance in 2016 had increased to 23 percent.

Fact: HVRHS has had some academic problems and needs improvement. 

Fact: Students, parents and teachers are all willing to make these changes to ensure each student has the greatest opportunity for success when done properly. 

Fact: We need our administration, teachers, parents and students to work together as one cohesive TEAM and remember … there is no “I” in team! 

Dana W. Scarpa

 

Salisbury