Friday, March 28, 2008

I have been skeptical of middle school as a grade configuration for quite a while. Recently, this issue has heated up a bit more, and since the superintendent and much of the Board are now different, I again made an effort to have input. I heard back from the superintendent, which was a pleasant surprise, even though her response consisted of dismissing or ignoring my concerns. At this point, there is a community group that has organized around the idea.

In this week's Olive Press, this article appears. (I am linking to the Phoenicia Times website instead, because the Olive Press continuation does not go to the rest of the story.) For a lot of reasons, I am quite sympathetic to this group's goal of not restructuring the school district. However, what strikes me about this article is the overt anti-Olive bias. I guess, given the source (Olive Press) that shouldn't be a surprise. (The anti-Olive tone does not become apparent until the second page of the story; interestingly, that is the link that does not work at the Olive Press site.)

I mean, I have in the past lamented that "Olive" is plastered across the masthead. Take a look at this editorial from 2005. Deja vu anyone? Are the unidentified people described in the current article who were at the meeting discussing "how to get people motivated to vote in towns other than Olive. Many blame apathy for low voter turnout. They explored reasons ranging from an influx of weekend homeowners, the mascot issue, the closure of West Hurley, taxes and lack of organization or community feeling" the same ones who wrote this, in the 2005 editorial?: "This has been exacerbated in recent years by the difficult tax issues raised by the Large Parcel issue, by the nostalgic loyalties brought to the forefront during the mascot debacle; by the disparity of the townships brought together under the Onteora roof."

Also interesting, I notice a definite shift in the paper's perspective. In 2005, the tone was pro-middle school (and their assumption, with no evidence, seemed to be that Olive would foolishly oppose it or insist that Bennett School remain open even if there were better ideas). Here's the excerpt that so annoyed me when it was published: "Secondly, the Middle School model — which we could only eschew completely knowing that it would then set our students apart from a shared national and state experience — suggests that mid-grade students learn best when in their own school, yet with access to the sports and classroom facilities of junior and senior high schoolers."

However, now the paper appears to be championing the anti-middle school cause. The group that opposes the middle school has membership from all the towns, but I'm guessing Olive is probably the least represented. So as long as the Olive Press can trumpet a cause they perceive to be anti-Olive, they are happy to change positions and "eschew" the middle school idea. Isn't some explanation necessary? Or is it quite simply that the staff just can't stand our town?

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