Letters to the Editor, Jan. 7, 2012

Fri, 01/06/2012 - 2:00pm

To: the Editor—

The School Committee is considering a revision to the school schedule for next year, lengthening the school day by a half hour Monday through Thursday and shortening Friday by two hours. Why? To create a schedule that supports both academics and athletics.

Currently, student athletes can, and often do, miss as much or more than 10 percent of the school year. Research shows that this will cost students in their learning, and test scores indicate it does; our high school students are losing ground to students throughout RI in both reading and math. It is a consensus of the School Committee and many parents that this is a problem and it is our responsibility to fix it. We are morally and legally obligated to assure our students access to a full year of school. We are equally committed to offering our students a strong athletic program.

So, why hasn’t it just happened? Turnout at meetings where the change was discussed has not been large and some are opposed. The School Committee asked me to continue planning and reach out to faculty and elementary parents especially. This letter is part of that effort. Although elementary students do not have the conflict between athletics and academics, they would still be impacted by the schedule change. Some say that there is no problem; or that while there may be one, this solution is unnecessarily extreme. Yet no identified alternative meets the test of maintaining both instructional time and the athletic program.

Moreover, our acceptance of this situation sends out a contrary message. Our handbooks and policies consistently reinforce the importance of attendance, yet our behavior says otherwise. If we create a schedule that pushes students out of school for the equivalent of 18 or more days to participate in athletics, can we really expect our pronouncements on the topic to be taken to heart, especially if we have a solution and reject it? It is important that we show our school community that attendance is mandatory and lead by example.

Perhaps we’ve just considered this part of living on Block Island, the unavoidable price of having our students participate in an interscholastic athletic program. A committee of teachers, parents, students, and administrators studied it last year and came up with this idea. It has been studied and refined since then and discussed at several School Committee meetings. The commitments made in that process are that academics and athletics should not compete for the same time, we now know the problem is solvable, and it is time to solve it.

What’s left to do? Before making a final decision to implement the revised schedule more steps are necessary. These include:

  • Make sure obstacles and problems are identified. We know of many issues, most of which will need to be addressed during implementation, but are not prohibitive. If there are others, it is best to know now.
  • Search for simpler alternatives. Alternatives offered so far do not solve the problem. However, if a simpler plan does, great.
  • Increase elementary parent and faculty participation. In moving forward, details of a new schedule must be developed. Knowing and understanding others’ interests supports better decision-making.

Additional details and background on the proposed schedule can be found at blockislandschool.net. I recommended to the School Committee that the issue be resolved by March and expect it will be on the agenda of each regular meeting until then (January 9, February 13, and March 19). Changes that are well understood, both the why and how, tend to go better.

Robert Hicks

Superintendent of Schools


To: the Editor–

In his article "A bottle (or four) for the table," George Tabor invites us to a delicious "Edwardian" Christmas dinner with wines of his expert choosing but based on the menu available today at the Langtry Manor hotel in Bournemouth, U.K. The Langtry in question was, of course, Lillie Langtry, pre-Raphaelite beauty and celebrated actress at the turn of the 19th century and one-time lover of "the famously philandering Edward VII," whose gargantuan tastes gave us the name (he also built the house for her that is today's hotel). George selects as his first course gravlax and Melba toast. The Melba in question (here we go again) was Nellie, an Australian who improbably became the greatest opera diva of her time and who also was a favorite of the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. (Her name gave us the toast as well as peach Melba.)

Perfect symmetry, however, is defeated by the fact that Nellie never became his lover, not out of any delicacy over his married state (or her own) but because by the time they met his tastes for women, food and wine were at war. As he had become immensely corpulent and increasingly impotent, consummation for him had become problematic. Nellie's taste for royalty had earlier led her to embark on a scandalous affair with the pretender to the crown of France, Louis-Phillipe, the duc d'Orleans.

Among his many notorious mistresses was Mrs. Alice Keppel, who was eventually invited by the admirably tolerant Queen Alexandra to visit the dying king. Her great granddaughter happens to be the now Duchess of Cornwall, once Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles, thought then to have been the lover — now certainly the wife — of another Prince of Wales, the present one, proving that there will always be an England.

Jerry Anderson

Cooneymus Road


To: the Editor–

On behalf of the entire Block Island community, I would like to thank Harold “Turtle” Hatfield and Leif Anderson for the marvelous Lobster Pot Christmas Tree they constructed in Esta’s Park for our enjoyment. In addition, a big thank you goes to all their assistants: Heather, Blaze and Chase Hatfield and the many sidewalk superintendents (including another man nicknamed Turtle) who offered help and suggestions. The tree has been the hit of the holiday season!

I would also like to thank Fred Howarth for the loan of his lobster pots — all 196 of them! Also, thanks goes to the BI Chamber of Commerce and the BI Tourism Council for providing the lights for the arbors and the tree and to the Garden Club for the swags on the arbors.

Happy New Year. And the tree will return in time for the Christmas Stroll 2012.

Margie Comings, Chair

Old Harbor Task Force


To: the Editor–

Thank you for the beautifully written piece on my 20 years with the Block Island Times. Love him or be infuriated by him — and most of us who have had any dealings with him have been both — Peter Wood’s prose is that to which so many of us aspire, and to have him pen the story was an honor.

To be sure something gets read, it must be in one place — Letters to the Editor — so allow me to simply copy the close of the column I submitted last week, with special thanks to all at the BI Times over these two decades:

Twenty years, can it really have been that long, I marvel, even as I know of course it can be and it has been. Twenty years of kindnesses, of encouragement and support, of shared memories, so many from people no longer with us.

Thank you, everyone, without you this journey of mine would never have been possible.

Martha Ball

Corn Neck Road