Letters, March 10, 2012
To: The Editor—
I don’t usually write rebuttals to letters to the editor, but with the recent negative letters about the Block Island School, I feel the need to speak up in defense of our children, our teachers, our administrators, our support staff and our school committee — and for the support of our year round community and its future.
I know it must be hard for summer residents who have probably never walked through a classroom door in our school to understand what it is like. I do know what it is like there. I have worked closely with the Block Island School as a parent, substitute teacher, and a program coordinator. I have also been involved in private schools and organizations as a student, parent, tutor, program coordinator and director. I know firsthand what kind of fundraising it takes to support those programs. I feel it is unfair to compare the cost of the island’s small school to that of private schools that have no special needs students, hold major fundraising events and have large endowments and wealthy donors to support them. They spend a lot more than their $30,000 tuition fees per child.
The Block Island School is mandated to meet state standards that private schools are not. Our teachers are required to do professional development in order to keep their licenses, while private school teachers don’t even need a license.
Yes, we have a small number of students and I’ve seen that number wax and wane during my 30 years here. But the enrollment in our preschool shows numbers rising. We have all chosen to live here, or own property here, knowing that it is a small island where the cost of living is high and the school has few students compared to others. This is something we cannot change. I challenge the naysayers to change their attitudes and instead of being critics of our hard-working school community, please, please be positive and help support our school. You would certainly donate if we were a private school. Organize a fundraiser, help search for grants, be a positive influence in our island community and help us support our children. Education should be about quality, not quantity, and I think we deserve to have a quality school. And I think a quality school needs a resident principal.
Susan T Black, MEd.
To: The Editor—
This is an open letter of gratitude to all those who showed up for John.
The Hospice nurse remarked how unusual it was for “the patient” to be surrounded by so many people and for a percentage of those to be men. Well, John was unusual, and so were his life and death. I think rare is a person who can practically attract a party to his bedside in his dying months, but John was very special and lovable.
From the depths of my heart and on behalf of John, myself and the kids, I want to thank each of you for showing up how and when you did: with medical care, warm meals, hand holding, hugs and words of encouragement, visits, cards, prayers, Facebook posts, childcare, playdates, books, advice, prayer shawls and help with things like Christmas trees.
His funeral and burial ceremony were intended to capture, honor and celebrate some of those unique and special qualities John had. A special thanks to Annie Hall and Molly O’Neill for their advice, hand holding and non-stop, seven-day task achieving actions; to Mike Shea for an honest and heart-warming tribute; to Jerry Riker and Russell Littlefield for their heartfelt support of Jack and his urn craftsmanship; to Dickie Stinson for providing a lovely final resting spot; to John Barry for the beautiful movie tribute; to the Draper/Abrams family for welcoming our family into their very special inn once again; to the staff of the 1661 for making his celebration organized and possible; to Father Joseph Protano and St. Andrew Ladies Guild for the Mass and preparation of the church and Parish Center; to Steve McQueeny for a loving obituary, Andre Boudreau and Rich Tretheway for mastering the constantly changing burial ceremony; Sue Shea for the beautiful programs and poster; Lisa Starr for being a guide to our family and honoring Jack’s wish to write a poem for his Dad; the Block Island Singers for honoring John and our family with your beautiful harmonies that I am quite sure John could hear somewhere; to all those Block Island chefs who donated their culinary talents to the pot luck; to Marty, Rick and Club Soda for donating the sound system and setting it up and breaking it down; to Carrie Todd and Maureen Flaherty for their beautiful music; Red Bird, Club Soda, Beachhead, Yellow Kittens and the Poor People’s Pub for their contributions; and to all those who showed up to hold the kids through the week so I could spend some time planning.
I am in gratitude to all of our friends and members of our Block Island family, for lighting our home and hearts in this dark time. To John’s friends who showed up bedside in his final days to hold his hand, I thank you.
To our police dispatch, EMT’s, Block Island Medical Center staff for your support, guidance, wisdom, presence and comfort, there truly are modern day heroes among us: Lisa Sprague, Linda Closter, Mary Donnelly and Beth Russeau.
To the Lions Club and the Mary D. Fund, two such special charities, securing all of our comfort in this tragic time and making it a little less tragic. Words cannot express how grateful I am. Thank you for establishing the Daddys Wishes Fund for Jack and Celeste’s continued support and thriving.
We hope he has a front row seat in heaven to our life and of course to Spring Training.
Jill Seppa, Jack and Celeste Connell
West Side Road
To: The Editor—
Governor Chafee, I am a Block Island resident, ratepayer and voter. I am no stranger to Rhode Island legislators.
I have been a very outspoken opponent to the state’s waste of ratepayer money and Rhode Island’s common wealth by executive and legislative branch support of the near-shore wind farm planned off of Block Island as proposed by Deepwater Wind. National Grid will pay two and half times more for Deepwater’s offshore-generated power than for power from other sources. That is a terrible waste of RI public and private resources for no long-term jobs, despite the promises by the developer (which it will not guarantee). R.I. will never compete with the incentives that New York, Delaware and Massachusetts will provide to wind power assemblers and manufacturers if they were ever to establish fixed manufacturing assets in the United States. The promise of such an industry in R.I. is entirely driven by the spin of Deepwater Wind in order for it enjoy what I calculate to be $230,000,000 in project-level free cashflow.
What RI has over these other states, however, is its unique tourist industry. Any initiative that jeopardizes that economic engine for Rhode Island or Block Island is misplaced. If you squeeze one side of the balloon, the other side will give. Tourism is Block Island’s lifeblood. It generates about $250 million in economic activity annually (source: Global Insight). It provides close to $20 million of tax revenue to local and state municipal budgets. The proposed 13 percent tax on rental properties will severely harm the economy of Block Island. Unlike other vacation destinations in R.I., Block Island has no other economic contributor.
Please defeat the proposed legislation or carve out Block Island from its application.
To: The Editor—
I grew up on an organic farm and worked for five years in the United States and Canada as an organic inspector. Doing anything organically always costs more, especially in terms of labor. So it doesn’t surprise me that your town’s Recreation Board is asking the Land Trust to compromise on its organics-only policy. While they’re at it, they might also ask the members on this Trust why they even have such a policy in the first place. Unless there’s an economic incentive — i.e. the sale of certified-organic goods for a premium price — then there’s really no point adhering to an organics-only policy. It makes about as much sense as building a house without power tools just for the sake of being old fashioned.
The reason the organic industry is successful is because it’s an industry! This means that whatever steps are taken to improve upon the quality of organic goods, the costs are all worked into the final, retail price which consumers can freely choose to pay, or not. But that’s not possible in this case. The only way your island’s organic plan can be implemented is through taxation.
Having said that, it’s sad, perhaps, that everything boils down to dollars and cents these days. But keep in mind that it’s dollars and cents (about $26 billion of ‘em at last count in the USA) that makes the whole organic enterprise a reality. Applying the organic philosophy without dollars and cents is always going to be a struggle. And to what end? Was there evidence that children were getting sick or that there’s less life in the waters on and off the island? Certainly there are many activists who will argue that this is the case and that drastic measures are called for, citing childhood illnesses like autism and environmental degradation like hypoxic zones. But the truth is we live longer, healthier lives today, and we do so while leaving the majority of the North-American environment literally untouched. And this is why the organic philosophy has only ever caught on where an economic argument is in play.
Osoyoos, B.C., Canada
To: The Editor—
Congratulations are in order to the six winners selected from a field of nominees of the 40 under 40 awards. This award is being given by the United Chambers of Southern Rhode Island and will take place on March 29 at the Ocean House in Watch Hill, R.I. The award’s purpose is to spotlight the 40 most dynamic and emerging professionals under the age of 40 in the southern part of Rhode Island who also demonstrate selfless contributions to their respective communities.
If any member of the community would like to attend, tickets are available at the Chamber office.
Chamber of Commerce
To: The Editor—
What a provocative letter from Peter MacGill in your February 18 issue. Although I was among the stalwart souls sitting out Irene’s wrath, I didn’t, alas, see this documentary film, “Windfall”, but that will soon change. And good for Peter, for finally asking the questions about wind farms that desperately need asking! Everyone who lives on or visits Block Island needs to get proactive, pretty much immediately, to protect and sustain this magnificent part of the world.
Bedford, N.Y. and Peckham Farm