The Perspectives of All Rye Residents on the School Bond Should Be Heard and Respected
I feel compelled to write about the school bond issue and related conversations. I taught at Rye High School for over 20 years, was an RTA negotiator (as such, participated in contract negotiations with the Board of Education), the parent of two Rye High School graduates, and am a current Rye resident. Throughout the over 30 years that I have been a member of this community, we have had many heated discussions and disagreements about a multitude of issues: class size, building design/additions, classroom design, school rules, budget, etc. However, throughout all of those disagreements, some very heated and passionate, we always managed to maintain the veneer of respect, to at least try to understand the perspectives we all brought to those disagreements. Unfortunately, I am saddened to see that that is no longer the case in Rye.
What disturbs me the most is the unwillingness of budget advocates to allow others to pose questions about the budget, to get more information, maybe even to disagree. As members of a democracy, we must be an informed citizenry, and one of the best ways to be informed is to ask questions. However, residents who tried to pose questions were made to feel unwelcome and were, thus, silenced. I am even more appalled that The Rye Record was criticized for “allowing” budget opponents to take out ads in the paper. Although I am not a lawyer, I would think that it is illegal for a newspaper to reject an ad simply because the editors have a different opinion. Quite honestly, I am shocked that anyone would present such a criticism.
I totally understand that people are passionate about ensuring that their children have the best education possible. However, we also have to understand that others in the community might have different values, not about the importance of education, but about how to provide the best education possible within some budgetary restraints. Some are not able to make “state-of-the-art” renovations to their homes and might, therefore, want to know why schools have to be “state of the art”. Some might even know that “open classrooms” were tried in the 1970s and found to be distracting learning environments and might want to know how the new design in Rye will work. They might totally support secure entrances but wonder, for example, why we have to break down walls to create an atrium entrance. Or maybe they aren’t even sure exactly what is being proposed because not everyone can read architect’s plans. However, they did not feel comfortable posing questions because of the atmosphere created at meetings.
To those of you who are “heartbroken” that the bond issue was defeated, I suggest that you read the newspaper, talk with friends and neighbors, or maybe visit a community center or hospital to learn about truly “heartbreaking” conditions. While the bond defeat is disappointing, “heartbreaking” seems a bit dramatic to me.
Education is important; I devoted over 40 years of my professional life to education and am still active in an educational environment. However, civility is also important. I fear that the vitriol that has taken over the bond discussions will cause more people to vote “No” and maybe even extend their negative feelings to the school budget.
I suggest that we treat each other with respect. No matter how passionate we might be about our beliefs, there is no reason to disenfranchise other members of our community.
- Jane Johnson
435 Boston Post Road
Rye, NY 10580