Letter Box

Wednesday March 6, 2013

The value offered by Community High School

Editor of the Reformer:

As a former resident of the Brattleboro area, I was a troubled student with academic and economic issues that were holding me back from completing my high school career at the Brattleboro Union High School. After being expelled my junior year for consistent truancies, I had almost no choice but to attend the Vermont adult learning center for my General Education Diploma. Although this is what I needed to obtain to continue my life as a student and a hard working Vermonter, I was still held back by my "lack of diploma." Shortly after getting my GED I relocated myself to the Boston area to find work and further education, though I still had my GED, it seemed to never be enough for employers and educational advisors.

As a hard working citizen living in the Boston area, I for one would have loved to have the opportunity to attend the Community High School of Vermont. Though it was a possibility for me, it was never conveyed to me that there was a place where I could still get my diploma even without the constant hassle of a largely populated schooling environment. Being a graduate of the fifth-grade class of the Neighborhood School House, I was susceptible to the small, caring and energetic learning environments that are necessary to a youth’s development as a student and a human being. Without these small learning environments, there are little teachers and students can do in the form of personal relationships and bonds that accelerate the learning experience and, generally, make them fun.

Now that I work a 40-plus hours a week job and barely make ends meet, I look back to my high school days and wish I had the opportunities that these kids in the Community High School have.

In my personal opinion, instead of closing the school, there should be more funding to advertise the presence of the school for youth and adults like me. The necessity of education in Vermont is high and the presence of positive influence and personal relationships is low. Only through positive influence, can we properly educate today’s youth and prepare them for intra-personal contact with other people in the world.

Without the help of a caring mentor, this 20-year-old Vermonter might not have known how to write all of these fancy words and convey them to you in a mature manner Š just saying.


Feb. 13

Retreat changes indicate lack of collaboration

Editor of the Reformer:

It pains me to write this letter to talk about my deep and growing concerns for the care that I observe my patients getting at the Retreat. I wouldn’t have said anything was it not for Dr. Engstrom and Dr. Ostrander’s column ("Exceptional patient care at the Brattleboro Retreat," Feb. 8). It was obvious that the medical staff was unable to hear the few courageous workers who dared to speak the truth about their concerns for their patients and their own safety while working with the seriously mentally ill. Far too long we have put Band-Aids on gaping wounds and celebrated our victories by sending these patients out into the world. Then we are always so shocked as a nation that the Band-Aid isn’t enough, that the wounds need more than most of us are willing to give.

Let’s not demonize those that are on the front lines of taking care of our most vulnerable fellow human beings. Those "unionized" colleagues that Drs. Engstrom and Ostrander spoke of are some of the bravest of us all. They respond when a restraint is called. They race to the patient who is hurting enough to hurt themselves and/or others. It is their job to contain the situation and medical staff is involved once the person is contained already; to make light of their concerns while saying that some injuries happened seems out of touch. These injuries affect the lives of real people doing a very hard job.

That the Retreat decided to improve it’s financial security by agreeing to take on the state hospital patients was likely not a decision that was popular among the front-line staff. I am happy to hear that the Retreat is financially more secure and investing in changes that will improve things. How involved is the front-line staff in these decisions?

As an outpatient psychiatrist in this community, I see the Retreat as less and less available to my patients. My patients don’t do well when housed with the state hospital patients; the staff has less time for them as they aren’t violent. They end up either leaving or becoming sicker. There is a complete lack of collaboration. Now, I try to utilize PHP/IOP but the two to three weeks wait time isn’t acceptable. I don’t know who the Retreat serves, but it isn’t serving the community it exists in.

Maybe this community, the Retreat, the Windham Center, HCRS, all of us providing out patient mental health services in this community, maybe we can all get together and somehow come up with real solutions to real problems. Maybe we can sit down together and hear everyone’s concerns and give voice to our doubts and our strengths in dealing with taking care of those that continue to deal with the stigma and the suffering of mental illness and yet come to our doors again and again to find a better way. There is a better way. We just need to come together to find it.

Saba Salam, MD,

Brattleboro, Feb. 12

Coverage missed the ‘news’

Editor of the Reformer:

Editor of the Reformer:

I was disappointed to see your article on the governor’s visit to Brattleboro ("Shumlin on child care," Feb. 6) address politics rather than the true purpose of the trip. The governor and the secretary of education came to Academy School to recognize and draw attention to the terrific learning communities our elementary schools have developed.

The staff and administrators of the Brattleboro town schools have spent nine years adjusting to the changes demanded of them by federal policy and standardized testing. They have done all that was asked of them and more -- focusing on individualizing instruction and significantly improving reading and math learning for all students, while closing the achievement gap between students of low socio-economic status and others in the process. They have made our children happy to be learners and proud of their schools.

The governor spoke to elementary students about the importance of education and improvement. The Secretary has been here twice to learn from us and share our lessons with other schools. It’s sad that your article didn’t mention any of this until the end.

Our schools are facing an accelerated change process as Vermont and 44 other states transition to the new Common Core of standards and performance assessments that will continue to transform the way our children learn. No one is resting on their laurels. A lot of time and money will be invested in continuing the improvement of our schools. It would be nice if local media could break away from the politics of the moment and instead contribute to community understanding of the good that comes from investing in our children.

David Schoales,

Brattleboro, Feb. 7


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