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New London Board of Ed obstructs, not instructs

Published June 09. 2013 4:00AM

By KATHLEEN MITCHELL

In his May 29 guest commentary - "New London board acted courageously" - Mongi Dhaouadi went far beyond mere embellishment and distortion and turned truth on its head. Virtually every factual contention in his article is false. Renzulli Academy is not intended as a "private school," unless his definition of a private school includes one which is publicly funded and admits all qualifying New London children.

Dhaouadi's article appears to be self-serving and has little to do with the facts or the welfare of New London children.

Let's examine the facts, in chronological order:

• Jan. 10, 2013 school board workshop - develop and implement a grade 4-8 program for academically gifted students as a District Charter School

• Feb. 14, board workshop; Feb. 28, board meeting

• March 14, special meeting, Dr. Miriam Taylor and students, staff and parents from the Renzulli Academy in Hartford make a presentation to the board

• March 27, Superintendent Nicholas Fischer advises the board on the establishment of an "incubator program" for grades 4-6 with classes related to the gifted and talented program.

There is no doubt that Dhaouadi, executive director of the Connecticut Council on American and Islamic Relations, is a skilled lecturer and writer; however, I am disturbed that his talents are now being used to promote the Board of Education differences with Dr. Fischer which, in turn, is standing in the way of providing our students with the best education and resources available.

Why is Dhaouadi advocating so passionately against providing New London children the best possible schooling? While the Board of Education may have legitimate reasons for not adopting the Renzulli Academy proposal at this time, their reasons for doing so were essentially not those in Dhaouadi's piece.

If the writer had so many questions about proposals, from budget to programs to positions, I would like to know how many times he has met with any member of the administration to get answers to his questions. I'm wondering how many emails he has sent to members of the administration with questions? Did he request all the written information available to the board members for the past few months on the Renzulli proposal?

I did all of the above and had no problems obtaining the information I requested.

The same goes for board members. Every board member receives a packet of information for each board meeting the Friday before the meeting. Further, the budget, the talented and gifted program, new positions, etc. are discussed in meetings prior to a vote, either in committees or by the board as a whole. How many times has each board member asked administrators questions of concern outside of board or committee meetings? How many emails have they sent? How many phone calls have they made? How many times have they personally met with Dr. Fischer or anyone else and asked questions?

As publicly elected members of the school board with only three stated goals "Outstanding student achievement, preparing students for successful lives as adults and delivering the best possible customer service," don't they also bear some responsibility?

And what about the responsibility of parents, caretakers and citizens in this community?

Dhaouadi ends his opinion piece with "New times demand new leadership."

I agree and believe we need new members on the Board of Education; people who can move beyond politics, triviality and infighting to making the needs of the students paramount.

Although Dhaouadi has never cast a vote in this community, I urge others who can to let their voices be heard in the most powerful way available to us - the voting booth.

Kathleen Mitchell is a community activist and organizer. She lives in New London.

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