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Some New London school administrators need to start doing their jobs

New London — The greatest educational experience of my life has been spending almost 30 years now around New London kids, from telling their stories as high school athletes now to volunteering at Jennings School, where they always make me laugh and think.

My time in this city and around its people opened my eyes to other cultures, races and ideas that never presented themselves during a myopic upbringing. I owe New London the best changes of my life.

And so it's important that anyone reading this understand what's about to be written comes from a place of love and concern. The goal here is to be constructive. Not destructive.

Several parents of New London High School kids have reached out in the past few weeks telling me stories — with documentation — of basic systematic breakdown. It is a dereliction of duty tethered to laziness, buck-passing and woeful communication. It is affecting the kids. It must stop.

To wit:

I have emails dated from early summer from parents and staff wondering about the cross country season, schedule and when a new coach would be named. School began with no coach in place. Meets were cancelled because the kids had no coach and not enough practice time to compete under CIAC rules. A.J. Turnier, a girls' softball assistant, was named cross country coach Sept. 5, after school began.

Parents of cross country kids tell me that college coaches contacted their children in the summer, telling them they wanted to watch them run in high school. Potential scholarship money was discussed. The kids were denied a proper preseason. They were denied a beginning of the regular season afforded to runners at all other ECC schools. There was almost no season at all simply because emails and voicemails went unreturned. For months. It is inexcusable.

This is not asking anyone to rewrite the tax code. It is asking that people do their jobs in their most basic form. It's not happening.

Parents have also told me that female athletes had been unable to use the girls' locker room until well after school started. The reason given: There was no supervision available. Hence, they stayed locked. The idea that we are unable to find someone — anyone — to monitor a locker room is absurd. Maybe it's a stretch to suggest that's a Title IX issue. If this happens again, it will become a Title IX issue. That's a promise.

Again: I'm not asking the New London school system to find a professor to come in here and teach differential equations. It's about giving girls access to a locker room.

A parent has also provided me documentation that her child's 504 plan had expired as the school year began. A 504 plan ensures that a child who has a disability identified under the law receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment. They should never expire. I asked this parent what would have happened to the 504 plan if she weren't inquisitive and involved. She said, "I don't even want to think about it."

Do I think that was the only 504 plan that expired? No, I don't.

So I ask: Have we all had enough?

We've created a culture here in which it's easier for people in power to bury issues than for the underprivileged population they serve to stand up and fight for their rights. Students don't know their rights. Parents are spread thin and work multiple jobs. Many are single parents with financial, family or basic need issues who don't know where to begin or what to do. Merely sending them to school is not enough.

The kids in New London need guidance. They are vulnerable. And so is returning an email too much to ask? Is doing your job too much to ask?

"So many teachers, staff and administrators wear looks that scream for help," one parent said. "Yet there's nothing they can do."

Another parent wrote, "I'm not sure what that solution is yet, but I know it starts from the top, and if we can't push out the rotten apples, we need to use them to fertilize the soil so a new tree can grow in its place."

I believe the answer is simpler: that each one of us becomes responsible to everyone else. Not one of us can afford to turn a blind eye. By living up to the true meaning of the words "citizens," "parents" and "educators," we preserve our common good.

This is where it has to stop.

With you.

With me.

With us.

I can't — and won't — tolerate another day of incompetence. Some of the people we entrust to make these decisions better start doing their jobs. Because I'm not going anywhere. I'm watching.

Know why? The kids mean too much to me. They deserve better. I'll do everything I can to help.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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