BFMS fix could cost $11.3M

BFMS fix could cost $11.3M

There are 55 comments on the Brattleboro Reformer story from Aug 2, 2010, titled BFMS fix could cost $11.3M. In it, Brattleboro Reformer reports that:

Renovations to the Bellows Falls Middle School might cost as much as $11.3 million, and now the Rockingham School Board has to decide how much to ask for from the voters to move ahead with the project.

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Brattleboro Reformer.

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Concerned Parent

Bellows Falls, VT

#41 Aug 3, 2010
No, not everyone on the board. Doherty and Brisette have not displayed fundamental abilities to communicate and make rational thought. They are dull knives, so to speak. They don't treat the administration with respect. Sorry. I don't have to run for a seat on the board to make that observation and decision.
Jim M

Ellsworth, ME

#43 Aug 3, 2010
Money is Concerned= rid us of the BFUHS and that union we will save millions each year.

We spent 3.4 million to redo town hall for what 15 employees but the students are not worth it?

This state and town governance have issues, read the story about the state hospital rather than correct the staff and management problems they want to build a new hospital.

The sick building in Bernington VT don’t find the cause build a new one.

Ellsworth, ME

#44 Aug 3, 2010
DEAR ABBY Performance on exams is true test of a student’s education

DEAR ABBY: I would like to comment on your May 29 reply to “Helping or Cheating?” the young lady who has been helping her boyfriend with his home­work. I can see where someone might find this a prob­lem.

I retired a few years ago after 35 years as an educa­tor and still substitute teach three to five days a week. I feel I can speak for many teachers on this matter: For years, teachers have used a method called “peer tutoring” in and out of the classroom. From the information given, what that girl is doing sounds like textbook tutoring.

Personally, I feel it’s far better to have help and see a word spelled correctly, a sentence constructed properly or a math problem worked correctly, than to have the mistake reinforced. In most cases, home­work is just for practice, and “Rory” should have ample opportunity in class to show the teacher what he can do on his own.— 35 YEARS AND COUNTING DEAR COUNTING: Thank you for your input as an educator. I tried to reach the young woman who wrote that letter so I could ask if her boyfriend’s test results had improved as a result of her efforts, but was unable to make contact.

Frankly, I was surprised at the amount of mail her letter generated from teachers, one of whom informed me that “most teachers don’t check home­work for accuracy, just that the homework was com­pleted.” Could this be part of what has gone wrong with our educational system — that teachers have become so overwhelmed by the size of their classes that they can no longer give their students the indi­vidual attention they need? If so, how sad for all of us. DEAR ABBY: There is a very fine line between good tutoring, poor tutoring and cheating. The best indica­tor is how the young man does on his exams. If he has significantly improved on his ability to do the prob­lems in a test situation, then I lean toward the idea that good tutoring was done and suggest the students continue the process. If there has been no improve­ment, he should go to the teacher for extra help.

Math is an extremely difficult subject for many peo­ple. However, when a student gets F’s on his tests and after coming to me gets A’s and B’s from then on, I suspect some learning has occurred. The teacher should review the tests the boyfriend takes and either tell the sister to go fly a kite or change methods — depending on the scores.— Marcy IN RENO, NEV.
Former Prisoner

Cambridge, MA

#45 Aug 3, 2010
Having been a student at BFMS within the past decade, I feel that I can speak to how awful the school is as a learning environment. Having found myself disgusted at the idea of renovations over a new school, I decided to send a lengthy email to the superintendent about my experiences through the bellows falls education system. I sent the email nearly a week ago and have yet to hear a reply. I now feel the need to share that email in hopes that the voters can understand the experience of the school from an insiders perspective. This is that email:

Hello Superintendent Harpster,

I hope you can take some time out of your busy schedule to read this email. Recently, I have become aware of a series of planned renovations for the Bellows Falls Middle School, and I wanted to voice my concerns for such a plan. While I have been removed from the Bellows Falls education system for a few years now, I still find myself invested in the schools that helped shape who I am today. Many have been critical of the education system in Bellows Falls, often falling back on making fun of the high school lack of walls. And while I to have my share of criticism of the system, I often times find myself defending the high school and its lack of walls, because I feel like I received a quality education. Having spent my freshman year at Vermont Academy, I surprisingly found greener pastures at BFUHS after switching schools my sophomore year. While many have fled the Bellows Falls education system for the perceived benefits of private schools like VA or the Putney School, I put my faith in the public system, a decision which was one of the biggest in my short life, it was a decision that has paid off quite well as I attend one of the best schools in Boston, and am able to enjoy such amazing opportunities such as interning at Harvard Law, which I am currently working at.

I tell you all this, because that entire series of events, the decision to go to VA and to return to BFUHS, was all formed from my experiences at BFMS. Having originally gone to elementary school in Saxtons River, a school which I cannot praise enough, it was a tough transition moving to such an environment. Gone were the expansive grassy fields and the lengthy recesses in which to enjoy, instead they were replaced by brief excursions out onto the equivalent of a parking lot. These excursions were what originally made me compare the place to a prison, a comparison that I will bring up far to often throughout this email. I realized then that this was no environment for learning, and much to my dismay, I was right. Throughout my three years at BFMS I found myself at constant conflict with many of my teachers, many of whom had become bitter and past their prime. There were a few bright spots in the teaching staff, Mr. Wonderly being one of the best teachers I've ever had, but overall the teaching staff left a lot to be desired. However, this email is not about the teaching staff, as I am well aware of the substantial changes the staff has gone through and the little knowledge I have of the current staff, instead I think my experiences led me to see the culture that was created at BFMS, a culture that had to do in large part to the environment in which it was created. When you work in prison you feel like you're in prison.
Former Prisoner

Cambridge, MA

#46 Aug 3, 2010
After my time at BFMS, I decided that I no longer had faith in the public system, and so I moved on to Vermont Academy. This was the same decision as many of my peers. Out of my class of 15 that came out of Saxton's River, only around 4 or 5 ever made it to the high school, and these were the kids who were too poor or not smart enough to move up to the private schools. However, the brightest kids, the kids that are going to schools such as Columbia, abandoned the public system. I believe that part of the reason the high school has such a bad reputation is that all of the brightest kids never make it there. This was a decision made either due to their waste of time at BFMS or their preemptive decision to skip the eventual disappointment that was BFMS. I left because I found little to be proud of at BFMS and expected no different from the high school. It was only when I discovered what a disorganized sinking ship VA was that I decided to save my money and jump ship to the shores of BFUHS.

This all brings me to the planned renovations, a solution which fixes nothing and wastes a whole lot of tax payer money. It all begs the question, how long can Bellows Falls rely on the middle school? There isn't a time that I go home to Vermont when I don't hear about the ever declining state of the school, and while I realize that many of these things are rumors or exaggeration, there is always some truth behind such chatter. I don't think I would be completely wrong to assume that the school isn't a whole lot different from when I attended there on a few year ago, and if that is the case then there needs to be a massive culture change throughout the school. This culture change is not going to happen through updating ventilation systems or putting in new boilers, this change comes through creating an environment in which not only fosters thought and creativity in the student populations, but also gives the staff an environment where they can excel and feel good about the place where they work. This will not come through renovations, nor even coating the walls of the middle school in gold, it comes in building a new school, a school which find itself up to date on the type of environment that promotes learning.

Now, I know that there has been talk for many years about building a new middle school, and it seems like every time those talk come up they get shot down because of their costs. While I consider myself a fiscal conservative, I think there is a time and a place to spend money, and if there was a something that needed money it would be the middle school. I ask the question again, how long can Bellows Falls rely on the middle school? In ten years, after thousands more young minds are subjected to the prison like environment of the middle school, people will still be saying,'oh, we can't, it will cost too much.' Someone needs to step up and do what is right. I believe the town is ready for a change, I feel like they've been asking for one for many years now.

While I don't expect this email to change anything, I thought I could give the administration the opinion of someone who has gone through the middle school, and while I came out of the system with a decent education, I saw too many kids failed by the system. I also often think about the education I could have gotten had the system been better, or the money I could have saved if the system had inspired a little more hope. I feel that far too often those of us that go through the system leave and never look back, never share our experience or give insight on how things could be better. I hope that you and the administration can take my experiences into account when thinking about the future of the middle school, and hopefully, with some luck, you will realize that we can no longer keep relying on the middle school to provide a proper environment for the town’s children to learn. I also hope that you realize that the money will never come until someone stands up and makes a decision.
A real parent

Attleboro, MA

#47 Aug 3, 2010
The Rockingham school Board is the one board that has been upfront & honest from it's conception. No secret meetings, no backdoor politics and most of all they care about our kids.I see "ALL"of them in "ALL" the schools "ALL" the time.The previous boards did not maintain the middle school at all, so it's shame on them. There are two of them presently on the H.S. board now,special priviliges, for the special few.If this community has any appreciation for good represention of our children, then stand up for this board. I for one am "DAM" proud of these fellas. Great Job! ps.why don't you know it all's go to meeting's....Cowards!

Bellows Falls, VT

#48 Aug 3, 2010
Stand up for who?

Bellows Falls, VT

#49 Aug 3, 2010
[QUOTE ps.why don't you know it all's go to meeting's....Cowards![/QUOTE]
Because it doesn't do any good they won't listen.

Bellows Falls, VT

#50 Aug 3, 2010
Confused wrote:
Stand up for who?
The teachers union?

Attleboro, MA

#51 Aug 3, 2010
Concerned Parent wrote:
No, not everyone on the board. Doherty and Brisette have not displayed fundamental abilities to communicate and make rational thought. They are dull knives, so to speak. They don't treat the administration with respect. Sorry. I don't have to run for a seat on the board to make that observation and decision.
You don't have to run, when you're already on one. Can't wait to see you!
Jim M

Ellsworth, ME

#52 Aug 3, 2010
Former Prisoner have you considered writing a letter to the editor about this timely subject? Your post is powerful and many BFHS students share similar views.
Patricia Bateman

Springfield, VT

#53 Aug 3, 2010
Former Prisoner, your letter was refreshing, eloquent and very touching. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Bellows Falls, VT

#54 Aug 4, 2010
Please share that with the world. I'm sure others share your experiences. I'm one of them.

Middletown Springs, VT

#55 Aug 4, 2010
I have to agree with Former Prisoner on most points. Yes the area does need a new middle school, and I feel spending almost $12,000.000 on renovations is short sighted....BUT the cost of a new school, I believe would be much higher.
There is a reason it was voted down last time, higher taxes.
The middle school is in sad shape, but my 3 kids managed to thrive there even if it did feel like a 'prison'.
Former Prisoner

Cambridge, MA

#56 Aug 4, 2010
Having done a little research into the cost of building a new school, I have become even more angered by the suggested 11 million dollar price tag on these renovations. Looking at similar size schools from around the country (including Vermont) it seems the average price sits around 16-22 million dollars.

Now I don't know what they projected the cost to be when deciding to build a new school, but if it is anywhere within that price range, which it should be, then there is no excuse not to build a new school. The town does not need anything fancy, I mean the school only house like 200 hundred kids. Build it on the cheap, which is only a few million more than the renovations, I think the town would support that.

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