Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
  Overcoming Fear
A teacher speaks up and asks some questions: (reprinted in full, but click on the link to help The Transcript's circulation numbers)
To the editor:

I have never used this vehicle as an avenue to pose questions or express my views regarding an issue or event that might need commentary. I would like to use it now to contemplate the philosophical debates that occur each year when the North Adams School Committee is faced with deciding the budget for the North Adams Public Schools.

I recommend to my students that they make an inquiry when they are in doubt or need feedback, even though they may suffer an angry or disagreeable response. However, it is important to make the inquiry in any case. Having said this, I would like to ascertain what the difference is between cutting positions that impact programs and letting programs die by not replacing staff who retire or move away.

I have heard it said that the North Adams Public Schools have not had a budget cut in many, many years. If this is true, then why is there no longer a French program or an exploratory French and Spanish program at Conte? Why do we have fewer programs in business and family and consumer science? Pourquoi?

I would like to know what has happened to other programs that have been affected by attrition. Adonde han ido? Do we manage to educate the youth of North Adams in spite of the erosion of programs? Are we succeeding according to our students' successes on their MCAS? Yes we are. Is it enough to just get by?

Our students make us proud, yet I wonder what might we be sacrificing by letting teachers and support staff leave our system, either by retiring or moving away, and then not replacing them? Do we compromise our programs? All programs are not mandated by the state, but does that mean they are not vital to our students' education?

Our school system, besides job opportunities, is the single most important asset to our community. Any family with young children moving to the area will research our school system before housing to determine in which community to settle. We must offer outstanding programs with choices above and beyond the necessary. We must invest in the fodder our students need to grow their brains to their fullest potential. We can settle for nothing less, and if it means seeking answers "outside the box" and being financially creative, then we must do that.

I support physical fitness and participation in organized sports wholeheartedly, but I have to ask the question about funding our extracurricular sports programs. When do we take a hard look at it, and how it is funded? These are the questions that I contemplate. They are few but difficult to answer. It is time to assess how many teachers, support staff and curricula will be let go or "cut" before it has gone too far. Capisce?

Susan Chilson

North Adams

May 25
I've written in this space about the fear that keeps folks from speaking up in our little neck of the woods. Without breaching any journalistic ethics regarding confidential sources, I can say that I have had conversations with dozens (yes, dozens) of teachers who have voiced frustrations over many different subjects in the past couple years. Despite my overt encouragement of them to join the public discourse, none have done so.

I do not think I know Susan Chilson, at least not by name. However her questions are a an excellent response to some of the political rhetoric that surrounds almost every open discussion of the North Adams Public Schools.

And my guess is that nothing bad will happen to her.

Maybe, with Ms. Chilson's example leading the way, more members of the community will bring their concerns to the table.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
  Buchel has got a sense of humor
North Adams is not the first town the Buchel has tried to screw, but at least in Salzburg he was making an interesting point, even if it did cause a few headaches.
Christoph Büchel, a Swiss artist, has been collecting an anti-modern art petition at a stall next to the [upside down helicopter] artwork since it was installed during the Kontracom modern art festival in the summer.

He declared the pieces of modern art around the city "a blight on our cultural heritage".

2,000 signatures were collected, which is enough to trigger a referendum in the city. He handed the petition to the mayor in October, accompanied by local media reviews scathing the festival.

103,000 residents now have the chance to vote on a ban of modern art in public places until Saturday. Local authorities are now faced with the 40,000 Euro cost of running the referendum.

The mayor of Salzburg, Heinz Schaden (SPÖ) is not amused, saying that: "I personally won't be going to vote as I think this is all a load of rubbish."

He said that he would pass on the costs to the organisers of the festival, labelled by local FPÖ politicians as "crap". He said: "After that I don't want to hear from the festival ever again."
I just wish that Mr. "Training Ground for Democracy" had chosen an venue that could afford his "statements." Lord knows that MoCA and North Adams are not in a position to absorb his $300K snit.

And it sounds like the Mayor Schaden of Salzburg and Mayor Barrett should get together for beer. I'd bet they'd get along pretty well.

(Thanks to NYC artist Edward Winkleman for digging this tidbit out)
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
  Sometimes there really is no such thing as bad publicity
As of 8:30 this evening, this story was listed as #9 on the New York Times's most emailed list.
If it seems that some sort of disaster has taken place here, it has, at least in the view of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, where the warehouse serves as its biggest exhibition space. The pieces make up an immense art installation that was supposed to open last December, created by Christoph Büchel, a Swiss artist known for building elaborate, politically provocative environments for viewers to wander, and sometimes to crawl, through.

But after work began last fall on this installation, one of his most ambitious, it became increasingly more complex under Mr. Büchel’s direction; the $160,000 budget doubled; and relations between the artist and the museum degenerated into an angry standoff, according to Joseph C. Thompson, the museum’s director. Now, after months of frustration, the museum has decided to take an extraordinary step: On Saturday it will open the doors to the show anyway, without Mr. Büchel’s permission or cooperation.
While Büchel certainly seems to be a royal pain in the ass, his Diva-esque tantrum has brought more national and international attention to Mass MoCA than just about anything in recent memory. Combined with the Sol LeWitt repository, MoCA is on a tear!
Monday, May 21, 2007
  I'm surprised they published my allusion to the F-bomb
Wes noted that this letter would start a few tongues wagging.

For me it incited a 30 second letter to the editor to tell this guy that some of us don't take kindly to being compared with drug dealers.

BTW - There will be beer and chatter around my fire pit tonight at 8pm. 131 Marion Ave. Dress warm and bring a folding chair. All views invited.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
  Local Quote of the Day
Keith Bona in The Transcript:
"The city has done a lot in the downtown. This isn't political, but the city government has to look beyond planting flowers."
You've gotta' love the fact that everytime someone offers constructive criticism to the powers that be they have to qualify it to avoid upsetting apple carts.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
  While certainly not a perfect parallel, it still seems relevant to 2007.
A blog of random thoughts and reactions emanating from the bank of a mountain stream in the farthest reaches of the bluest of blue states.

May 2006 / June 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / February 2008 / March 2008 / April 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / July 2008 / August 2008 / September 2008 / October 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / January 2009 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / July 2009 / August 2009 / September 2009 / October 2009 / November 2009 / December 2009 / January 2010 / February 2010 / March 2010 / April 2010 / May 2010 / January 2011 / May 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / October 2011 /

greg at gregoryroach dot com

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