By R.M. Keil
I taught at Clarence High School from 1989 to 2012. Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, I also taught participation in government at Frontier High School’s summer school.
Frontier struck what I thought was a wise policy, insisting that before one could take an Advanced Placement course, one had to pass the Regents or the appropriate local version of that course first. This you could do in summer school.
As a result, the district ran (teachers actually administered the school) a robust enrichment as well as remedial program, numbering close to 1,300 students coming from all over Western New York. One year, my class list included 100 students for three sections, almost all of them accelerating. That summer, I actually wrote letters of recommendation for Frontier students.
How far afield we’ve blindly wandered from the Frontier 11-month paradigm is seen in the most recent Clarence budget vote. The Clarence Central School District has completely eliminated its summer school program.
Before that, it had gone to a more than partial online solution through a private entity called Apex for the summers of 2011 and 2012. Before that, it had combined different grade levels into the same classroom at the same time.
One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to see a clearly delineated pattern of dissolution here. The disappearance of summer school should be taken as a signal symptom of a larger pathology besetting public education and how we think about school.
Don’t get me wrong. Continuous assessment and reassessment of programming are absolutes, but the cuts being forced on districts now are not the trimming of frills.
We’re now lopping essential services and leaving the neediest of our students to face year after year of “do it now or else.”
Just as ominous is the flippant indifference and even outright glee one sees in remarks made by posters in the social media to the loss of art, music, electives, team sports and clubs in districts throughout Western New York. The joyful idiocy on display in these remarks shows a side of America that doesn’t grasp or refuses to grasp the urgency of the moment.
As a result we have entered into a twilight zone of decay in public education, opportunistically accelerated by forces who want to see it fail so they can replace it with their vision or so they can continue their assault on the compensation packages for teachers.
R.M. Keil taught in Clarence High School and in Frontier High School’s summer school program.