Skip to content




One of my favored writers is Lorne Rubenstein, who scribes on the game of golf in such an entertaining fashion. The title of his recent book, “A Disorderly Compendium of Golf,” helps define the content and direction of this week’s column — a random collection of observations and comments coupled with maybe a little wisdom, truth and relevant facts on schools and learning. With deference to Mr. Rubenstein, it is a “Disorderly Compendium (word of the week) of Education” that follows.

Dr. Charles Hand, an old friend of Ayer and Shirley, checked in with me last week with congrats for the regionalization vote. As a former teacher and superintendent in the Ayer district, he enriched our programs and our lives with an impressive wisdom, intellect and no-nonsense style; he was (and is) a most engaging personality. Not surprisingly, the 80-plus year-old mentor of mine still is active in Bernardston as a School Committee person in his regional school district.

Tell me we don’t glorify our young athletes well beyond the limits. Shame on those big time footwear and apparel people who flew a highly touted Florida high school football player to New York City to announce his letter of intent to his final college selection (with all the trappings of a Heisman Trophy winner).

And how about the head football coach of a big-time program (initials USC) “visiting” a prolific middle-school football quarterback? Recruiting is verboten at that age, so the coach just happened to be in the Delaware area from the West Coast and stopped by to say “Hello.”

With our president being blamed for just about everything but the weather, we stand in praise in acknowledging his decision to attach a significant educational piece of legislation to the controversial health-care bill. Billions of dollars were saved in subsidies paid to banks and finance institutions previously to administer federal college financial aid grants. The huge savings will be applied to additional Pell grant without the middle man profits. Our college kids thank you.

By the way, although faced with a terrible unemployment rate, the age group of 18-29 years who are just out of high school or college possess a positive outlook. Recent surveys indicate 90 percent are “buoyed with hope.” Sixty percent give President Obama a favorable approval rating and 75 percent hold him blameless for the economic downturn, global strife and societal woes. Guess who will be catering to that vote.

A couple of caveats to the very necessary bullying legislation enacted by our state. It is only one symptom of a larger behavior issue and shift in our moral compass. Bigotry, hypocrisy, discrimination, obscenity and selfishness are all tearing at the fabric of respect for each other in general. The legislation mandates training, which imposes additional staff development in schools that already have an overscheduled agenda and no additional funds. The typical response of the lawmakers to such obstacles was, “reprioritize professional development.” Correction and reform must come with the resources to implement them — no unfunded mandates.

As an aside, “leading by example” has not been a strong suit played out in our Congress for young people to witness.

Parents, too, must be designated reporters of bullying incidents, not only educators.

Teachers unions should stop the bombast toward those promoting reform and create bipartisan (have you heard that word a lot lately?) and proactive effort to attract new professionals. The shortage of teachers will pose a significant dilemma very soon. President Obama has earmarked $250 million to train 100,000 wannabe teachers and also create 10,000 new jobs through college incentives. Whatever happened to the Future Teachers of America?

Another very serious concern — no one wants to be a principal.

If teachers are going to tout their primary role in academic achievement, they cannot completely absolve their ranks from failing schools, can they?

Engage your family with the question and brainteaser posed to those who compete in the Great American Think-Off this year – “Is it ever wrong to do the right thing?” Require a proper defense for your answers.

Some local schools are attempting to acquire team business sponsors to support athletics to replace increasing user fees for families. Don’t you think if you could ever get just the pizza establishments in our readership area to participate, you’d be in good shape? Some activity fees are $200 to 250 per season.

Reading scores are down in grades four and eight across the nation. We suggest a novel approach to corrective action — make students READ instead of texting, sexting and visiting Facebook. The evidence is solid in schools and communities that have strong reading literacy programs that better results are possible. And what are many towns and cities doing? Closing libraries.

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt to do new things?” — Vincent Van Gogh’

Tom Casey is a retired high school administrator. In retirement he has served as a school administrative mentor, consultant to public and charter schools, and in school-to-career programs. He has also served in various interim administrative positions.