When I attended the March 26 RCPS School Board meeting in support of students seeking display of a Black Lives Matter flag, I heard a number of speakers raising concern over continual long-term mayhem and violence at RMS.
As a former RMS teacher who moved to the private sector 14 years ago, I was greatly concerned by this news. I came to Vermont 20 years ago when my daughter was ready to begin high school. We planned to send her to Burr and Burton since we heard they had a good strings program, and we had bought a house in Mount Tabor, which had school choice.
During my final teaching interview with Superintendent David Wolk, he encouraged me to look at RHS instead of B&B since Peter Miller had begun an orchestra program that was opening at RHS that fall. I thank David Wolk for the excellent advice. Our daughter and, several years later, our son, both thrived in the music programs at RHS, which was honored in the Top 100 Music Programs in the country. Our son became the first RHS orchestra student to make nationals so, again, I thank David Wolk for the opportunity.
During those years, there were some problems at Rutland schools, but what is now being described reminds me of what I had left in West Chester, Pennsylvania. I taught a dozen years in one of three middle schools in a large district near Philadelphia. One year, we got a new principal around 50 years old who had played middle linebacker for West Chester University. He came in with that tough stance and set the tone for a positive learning environment.
That lasted two years before he seemed to flip a switch that allowed students to walk all over him. We felt a change to gang warfare and total disregard for authority. One night, I woke up at 3 a.m. unable to get back to sleep. Instead, I wrote a three-page letter to our superintendent outlining what we were experiencing. She came to see for herself and two weeks later, the principal was gone, prompting a return to a positive learning climate.
If I were still teaching at RMS, I wouldn’t dare try such a letter. Reaching out to this superintendent would likely spell the end of my career. It saddens me to acknowledge this reality since I wrote him an email shortly after his arrival thanking him for his vision for this community as outlined in the Rutland Herald and elsewhere. Only a few weeks later, I was eating those words when bull-in-china-shop tactics seemed to be his new norm.
Therefore, I must ask the School Board members to step up, to visit RMS and other schools in the district, to listen intently to students and educators, and to please act decisively to return RCPS to the drawing card that brought my family here with David Wolk’s encouragement. A strong education system is probably the single greatest factor supporting property values so, for anyone who fails to see the importance of our children as our future, everyone should care even if for selfish reasons. A very large moth is eating away at the fabric of this community, so please repair that fabric.
Russell Green is a Rutland businessman, former RMS teacher and former REA co-president. He lives in West Rutland.