Here's To Local Volunteers And Local Teachers

What to love and hate about East Greenwich this week.

RAVE: Let's hear it for the volunteers

Our little town is chockablock full of dedicated volunteers trying to make this little corner of Rhode Island a nice place to live.

Just off the top of my head, there are:

  • The East Greenwich Downtown Planning Initiative, otherwise known as the folks that bring you the farmer’s market at Academy, the fall outdoor movie, the information kiosks on Main Street and a dozen other worthwhile projects.
  •  The Friends of East Greenwich Free Library, a new committee who recently presented a town program of Stuntology and will put on the book sale in May.
  •  The Summer Arts & Festival Organization, aka the Summer’s End people – though they are also responsible for supporting artistic ventures throughout the year.
  • The Cultural Organization of the Arts who bring performance arts to the public schools.
  • The folks who are trying to save the Odeum.
  • The East Greenwich Education Foundation, who are working with our school teachers to enrich the students’ educational experience; the numerous school PTGs.
  •  The East Greenwich-Cowesett New Neighbors Club, a social organization whose sole purpose is to aid new residents in becoming acquainted with the community and their new neighborhood. How cool is that?.
  • The East Greenwich Arts Festival, who will be putting on what will hopefully be an annual art show starting this September.
  • And – gasp - many, many more groups that (honestly) I know less about - such as the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, the Historical Society and so on 

Full disclosure: I am on the board/committee of the Cultural Organization of the Arts, The Summer Arts and Festival Organization and the Cultural Organization of the Arts.

So what’s my point? The next time you start moaning that there is nothing happening in this town or nothing going on, shut the door! If there is nothing in my long list that tickles your fancy, I am sure that people will add their pet projects that I missed out (sorry!) in the comments section.

Or start your own group. The potential is here and the opportunity is here. We are lucky to have in Bill Sequino a receptive town manager and council as well Cathy Bradley as our  open-minded Parks and Recreation department head – both of whom are unusually accessible and  supportive of residents who want to get involved.

RANT: Let's Here It For The Teachers, Too

I am tired of hearing that the teachers in our town – or any town, for that matter, are overpaid, overrepresented and underworked.

We say that we want a competitive school system. We say that our kids are important and that their education is a valuable investment. And then we say that the people in charge of fulfilling our first two wishes are overpaid and overcompensated in benefits and time off.

Yes, there are bad teachers. There are bad apples in every profession – even politics. But the one thing I know for sure is this: Teaching is hard work. My mother was a teacher and many a night – long after the afternoon bell had run – she would still be preparing her lesson plans to keep things interesting and intellectually engaging for her students. If she ever took the time to break down her pay to an hourly wage, it would barely have qualified as minimum.

There are many teachers who are forced to take a second job just to make ends meet (Breaking Bad, anyone?). The other thing I know is this: Unless we put our money and support where our mouths are, we will never attract talented young people to the profession.

Given the right support, a teacher can turn a kid's life around. A teacher can negotiate the tough paths teenagers face, show them options, talents, passions. A teacher can inspire a child to be virtually anything, anyone. A teacher can open a child's eyes, sometimes literally, but more often to possibilities the child would never imagine alone. A teacher can give kids what they don't get at home, for whatever reason.  A teacher can show kids that life is full of joy, that there is humor in everything, that people are full of love and hope and things they'd never imagine without a helping hand. A teacher can unlock mysteries, open doors kids never knew existed.

How can you put a price tag on that?

Frederick Remington March 26, 2011 at 10:16 PM
I hate it when any discussion of the cost of education and teacher performance gets hidden under a basket of generalities about how wonderful my first grade teacher was, or how hard my teacher-mother worked. Yes, teachers do work hard, but no more or less than any other professional. And they do have the benefit of frequent vacations and most of the summer off, which most professionals do not. And for this, they are paid pretty well in East Greenwich, and received a generous benefits package - better than mine, I would add! So why the argument about requiring performance? Or culling under-performing teachers from the staff? I am required to go through this kind of performance evaluation every year, and why should teachers be exempt? Yes, education is a calling, and teaching an art. But it should carry no greater respect or special advantage than other professions. No matter how hard my mother-teacher worked!
Nancy Dyer March 27, 2011 at 01:17 AM
Yes, Lisa. The East Greenwich Animal Protection League!! A wonderful, SMALL, group of hard-working volunteers who do everything they can to help the unwanted and stray animals of East Greenwich find loving forever homes. Operating a no-kill shelter, though paying boarding at a local Animal Hospital is not an easy or inexpensive task. Since the town has never wanted to provide an animal pound, a dedicated group of volunteers offer their time, patience, money, etc. to ensure the animals do not get put to sleep. As an active volunteer I can honestly say I have never known more dedicated people who are relentless to a wonderful cause near and dear to my heart (as I adopted a wonderful animal from the league years ago and he has brought so much to my life) and who work tirelessly to make sure we have the money needed to keep operating. This is quite hard since we need to raise at least $75,000 each year just to keep our heads above water. If it were not for the wonderful and generous donations we receive the stray animals of East Greenwich would have very short lives. Please note that all of the animals are not strays. Many are pets that their owners can no longer keep due to financial difficulties (whether it be a job loss, moving and animals are not allowed, etc...) so it is reassuring to so many that their beloved pet will find a loving home where they can afford to be taken care of and loved, not given the final injection of "pink juice." We accept all volunteers! Thank you!
Sophie Speca March 27, 2011 at 01:32 PM
You left out the Greenwich Bay Women's Club, who a been around for 45 years...they put on Clowntown, which is happening at St. Luke's on April 9...
Lisa Sussman March 28, 2011 at 01:33 PM
Thank you, those are all good points. However, I am not saying that teachers work harder or are more deserving than other professionals. Rather, my own point is that teachers should be treated like professionals - regardless of whether they are my mother or my first grade teacher. Re getting so much time off, as I said, I know from my own experience that this was rarely time spend on the beach with a Cosmo and a bestseller. Rather, many teachers use this time to prepare lesson plans. As for performance evaluation, I am not arguing that there aren't some bad apples or that, indeed, teachers should not be evaluates. However, I do feel that their "bosses" - ie the principal of the school - is a better judge of their quality as a teacher than student test results. If all we want are kids that can test well, we can probably do away with teachers altogether and have the students learn via online programs. My hope is that a teacher will ignite a lifelong passion for learning – something that is not that easy to assess in a test result.
Carl I. Hoyer April 16, 2011 at 05:36 PM
And, I'll the pitch for the Town's two annual parades which have been going on for as long as i've been in town (44 years) wherein a large group of citizens participate such as the Kentish Guards, Varnum Continentals, Boy and Girl Scouts, EGHS Band,etc. (to name but a few) along with the assistance of Town Manager Bill Sequino, Town Clerk Lee Botello (who is my absolutely wonderful good right hand in organization/coordination of the events ), Police Department (and Chief Coyle), EG Fire District (and Chief Henrickson) , DPW (especially Charlie Phillips) , local clergy, American Legion, and many others. Oftentimes, the Governor , RI State Police Color Guard, National Guard Adjutant General and 88th Army Reserve National Guard Band will also be present. It's a liitle bit of Norman Rockwell and "Americana".......................'nuff said !


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