, Gloucester, MA

June 11, 2013

Letter: Look at facts behind school disputes

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

The nature of a civil society demands a vigilant citizenry unafraid to ask questions.

Questions recently raised before our public school officials — if schools should have increased security and if schools should serve universal breakfast —deserve consideration and engagement. The stonewalling from the School Committee on the former and the demeaning “satire” from Roger Garberg on the latter have only served to inflame the issues, not solve them.

The Times, however, seems to not only have taken a hostile stance in defense of Ms. Fornero and Ms. Kesterson, but embraced their opinions with little regard for the facts.

The data are rather clear on these issues. Of the tens of thousands of murders in this country, a tiny fraction of those are in schools, despite their over-representation in the media. As a father of two school-age children, I agree that school security should absolutely be an ongoing concern. However, I disagree with an inherently reactionary stance such as armed guards in schools regardless of real threats.

Likewise, the success of the universal breakfast program is shown in the data from participating schools. Ms. Fornero’s concern of reduced instruction time is a common concern cited for opposition to the program. Fortunately, the data shows the fears to be unfounded.

I have personally seen the benefit in nutrition and camaraderie such an arrangement has in my own son’s preschool class. For schools with the majority of children coming from low-income families, among which are both Beeman and Veterans Memorial, this will be a tremendous boost in nutrition alone, with little required from families outside of getting their children to school on time.

As for Ms. Fornero’s concern that her child will be overfed — one that the Times unquestioningly repeated — it was made very clear that while the program is universal, it is not mandatory. She could well continue serving breakfast at home and request her son not have breakfast at school.

Yet I would hope, as someone who has worked in an area with significant poverty, that Ms. Fornero would recognize that not all of Gloucester’s children have the privilege of attentive and caring parents such as her husband and herself.

This information should be carefully considered, not only in the committee’s own deliberations, but in any conversation that takes place between school officials and the public.

Education is the key for public acceptance, not contempt and derision.