To the Editor:
The Annual Rochester Town Meeting on May 20thwas a spectacle that highlighted the worst of ill-equipped local government and mob rule in the Tri-Town. After waiting over three hours to share from my unique experience on the most controversial topic of the night, the “Restore ORR” proposal, I was not allowed to do so because my discussion points were ‘out of order.’ I was admittedly frustrated at this, especially since had proper parliamentary procedure been followed, others and myself would have been allowed to talk. My frustration, however, stemmed not only from this, but also from the ineptitude of the Town Moderator to facilitate a fair meeting, from the failure of three Town Selectmen to stand-up for what would have been right, and from the various ORR School Committee members present for purposefully-failing to create an atmosphere for openly exchanging ideas in what became a mockery of a process.
As I exited the Town Meeting, an ORR School Committee member approached me, and said that they “would like to hear my thoughts sometime” on the “Restore ORR” proposal. Upon reflection, I began to see how absurd this comment was, given the fact that I was denied the right to do this very thing in front of my fellow townspeople. In light of this, I would like to share my thoughts on the proposal, not only for this one School Committee member to hear, but for all who should have been able to hear it at the Annual Town Meeting.
As a 2015 graduate of Old Rochester Regional High School who was involved in various clubs and organizations, I understand the importance of extracurriculars, specifically school sports and drama as they relate here, to a well-rounded high school experience. But with this being said, the idea of using a Proposition 2 ½ override as outlined in the “Restore ORR” proposal is ludicrous. Old Rochester Regional High School has become a place where athletics are valued first above all else, with academics now being a distant second. Supporting this proposal supports this mentality, which is held by both the school’s administration and the ORR School Committee. Instead of “Restoring” our school, we must refocus it.
Using available data from the Massachusetts Department of Education’s website, one can see clearly how the quality of education at ORR has stagnated, if not declined, over the last five years. MCAS scores, Advanced Placement (AP) scores, and SAT scores are all indications of this. One more-meaningful indicator is average class size, which over the last five years at ORR has risen above the public school average in Massachusetts. The state of ORR today is one where desks are moved around from period-to-period to accommodate extra-large class sizes. Additionally, resources critical to learning are unable to be reliably provided at ORR. In one example from this year, a required reading book in English class was photocopied and handed-out to students in folders. Not only is this questionable, but it shows a true need, given that the book in question was not anything new, but was George Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty-Four, which has been commonplace in high school curricula for almost as long as it has existed. While textbooks and athletic fields are different spheres, the fact that the Tri-Town is on the brink of funding the later and not the former is a slap-in-the-face to any academically-oriented and college-hopeful ORR student.
Without even mentioning other cons to the “Restore ORR” proposal, which have been documented in local publications previously, it becomes clear that while restoration may be needed at Old Rochester Regional, where the restoration should be happening must be refocused. Proposition 2 ½ was passed by Massachusetts’ voters in 1980 to give individual townspeople a voice in local tax increases. Townspeople of Rochester, who per capita are paying a disproportionate amount of this proposed project, must use this voice to say “no” when the choice inevitably comes-to a town vote in a TBD special election. “Restore ORR” is simply an absurd, non-educational beautification project in Mattapoisett that must be stopped.
To the town officials who failed to run a proper Annual Town Meeting, I would suggest reading-up on Robert’s Rules of Order prior to next May- you can borrow my heavily-used copy if you’d like. And to the ORR School Committee member who laughably suggested that I share my concerns non-publically, I’ll see you at the ballot box.
Michael Vincent Amato, Rochester
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