As a proud Vermont chauvinist, I feel compelled to point out that, contrary to your assertion in your first story in the States of Debate series ("Lone Star," May 2010), three U.S. states have been sovereign nations — Hawaii, Texas and Vermont. Vermont was an independent, self-governed republic for a period of time immediately following the Revolutionary War, I believe from 1777 to 1791.
Kate Davie, Librarian Blue Mountain Union School, Wells River, Vt.
Former Ala. Teacher Speaks Out
Regarding your rural school story ("Persuading Teachers to Go Rural," June 2010), Bering Strait (Alaska) School District does not have any difficulty finding new teachers to replace those of us who leave. Statistically it may be a fact that many teachers are due to retire, but I believe many teachers are continuing to teach (partly because of the poor economy), and those who retire are not being replaced.
As for BSSD's recruitment, I smile when I read about the incentive pay to stay with the district three to seven years. While the facts are absolutely correct (and I received my $3,000 bonus), the devil is in the details.
We rent housing from the district, which is deducted directly from our paychecks even if we are not there to use it during the summer months. Rent is "subsidized," so we are made to believe we are getting a deal when we sign up.
Further, while the district does have excellent health insurance coverage, it is practically useless because there are no doctors or dentists at most sites, and to use it one has to fly at great expense off site. The insurance will pay for travel to and from a hospital for medical emergencies or necessities, but only twice a year.
The district is trying to do some things, such as get new housing, but one size does not fit all.
The most frequent question I got from new teachers was "Why did you come back?" The major reason was that I really thought I could make a difference (and I do believe I did, albeit with only a handful of students). Despite the hardships, it was fascinating.
I'm so glad I stayed for an entire summer on the island getting to know the people in a way that few teachers ever do. I felt a part of the community, and they welcomed me as one of theirs.
Cynthia Marx, former teacher, Bering Strait (Alaska) School District
Recovering Credit in Michigan
An article about credit recovery ("Reaching Graduation with Credit Recovery," October 2009) showed the variety of ways that districts are looking to attack this need.
I have developed a program that has shown great success with our urban population, which includes 75-80 percent of the students using free and reduced lunch, a 50+ percent transient rate and a growing ELL population. We use the program so students can retain credit as well as earn back lost credits. All students use it, including honor students, special education students, transient students and ELLs.
Our program uses many methods mentioned in the article, so I can use that to show that other districts have seen success. I have presented the steps of how to develop a program similar to ours to over 300 schools in the state of Michigan. The program has been well received: (1) It uses existing resources in the district, (2) it can be modified to work with any curriculum and student population, (3) it is set up so that the classroom teacher has the final say in the credit, (4) it is immediately accessible to students, and (5) it gives the students a method to be successful and puts the responsibility on them.
Jerry Czarnecki, teacher, Kelloggsville High School, Grand Rapids, Mich.
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