Superintendent Rearick Suggests Rep. Gordon 'Do His Homework' Before Commenting

Tiverton School Superintendent William Rearick reacts to Rep. Dan Gordon's statements made on Patch earlier this week.

Dear Editor:

This letter is in response to statements made by State Representative Dan Gordon that recently appeared on the website. Specifically, Mr. Gordon was commenting on an article concerning a Tiverton High School student’s effort to start a Gay-Straight Alliance.

Mr. Gordon stated, “and this is why if I have anything to say about it, Tiverton will lose school funding to local charter schools. It doesn’t matter if gay or straight, if sexual meet-up groups are being promoted in our schools rather than improving test scores, that school is failing. Is it really more important for our children to get ‘sexed-up’ than learning advanced math?”

I do not normally respond to idle comments that are critical of the Tiverton School Department, its students or employees. However, Mr. Gordon’s biased and ill-informed statements compel me to respond.

First, any attempt by high school students who want to form a support group that will encourage students to address social diversity is a positive thing. Unfortunately, we too frequently hear news stories about incidents involving student bullying and violence in our high schools across the country. Thankfully, the students, staff and administration at Tiverton High School have taken a proactive approach in trying to improve the learning environment throughout the school. Tiverton High School students and staff have formed numerous groups such as the Peer Helping Network, the Tiverton Prevention Coalition and Students Against Destructive Decisions (S.A.D.D.) all of which have provided support to our students which in turn has created a safe learning environment at Tiverton High School by affording students an appropriate avenue to meet and discuss concerns that they must deal with on a regular basis. The formation of the Tiverton Gay-Straight Alliance will only help to promote acceptance and diversity among our students.

Mr. Gordon’s implication that students who might attend a meeting to get “sexed up” is completely ludicrous and shows Mr. Gordon’s ignorance as to the intent of this group. It also demonstrates his personal prejudices towards individuals who are not like him. Before making his comments, maybe Mr. Gordon should have spoken with representatives from the high school regarding the intent of this group. At least Mr. Gordon would have had the “facts” as opposed to making “ignorant” and unsubstantiated claims. 

I want to take this opportunity to thank Miss Martin for taking the initiative to form a support group for her fellow students. I also want to thank Mr. Peter Forrest who volunteered to serve as a mentor to Miss Martin in establishing the Gay-Straight Alliance at Tiverton High School. 

Finally, I also take issue with Mr. Gordon’s comments “that school is failing”(this is how the quote appeared on the web site). What is the basis for this comment? Tiverton High School recently met its Annual Yearly Progress criteria for the 2010-11 school year which is required under No Child Left Behind. Tiverton High School students scored above the state average on all three of the NECAP assessments that were administered in the fall of 2010. Again, I would suggest that Mr. Gordon “do his homework” before he makes any further comments regarding Tiverton High School and or the Tiverton School Department.

William J. Rearick
Tiverton Superintendent of Schools

Joe Sousa. April 03, 2011 at 01:00 PM
TD, he is a freshman Republican in a house lead by Democrats. In reality he has very little influence. Dan posted his thoughts for all to read. At least he was willing to share them regardless of his believes. While I don't think he was bullied many of the posters expressed hate toward him. If we are going to ask for respect for all, it has to be for all. People who believe that Gay sex is a sin are just as untitled to their opinion as those who don't. I was brought up a catholic and attended church for many years. One day as I listened to a sermon I heard the phrase "God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve". Growing up with my cousins I knew better. It turned me away from organized religion. As a veteran I share the view of many. I may not like what you are saying. But I will defend to the death your right to say it
Justin Katz April 03, 2011 at 01:01 PM
You can comment by whatever rules you wish to self-impose, but really, what more is there to say on that topic? The fact is that the representative in question has no power to reduce the schools' budget. Not a single one of his fellow Republicans would repeat his call (even without the already witnessed backlash). And even if they would, it would be a minority of them. And even if it weren't, Republicans are in a dramatic minority of the General Assembly. And even if Democrats joined them, the leadership of the General Assembly is unusually powerful in Rhode Island and would kill the movement. How many hundreds of comments of "Bad! Bad! Shame! Shame!" are necessary? I say, let the comment threads go wherever they go. That's the beauty of online communities. At a certain point, the gathered masses realize that they're almost in total agreement on the narrow topic that got them riled, and if they remain for substantive conversation, that's wonderful. Moreover, the above tangent is much preferable to the usual back-and-forths about who's posting under multiple names to which these threads tend to degenerate.
Tiverton Dad April 03, 2011 at 01:11 PM
It was a polite suggestion. Interpret your rights any way you wish. I am staying away from that other thread as well. And as for facts, the facts are that Gordon made those remarks and he needs to own them, rather than try to wriggle around them. His response has been one of a tone deaf politician who's only apparent concern is his perception of the opinion of the slim majority who elected him, rather than on the impact of his words.
Tiverton Dad April 03, 2011 at 01:16 PM
I Didn't see Joe's comment above, which echoes Justin's, so I will add that I know his influence over school funding is slim to none. Currently, his influence over any other matters is also in decline, which may be a good thing. The point is, his words have a broader influence that he needs to take into account.
oldandtired April 03, 2011 at 01:20 PM
Justin at least has the courage to say it like is. He is the only one in Tiverton who is willing to address the fact that we are getting absolutely no value for our tax dollars in the schools. Thank you Mr. Katz for trying to shake the community in to reality. Tiverton is lucky to have someone who is willing to spend so much personal time trying to educate the public. Not sure if parents are just lazy or too busy to care, but either way it is a shame.
j michael April 03, 2011 at 01:32 PM
Justin, The doughnuts in may analogy are the students. When you're dealing with a fairly small number, it's entirely conceivable that one year could yield an academic sack of potatoes. The decline you reference in grade 5 probably has a lot to do with the improvement in grade 4. We can each continue to find good and bad in these numbers. The point I'm trying to make is that they're still subjective. I still believe that there's only so much that can be done. As a society, we have a responsibility to educate our children, so that's why we put money into it. As to where the money should go, I have other radical thoughts that will definitely start a controversy I choose not to start on this thread. And if a family owns a small house in North Tiverton (assessed at around 225K), the property tax assessment doesn't even cover a third of the cost to educate only one child. Therefore, I would not recommend putting more money in that family's pocket. I know that taxes are high, and I also know that the town is not a favorable place to conduct business. For that, I'm glad. More business would change the flavor of the town. The town aesthetic had been compromised enough with all the residential crap that was constructed in the 60s and 70s. The last thing we need is more strip malls and big-box marts. Main Road in North Tiverton is ugly enough. Why would we want parts of the town to look like Rte. 114 in Middletown?
j michael April 03, 2011 at 01:35 PM
We must also consider Portsmouth's educational economy of scale (nearly twice as many students). I also wonder the percentage of students who attend private schools in each town. That may impact the numbers. Again, I think there is always room for improvement, but disagree that the picture is as dire as you paint it.
Tiverton_Red April 03, 2011 at 01:51 PM
Superintendent Rearick, In order to keep do your funding that the representative has threatened to cut do you plan to subjecting all after school activities to a litmus test overseen by the representative and his TCC endorsers?
Gloria Crist April 03, 2011 at 02:33 PM
For someone who has been a part of the all the schools in our system- WE ARE GETTING THE VALUE- but sadly, our schools need more to compete on a higher level- our students need more services ( I can wager a bet than not one member of the TCC, and or/ Justin and Dan Gordon have stepped inside one of our PUBLIC schools) and having these services should not be a luxury- it should be the norm- it is the civil right for each and every one of our students.....the biggest problem is the town has been mismanaged, for whatever reason(s) for a long time- there has been no thought put into cultural and positive economic growth- that would both serve the look and feel of the town as well as provide much needed income. Nobody wants to pay higher taxes-or see the value of property decline( again, a residual effect of a poorly mismanaged town)- our services and our schools have to matter- our right to voice our choice-and to vote -as a town MUST matter. I applaud our schools, and if it took the courage of one student and her supporters to launch the GSA- to shed light on not only the issue of acceptance and tolerance-but also open the door to the many, many things that must change in this town- then so be it. No one wants to grow up invisible-not one member of this town should feel threatened or manipulated into thinking they have to vote-and to choose ONE WAY- As I have said many times this week-I have had enough-and I refuse to let a select few small minds do my thinking.
Gloria Crist April 03, 2011 at 02:36 PM
There is no way any member of the TCC should oversee any afterschool program. That is both an insult to not only the programs but the individuals who run them. Go soak a tea bag would ya?
tiff April 03, 2011 at 02:56 PM
I think some people want teachers to work for nothing. Certain groups have zero clue as to the realities within the school systems. They do not see the everyday dedication the teachers show their students. And they REFUSE to see how kids today are performing at much high levels than even we did 30 years ago. POVERTY is the culprit for low test scores. Portsmouth, for instance, has a very low poverty rate so of course they will have good test scores! What do teachers know in Portsmouth that they don't know in a community with lower test scores?? NOTHING! If we compare the test scores of countries like Finland to those of the U.S., you will see that the test scores show a direct correlation to poverty levels. 25% of children living the UNITED STATES live in poverty. 2% of children living in FINLAND live in poverty. Of course, regionalization will reduce costs. Schools can collaborate and pay less for supplies and overhead costs. That's no brainer. The condition of north end of the town is a travesty. Empty store fronts, no grocery store, closed restaurants, buildings in disrepair. It's like a ghost town! Where is the management? Where is the creativity? The zoning around the town has been a mess for 50 years. I was happy to see Tiverton students stepping into the 21 century by starting a GSA - these groups were formed in other communities without any controversy YEARS ago. It's time for Tiverton to get out of its parochial thinking.
Jim L April 03, 2011 at 03:57 PM
MRS Crist in an earlier post you stated you have been in town for 9 years have you seen the town do much of anything besides raise taxes and give out raises, when did Mr Pellitier ioon the TCC
Gloria Crist April 03, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Jim L Jim L Jim L (I sigh). Since you do not disclose your name and choose two different view points based on public threads and private message boards - I will repeat what I stated in your private message to me. You asked me to send you a map from the " high school gays" to the TCC- to which I replied " obviously you are lost- don't bother me again".... MRS. CRIST?.... Well at least you got that right.. But for you Jim L- that's MS. CRIST
Gloria Crist April 03, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Tiff- you are right on- We don't even have a grocery store.... Which is the least of our troubles not only in North Tiverton - but South Tiverton too.
Jim L April 03, 2011 at 06:27 PM
but we did have someone who was going to build a grocery store with a library and other building, right off Sousa Rd then again off Fish road, what happen to them, not for tiverton i guess huh? that was other councils not this one, and i still do not see a connection thank you for the responce
stoney larue April 03, 2011 at 07:10 PM
JimL I thought that you promised to not reply to my posts anymore and here you are again. This time spinning and shilling against the schools like someone who actually has a valid opinion on education. Now it also appears as if you are ranting and rambling about another person, Ms. Christ. When I open this webpage I feel as if I have entered into JimL's world. Nearly every post on the front page is you. It is sunny out, put on your sneakers and go for walk. And Jim, enough with the paranoia and false talk of threats , and TCC rumpswabary it makes you appear unstable and damages the cause of the library. Those folks should seek to put some distance between themselves and you the internet troll.
Jim L April 03, 2011 at 07:20 PM
zero, you are also ms crist now? oh you poor sick man must you always put forth such helpfull points
Robert Johnson April 03, 2011 at 07:21 PM
I agree that this thread has definitely gone off-topic. I agree that it seems we should be tired of beating this dead horse. However, yesterday Dan Gordon posted the following on the WRNI site: Rep. Dan Gordon April 2, 2011 1:28 am Dear Het, Yours has been the most constructive and informative comment, phone call, e-mail, or facebook posting to date. I must also mention that two Presidents of other high school GSA Clubs in Rhode Island have been very constructive in their correspondence. Thank you for not screaming, smearing, bullying, or threatening me, as the rest have. You have my ear, and I look forward to any further advice or constructive criticism you have to offer. Best, Dan . Poor Dan. Of course, many of us have gone to the youtube video. I would like to see the questionnaire given to him by TCC to gain their endorsement. Did they ask if he had a wife/husband or family? A college degree? A house on which he took pride and paid taxes? How long he lived in Portsmouth? Where is his company incorporated? How successful is it? In what civic clubs and programs is he involved? Did they verify any of the information? Were there any questions asked?
stoney larue April 03, 2011 at 07:23 PM
No JimL, Ms.Crist is someone else entirely. JimLwhat is your solution to improve the schools.
Robert Johnson April 03, 2011 at 07:23 PM
Justin, your comment, “For example, I know of multiple well-educated, academically motivated families that were so disgusted or frightened by the school department's strategy for winning a huge budget increase at the financial town meeting, last year, that they've pulled their children from the district and sent them to private schools.” Are you kidding? What keeps people from sending their kids to the Tiverton public schools is hearing that if your child doesn’t get into the AP programs, they will be left to flounder in regular classes that serve as day care. You hear from close friends who teacher in Tiverton to put your kids in private school if you can. You see students get off the bus with no books or backpack and light up cigarette. You read the police blotter and see that kids are being picked up from THS and TMS for drug possession and fighting. You are on the soccer field with other parents listening them swear at their kids, throw their trash on the ground and talk about what pains in the asses their kids are. The good parents and students are in the minority and that is the problem. I doesn't matter how much money we throw at the problem.
Jim L April 03, 2011 at 07:27 PM
i doubt that he was asked if he was gay or not, why would they, i do agree this is getting to beating a dead horse, but now that you mention it i wonder what the breakdown was town by town, As far as i know no politicain has been asked that unlees they pointed it out, never thuoght sexual preferrence was an issue, but he did just make a fool of himself
Joe Sousa. April 03, 2011 at 08:45 PM
Gloria Crist said ( I can wager a bet than not one member of the TCC, and or/ Justin and Dan Gordon have stepped inside one of our PUBLIC schools) Gloria,You would loose that bet. If you want me to go into detail I will.
Joe Sousa. April 03, 2011 at 08:49 PM
Gloria Crist said ,Go soak a tea bag would ya? The hate shines through.
Robert Johnson April 03, 2011 at 08:55 PM
JimL, I thought I was clear, but I guess not. Dan Gordon was not asked his sexual orientation. That question cannot be asked. It is not legal. What is important is that Dan Gordon does not know what it is like to have children in school because he has no children. Now, that doesn't mean that someone who doesn't have children doesn't know the problems we are facing in our schools. I was trying to show that Dan Gordon has nothing to offer. A quick review of his statements and recent video shows he is a blowhard. And if I may, a liar.
Justin Katz April 03, 2011 at 11:24 PM
Interesting point regarding the small house in North Tiverton. What if the family that lives in that house has no school-aged children? Would that change your recommendations? Or what if that family has, say, three children (whom the town is legally obligated to educate) and opts to enroll them in private school, thus saving Tiverton approximately $45,000 per year, or more than a half of a million dollars over an approximate decade? Is that family still in your disfavored category simply because it is relatively poor? In purely financial terms, if a $300 per year increase in taxes were enough to end that family's ability to afford non-public schools, the net loss to the town would be huge.
Mike Mello April 03, 2011 at 11:25 PM
The TCC group is just looking out for themselves, not the school or anything that has to do with the town. When have you ever heard a TCC endorsed individual or a TCC member speak highly of the school? Sadly, none of them even know or even have taught students. However, I wouldn't want them near my children. Just my opinion which I am entitled too.
Joe Sousa. April 03, 2011 at 11:46 PM
Mike Mello, You don't know what or who you speak of. Just my opinion which I am entitled too.
Tom April 04, 2011 at 01:11 AM
Matt, I wasn't saying the numbers were wrong. I am just asking the question: "Does it make sense that PHS with over 1000 students and MHS with over 500 students have not disciplined anyone for being late to school or cutting class?" Mr. Katz wrote an article on Transparency and how we should be using this new data to prod our schools to improve. My point is that the data needs to be accurate and we need to independently verify the accuracy and not take it for granted. Based on his blogging he would rather dismiss my point because it doesn't fit well with his critical views of the tiverton schools.
Tom April 04, 2011 at 01:43 AM
I am replying to my own post I know, but I don't see how to reply directly to Justin. So Justin when the Tiverton School Committee releases its final budget numbers do you plan on taking them at their word? Or do you plan on looking into the numbers and doing your own analysis? Why would you be inclined to take the Little Compton SC at its word but not the Tiv SC? Lastly, I didn't ask you to repeat the research. I asked you to analyze the reports from the state about all three high schools and had you done that you may have asked why there was no discipline for PHS and MHS. How can you form an opinion for an opinion article if: "(whether because there are none or they just don't report them for some reason, I don't know) is a statement you are making about facts that you base your article?
Justin Katz April 04, 2011 at 02:08 AM
I will take their numbers at face value, because I lack the time, resources, and access to duplicate them all. (Which was pretty much my point with regard to Rearick's lack of inquisitiveness about Portsmouth/Tiverton comparisons.) In the current case, I'm not taking the Little Compton at its word; I'm taking RIDE at its word. Presumably, RIDE's numbers come from Tiverton, so I'm relying on the accuracy of the numbers submitted. Frankly, I'm less concerned about the fact that Portsmouth doesn't list some specifics incidents than that Tiverton appears to double-count them, once as in-school suspension and once as "alternative" discipline. I'd note that, even if we look only at out-of-school suspensions, Tiverton's per student rate is 0.3, while Portsmouth's is 0.08. But you're suggesting that I should have investigated this tangential number to such degree that, yes, I would have had to duplicate the research of the state agency. If discipline had been the subject of my column, I would have addressed it. As it is, I only have so many words and so much time. At some point, one must rely on reporters and government agencies to do their job in presenting numbers, and in the litany of statistics that I cited, this particular one was of relatively little concern. I'll leave it to readers to decide whether this amounts to a wholly invalidating personal failure or a minor adjustment to an argument that remains valid.


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