Friday, April 25, 2014

Regent Tallon helps me track down the truth

      Below, is my most recent letter to Regent Tallon. He responded to my first contact with him, letting me know that he would be seeing Deputy Commissioner Wagner and would discuss my issue(s). Regent Tallon also acknowledged that district resources can impact what is provided, especially on the heels of the 2008 financial crisis. 
     Mr. Tallon was suggested as a contact by a long time friend and his wife, two people who I have known for decades. They have always had the integrity of heart and mind that make me both proud to have known them for this long (and still have them in my life), and believe them when they say Regent Tallon is someone who cares about student opportunities-someone I should get in touch with when other NYSED contacts have been confusing or less than satisfactory.

    This has been altered somewhat to protect the innocent.

Mr. Tallon,

Thank you for your response. I was prompted to get in touch following a conversation with a long time friend and his wife, who I have known for more than thirty years. They described you as a person concerned with ensuring opportunity for students and someone I should contact. 

My daughter attends (and I also teach in) the ******** Central School District, one of several tiny rural schools in the County. While lack of resources have historically been an issue (even prior to 2008), my district does offer students a "business sequence" as a path to an advanced regents diploma. But this approach ignores students like my daughter who excel in and intend to pursue careers that would be supported by opportunities in the arts, or the reality that an arts sequence is necessary for students pursuing this path in order to compile a portfolio and set of experiences to be competitive college candidates.

If you get a chance to talk with Deputy Commissioner Wagner, please relay:

1) Gratitude to Leslie Yolen, NYSED associate in the arts who advocated repeatedly for the need for access to the arts sequence described in the regulations. During the conversations we had, and in messages she has left for me, I can tell Leslie understands that all students should be respected and supported through the regulations coming out of NYSED, not just the easiest or least expensive students. It would be my tendency to defer to the person with years of experience in the arts and Leslie appears to have loyalty to the students in our public schools as priority one.

2) Gratitude as well to Marybeth Casey. While I don't agree with her, and I wonder what network of contacts and supports empowered her to become involved and override an associate in the arts regarding an issue in the arts, I think Marybeth is doing what she was told/asked to do and is also loyal. I admire that.

3) My continued curiosity regarding the language "all public school districts" and "all student populations". If NYSED's official position is that opportunities are inequitable, then it needs to be acknowledged and we need to alter and/or soften the "accountability" and "achievement gap" rhetoric. It would be shameful to create and allow ed policy that would more or less ensure further divisions based on social/economic class while pretending that accountability is for the victims. Deputy Commissioner Wagner may be able to shed some light on this matter.

I invite any contact to help clarify this, and am very grateful for any effort you make to track down a bottom line for me. 

Dan McConnell

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