By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher
For months now, the dysfunction on Peabody’s School Committee has been talked about by angry and frustrated taxpayers from Russell Street to Lynn Street. There have been bad decisions when it comes to tax dollars, too much focusing on trivial issues, and constant bickering among members.
People have been calling these meetings the Tuesday Night Follies, and as a taxpayer, first you laugh, but then … you cry.
The latest episode of the Follies aired last week with some members of the committee displaying their desire to discriminate against a small group of students.
Simply put, parents of homeschoolers asked that their kids be allowed to have the same opportunities as any other student enrolled in Peabody’s schools. They asked the SC if their kids could be allowed to play sports and be in the band, or participate in any and all student activities. In other words, these parents are willing to pay the same outrageous extra-curricular fees as everyone else, and at no additional cost to the taxpayers.
Keep in mind that the homeschool program is monitored by the PEABODY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, and homeschoolers graduate too.
Keep in mind, too, that Peabody is one of only a handful of public school systems in the Commonwealth that relegates homeschoolers to the status of second-class students when it comes to not allowing full participation in extra curriculars.
But certain members of the school committee, especially Ed Charest and Beverley Dunne, continued to push back at last week’s meeting while spewing nonsensical reasons for not allowing homeschoolers their basic student rights. The silly reasons for not allowing homeschooled students equal rights revolved around such things as how unfair it is that non homeschooled kids had to get up early and catch the bus, and how there could be conflict on sports teams when homeschoolers win spots over non-homeschoolers.
Dunne even insinuated that parents of homeschoolers can game the system by inflating grades. Maybe it’s time that Beverley read the national data that shows how homeschoolers, on average, score 15% better on achievement tests than traditional public school students.
Then there was talk about how allowing homeschoolers to participate in student activities would cause more work for school administrators. OK, stop laughing now.
This foolishness caused angry outbursts from homeschooler parents attending the meeting, and who could blame them?
Member Brandi Carpenter, meanwhile — who is up for re-election on Nov. 3rd — took no position at all, telling the Salem News: “I’m looking for more information. I’m not sure how it’s all going to work out.” Hey Brandi, the voters are starting to notice how you’re trying to protect your political skin these days by not taking a stand on anything. Your “Sgt. Schulz” approach to being an elected official is really wearing thin.
Or, maybe Brandi is simply a fan of the old adage “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Perhaps Charest and Dunne should have taken Honest Abe’s advice too.
For the record, Mayor Ted Bettencourt is in favor of allowing homeschoolers their student rights. The Mayor, and rightfully so, sees this as a simple issue of fairness. So, too, does Jarod Hochman, who is running against Charest for Ward 4 Councilor on Nov. 3. Bettencourt and Hochman, like the rest of us, also don’t understand why this is such a big deal. Homeschoolers participating in student activities hurt no one.
Instead of deciding and voting on the issue last week, the school committee has assigned it to yet another useless ad-hoc subcommittee for further examination.
As for the rest of us, the Nov 3rd election can’t come fast enough.