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Invest in teachers, not better equipped buildings

In her letter, Vivian Orlowski writes: "Being pro-education means supporting the people and the programs — it does not equate to being pro-construction."

To the editor:

What really matters in education? Think back to your own experience in school. What had the biggest impact on your learning and your life? Was it the condition of the building or a teacher, a counselor, a coach, a principal, a staff member or other students?

Many would agree that it’s the people and relationships that matter most. That’s why MMRHS attracts such a large number of tuition and choice-in students from other towns. They travel longer distances and forego attending newer, better equipped schools in their own districts in order to come here.

Being pro-education means supporting the people and the programs — it does not equate to being pro-construction.

Let’s take the vital issue of security. “Research on School Security” by the National Association of School Psychologists emphasizes that techno-security approaches fail to prevent school violence.

Even in the highly fortified White House, an armed intruder recently managed to penetrate into the East Room. What was lacking? It was neglect of the human factors: rigorous training, well-coordinated implementation and dedicated vigilance.

Spending $51 million on renovating the high school will not yield anywhere near the secure features of the White House — and even those proved inadequate. Why are we urged to build for the next 50 years, when coming decades are unlikely to be similar to the past?

Since concern for security is often cited as an urgent need at MMRHS, why not go beyond the required drills? Students are the best deterrent to violence. Why not act now on human-centered crisis training, trust-building and whole community preparedness? As world events remind us, such instruction is likely to be one of the most relevant aspects of a 21st-century education. See: PBS video excerpt on “Surviving Disaster”

This is just one area where interdisciplinary education in the future will rely less on building facilities and more on interactivity of students — not just online, but with our local community and with our natural habitat.

If you care about preparing our students, teachers, counselors, staff and administrators to adjust to unforeseen changes, invest in enhancing their skills and resilience.

If you care about education and security, vote “No” to sinking our resources into extensive construction. With limited resources in a tight economy, let’s keep our options flexible so that we can prepare for, and respond to, the rapidly changing challenges of the 21st century.

Vivian Orlowski

Great Barrington

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