Letter: The write choice — Don’t cut English

To the Editor:

Last Monday, the Board of Education expressed an intent to cut two to four RHS English teachers — and with them, the writing conferences at the heart of the English program.

Writing conferences are one-on-one mentoring sessions between students and teachers, the only source of individualized attention in a school where it is too easy to get lost in the crowd. Since I entered RHS in 2014, these meetings have been critical to my growth as a writer and thinker.

Cutting English only hurts the Board’s goals. During Monday’s meeting, Dr. Baldwin named “personalized learning” as the district’s number one priority. However, if the BoE terminates the conference program, this stated objective will be reduced to mere rhetoric.

The BoE claims it can’t find “nonessential items” to eliminate instead of academics. Yet included in the proposed budget are plans to purchase iPads for the elementary schools and new security cameras for school buses. (For the record, the current cameras are only four years old.) While I appreciate the district’s desire to modernize its equipment, sacrificing writing conferences for luxury technologies is not a wise trade-off. Overloading eight-year-olds with more screen time will not improve the quality of a Ridgefield education. Keeping English will.

On a more personal level, the program has been essential to my high school narrative, and I know many peers who feel the same. The English teachers are some of the wisest, most dedicated individuals I have ever met. The department’s wonderfully creative, thought-probing curriculum has constantly challenged me to improve the way I write, read, and analyze — skills with value extending far beyond the classroom.

As the board enters budget deliberations, I urge each member to consider the upcoming generation of RHS writers and the fantastic English program the district stands to lose.

Callie McQuilkin

Nod Road, Jan. 29