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Don't speak for me on SOC



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April 20, 2011 - Dear Editor,

(In response to 'Public: 'Stop schools of choice'' The Citizen, April 16, page 6):

I've been disheartened about the public controversy brewing over the Brandon School District's School of Choice program. Since it's an emotional subject with a wide rage of opinions, I initially decided not to get involved. However, after reading Brian Cummings' letter to the editor this weekend, I feel I can no longer remain silent.

I grew up in New Jersey and lived in Manhattan and in Washington, D.C. before coming to Michigan and Brandon Township 20 years ago. I'm well aware of the concerns and the benefits resulting from living with a diverse population.

I'm having a hard time understanding the depth of anger over the district's SOC program. If the school board's review has shown little or no difference between the test scores of residential students and those of SOC children who've attended Brandon schools for awhile and there's no discernable difference in the number of disciplinary problems between the two groups, why are some people so determined to end the program? It's also understandable that the test scores of students who've attended Brandon schools for a shorter period of time might be lower initially than those of residential students. But they do improve over time.

Often in discussions about what's important for achieving children's educational success, one hears about the pivotal role of parental involvement. The parents of Brandon's SOC students have chosen to remove their children from other schools and bring them here. Brandon is not exactly a hop, skip and a jump from Pontiac, Rochester or Auburn Hills. These parents have displayed a strong, caring commitment to their children and their futures. They should be welcomed and applauded for their efforts. In a busy and hectic world, it can't be easy dealing with the complications of the additional commute.

Perhaps the district should consider imposing a cap on SOC students in the future. But who's to say what percentage is correct— 10, 20, 30 percent? And how would that number be determined — by statistics or raw emotion?

In his letter, Cummings stated that people here are against schools of choice because of "community: a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage." This definition could also be used to justify segregation.

Earlier in his baseless tome, Cummings audaciously declared, "Not one resident [...] agrees with schools of choice." Well, Mr. Cummings, I am one resident (of which I suspect are many) who supports schools of choice. You, sir, do not speak for me.

I have an idea. Why not support a school voucher program here in Michigan? That way parents will have an even greater choice of schools for their children's education. And perhaps Brandon will have to compete with the likes of Detroit Country Day, Cranbrook and other private and public schools in attracting SOC students. That just might solve the whole dilemma.

Constance Stalker

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