I only want to support programs that bring students together rather than separate them apart

To the Editor:
In all my years of public service, I have never been attacked with such vitriol as has occurred over the last few editions of your newspaper.

One letter in particular was written by Mr. [Robert] Mastro [“Gang of self-righteous ‘protectors’ would impose far right views upon children,” The Altamont Enterprise, May 5, 2022] who stated, “But working with Barbara, I know that she was never all that open to new ideas or differing points of view.”

Since I only served with Mr. Mastro for my first year on the school board, which was 23 years ago, I couldn’t imagine why he felt that I wasn’t open to new ideas or differing points of view. I searched the minutes of the meetings that both he and I attended before he retired from the board.

During the full course of our service, I could only find two instances where our votes differed. The first vote was on a request from a parent of a very talented and dedicated seventh-grade young swimmer to be allowed to swim on the high school swim team. New York State Education Law allowed such participation in non-contact sports but the school board first had to approve the measure. The board did approve the measure. I voted in favor of the proposal while Mr. Mastro voted no.

The second measure where Mr. Mastro and I differed was in voting to add a second public comment period towards the end of our meetings. While serving in my first year, I had noticed that much reporting and ensuing discussion occurred after the early public comment period.

Individuals mentioned that they would like to comment on some of the discussion immediately after hearing the various reports rather than waiting two weeks for the next meeting. A motion was made, and passed, to add a second comment period towards the end of our board meeting. I voted in favor while Mr. Mastro voted no.

In both instances, I was being responsive to needs expressed by the public. Now I ask you, who was not open to new ideas?

Another discovery while reviewing the minutes, was a statement I made during the board comment period in 1998. I expressed concern that there were so many more assistant coaches for boys’ sports than for girls’ sports and asked the administration to be more cognizant of equity for girls’ sports. Throughout my tenure on the board, I have supported our student athletes.

During my entire service on the board, I believe I have been a listening ear to parents, teachers, students, and taxpayers. Early in my service, we received parent complaints of serious bullying in our schools. Our board heard the complaints and developed a task force to try and study strategies to lessen the problem.

I served on that task force and after much research the district provided our teachers with training in the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Has this stopped all bullying? Of course not, but the district is trying to address the problem.

I have always supported small class sizes and have often pointed out the fact that numbers alone cannot be used in determining class size. The number of students assigned to a class should take into account the various learning and behavioral needs of the students and in some instances reduce the number of students rather than stick to our guidelines.

When students and parents asked to add Italian to our middle school curriculum, I was a strong advocate for the addition. Does this action lead one to believe, as Mr. Mastro states, that I’m not open to new ideas or differing points of view?

After the New York State legislators passed laws allowing some small relief from school taxes for veterans, I was entirely supportive.

I have always been a strong advocate for teaching a foreign language to our elementary students. Research has shown that the earlier young children are exposed to a foreign language, the easier they are able to learn.

Our short experiment in providing foreign-language instruction was destroyed with the recession of 2008-09. To this day, I marvel at our foreign-exchange students who, for the most part, have been studying English since they were elementary students.

Throughout my tenure on the board, I have looked out for the safety and welfare of all students. I personally want each of them to grow into caring and successful adults. I only want to support programs that bring students together rather than separate them apart. I want all students irrespective of their race, religion, gender identity, economic status, or place of birth to respect each other, and learn from each other.

Mr. Mastro implies that he was burned out after 12 years of service and that I should hang up my sneakers. Well, maybe I have a better constitution or perhaps my passion for service burns brighter, but there is still plenty of desire to serve in my heart and I am ready and open to continue my service to the community that I and my family have been a part of for over 50 years.

Barbara Fraterrigo


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