The 2016 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) is in. This year we should have two reports: ORHS and ORMS. As far as I can tell the reports are not yet available to us directly, but we did get a little tidbit at the June 15 school board meeting: Board member Barth reported 60% of ORHS students are having unprotected sex. She suggested the European approach of condom vending machines in the bathrooms. Here's the clip.
OK, this is hype. Really there was only one fight, between two kids.
According to news reports and gossip, on the night of Friday June 3rd, two groups totaling about 20 high school kids gathered at Margery Milne Park near Faculty Rd. in Durham to watch a fight between two students, one from each group. One of the students was beaten so severely he is reported to be in the hospital "with life-threatening injuries." The organizing was reportedly done over social media.
A few parents showed up at the June 15 meeting to make a public comment about the fight. There was some sentiment that the school didn't react quickly enough, with a schoolwide auditorium on the Monday after the event.
When I first heard about the incident, I didn't like that the superintendent seemed to be distancing the school from the fight, saying it was a police matter and involved students from different schools. By the time of the school board meeting the superintendent had come around 180 degrees on this, which was better. (He distanced himself from the distancing, which felt disingenuous to me.) Clip: the start of board meeting that addressed the fight.
I've seen my share of fist fights growing up. If one of the participants stayed down and stopped fighting it was over. Nobody got seriously hurt.
I don't see how we get life-threatening injuries in a fist fight without some sadistic stuff going on. I'm talking about continuing to hurt someone after you know they're unable to defend themselves. A crowd of our kids were watching this and didn't stop it. For all I know they were cheering them on.
It's also amazing to me that there could be widespread dissemination of a fight on social media and not one person who knew about it notified the authorities. Someone told me (rumor alert) that there were adults who knew about it and failed to report it.
More rumors: I've been told that these were all Durham kids involved, though the victim no longer attends Oyster River. I've been told this was jocks versus nerds. I've been told this was haves versus have-nots. I was told the beater was a well known drug dealer from a prominent merchant family. I was told he was allowed to return to school with no consequence.
Free Lunch at ORMS this Summer
Apparently there is such a thing as a free lunch. Starting Tuesday, any school age child who shows up at the ORMS cafeteria Monday through Thursday between 11:30 am and 1 pm will be given a free lunch. Somehow Doris Demers has made this free lunch thing happen. It would be really great if kids actually showed up to eat. My boy will be there most days.
I think they'll serve anyone, but us folks over 18 will have to pay.
The free lunch program runs from July 5 to August 11. Here's Todd Allen making the announcement: clip.
Start Time Workshop
The board held a workshop on the start time issue at the end of May. As far as I can tell from the minutes, they're screwing the whole thing up. But it's hard to tell, because the minutes discuss six or seven options without ever saying what the options are.
It looks like the board doesn't want to consider plans where high school ends after 3:00. That pushes the opening to 8:00, which is 30 minutes before the earliest recommended time. Plus it looks like they don't want to move the elementary schools earlier so (I think) they're exploring busing everybody at once. So as far as I can tell the vague plan right now is to make us pay for extra buses to get a start time that doesn't even meet the minimum recommended.
I think the right plan is Elementary 7:45 am to 2:25 pm, Middle School / High School 8:45 am to 3:45 pm.
Local Heinemann Fellows
The Heinemann Fellowship is a prestigious national award given every few years to around a dozen teachers whose work advances the teaching profession. In 2016, Oyster River's own Chris Hall, a fifth grade teacher at ORMS, was one of the recipients. Incredibly, so was Durham's Ian Fleischer, a fifth grade teacher at New Franklin School in Portsmouth. I'm fortunate to know both of them pretty well. If it's not coincidence enough that two of eleven national fellows were from Durham, Ian's son and my son both just finished fifth grade, where their teacher was Mr. Hall. Small world. Congratulations, Ian and Chris. (Report).
Multiage K-1 Approved
This fall Oyster River will offer full day Kindergarten for the first time. The board authorized the superintendent to hire an additional teacher. The plan is for the new teacher to teach K, and an existing teacher to teach a multiage classroom of Kindergarten and first graders together. This is because both schools together have filled six Kindergarten classes to our class size capacity (18). Any additional students will have to attend Mast Way in a seventh class. Usually we get a few more enrollees over the summer. Similarly, Mast Way's first grade classes are at or near capacity. The combined K-1 class solves both problems, and the board approved it with some trepidation.