To Whom It May Concern,
My name is Jo Donohue. I am a graduate of the RMHS class of 2016 and I am supporting the override. One may wonder why a young person would care about the town politics, but the answer is clear.
As a student of Reading’s Public School System, I feel a desire to reflect on all that was given to me there. At Joshua Eaton and Parker Middle School, I had teachers that were gentle and caring. With their support, my love of reading grew and I had become invested in learning. I felt that my teachers supported me fully. Yet neither of these schools compare to all that was given to me at Reading Memorial High School.
While most kids were often lamenting during and after their high school experience, in reflection I could not be more grateful of the opportunity I had there. Certainly I was impacted by great educational and emotional struggle but I was given a space to grow from that. I had outstanding teachers who taught me the material but also taught me what was immaterial. The ability to be human is significant for the progress of a child. At such an instrumental time in my life I was happy to have such sensitive and wise educators teach and nurture me through the hardest times in my life.
Outside the classroom is where I learned the most at Reading Memorial High School. In the marching band I was critiqued seriously to my benefit. My various instructors put in countless hours just to ensure that I became a responsible person. If I had done something wrong, they would make sure I know it but in a way that forced me to grow up and challenge myself. Without challenge how does a child grow? Sure there were moments where I questioned myself or became deeply frustrated but right now I cannot be more thankful. This experience forced me to be independent and realise how much effort these adults put into my existence. They cared enough to put in more hours than most band students and did not quit when things became frustrating for them. I would give anything to continue to have their guidance but from it I have become able to grow without it.
In a secondary space where I grew immensely was the drama club. Here is where I found my passion and reality. Currently I want to pursue theater as a career but that may be the least important thing I gained from this space. It is hard to put into words how grateful I am for the adults of the drama club, but I am. They treated me like an adult and respected my desire for self motivation and rewarded me. As a more emotionally reserved person, the adults could see when I struggled or was angry and reached out for me. Sure they wanted their shows to look impeccable, which they always do, but they wanted their students to be safe and sound. This was not personal to just me, it was personal to the entire club. It would be hard to imagine other adults putting in that many hours for a limited pay but they do it because they care. I remember in winter of my sophomore year, one of them caught me crying, which I rarely am, and they spent an hour reinforcing what I had learned and how I was a capable human being. They did not see this as overtime and they made it clear that they did not see me as a nuisance. They care so much in a way someone outside of the program would not understand.
By voting NO on the Override, you are cutting this experience short. You are not allowing current and future generations to have the fruitful experience I had. The adults that changed my life would still continue to motivate inspire and nurture students but you would tear these arts programs apart. You would make high school into the faux hell that is depicted as on TV. The Override is required to keep status quo, without it these programs begin to fade away. In fact the potential loss of funds is already taking effect. A friend of mine has lost his favorite art teacher to another district because RMHS could no longer afford to keep her. Without the Override, cuts will continue to be made at the student’s expense.
Noting voting for the Override also tears apart the students who cannot handle such instability. Currently two programs that lack proper funding are therapeutic and learning disability support programs. RMHS does not have enough staff or resources for either of these programs. I have several friends who have gone in and out of these programs. Very often these students do not have the ability to face the school day without emotional guidance. Obviously they require more community and social support to end the stigma against depression and anxiety that are abundantly present in our community. Voting against the Override is voting against the growth of a necessary program that is not yet off the ground. If you are okay punishing children who depend on the emotional consistency of school to survive, then so be it. I understand that many are frustrated with the way the school and town spend money. They see this as “holding the school hostage” but if you are frustrated with the system, go out and change it. I attended school committee and town wide meetings as a high school student. My teachers even gave me opportunities to speak my mind at this meetings and see how the school system is working. This properly educated me on what was going on. So go out and stay informed. Living expenses are increasing and it is unfortunate but there are necessary evils. Taxes are a necessary evil to keep our society in a somewhat idyllic state.
I do not agree with everything that the Town does. I did not agree that everything my high school administration did, but I refuse to stay silent. I know that the faculty of Reading Memorial High School is there for the kids. Don’t punish the kids for a financial difference. Go out and make change in your community. Vote Yes October 18th for the future generations of Reading.