Johnstone School academy would harm vulnerable students
Johnstone Elementary School is set to become the Academy of Mathematics and Applied Sciences (AMSA) building for the 2018-2019 school year. On the surface, that sounds like a good idea. More space for district STEM scholars, a community of AMSA teachers who can communicate more effectively, and of course, the opportunity for older AMSA students to mentor younger ones. This is all well and good, but the cost of this proposition is enormous. I’m not talking about an economic cost, but a cost to some of our most vulnerable students and their teachers.
Johnstone Elementary is home to students in the district with behavioral disorders (BD) and emotional disorders. These students need stability, and removing them from the school they have been attending for years does not create a stable environment. I fill in for Johnstone in a few comic book classrooms, and these professionals can teach in any environment. However, why should we make an already difficult job harder? While AMSA parents, students and teachers were consulted at several meetings that took place at Johnstone, there was no information session for parents of students with developmental disabilities. behviour. Nobody consulted the comic book teachers on the effects that such a decision could have. This is problematic because it contradicts the mission statement of Vineland Public Schools: “Our goal is to provide a safe, creative, nurturing, and caring environment that fosters self-esteem, wholesome character, responsibility and respect for diversity. Johnstone is doing this for our comic students, and disrupting it would be reckless and unfair.
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I found it outrageous that AMSA students were characterized as having “unique needs” in a recent Daily Journal article while students with truly special needs are being forced out of their school. AMSA students are already advantaged because of their advanced curriculum and access to resources. I don’t see why they need their own school when the program has had no problems for the past five years. Why fix something that isn’t broken? AMSA has done great things for some of our district’s brightest students, but that doesn’t negate the fact that they don’t need their own school to succeed. Moving students with behavioral challenges to a new environment is an unnecessary burden placed on them and their teachers, and benefits a population of students who already have the upper hand.
The cost of sending students out of the district when their needs are not met is astronomical. When a student cannot succeed in one of our schools and chooses to leave the district to go somewhere like Pinelands, the Board of Education is stuck with the tab. Therefore, instead of moving our BD program, we should invest in it. We should hire more comic book teachers and invest in sensory rooms, but above all not disrupt the education of these students.
I am in no way against the AMSA program. I know he has accomplished great things and provided unique opportunities for Vineland students. I applaud headquarters for their work in this area, but I don’t think the success of this group should come at the expense of another. We should look for other ways to support AMSA that would not negatively affect a marginalized group as this proposal does. Johnstone does an excellent job of educating students with behavioral challenges, regular school students, and part of the district’s bilingual population. Is it so important that AMSA students are all under one roof, even if it jeopardizes the education of an often overlooked population? The logical answer is no.
Jeff Martine is a resident of Vineland.
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