Featured Letter: Students show ‘passion, conviction and righteousness’

To the editor:

I cannot be more proud of the fine young men and women who so eloquently spoke up at the Feb. 10 Riverhead school board meeting regarding the district’s unfortunate cost-saving decision to reduce the high school academic day from nine periods to eight. The purported rationale for the change — too many students taking too many study halls — was extremely weak. 

While the administration and the board pay lip service to the vital importance of elective programs such as NJROTC, art or music, their actions speak otherwise. They stealthily made this critical decision knowing that it would be highly unpopular, severely limit student choice and ultimately cause these wonderful programs to wither on the vine. Perhaps these electives simply do not fit the business model of the Common Core, but I fail to understand any rationale that would deny some of the best and the brightest Riverhead students, or any student, the choices necessary to fulfill their educational aspirations, provide service to community and country or pursue their artistic passions to the cultural enlightenment of us all.

One NJROTC senior mentioned his 500 hours of community service; another her passion for music, only to have to painfully give it up to fulfill some other requirement. Yet another expressed her simple desire for a lunch after a grueling, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. day.

My son Nicholas is a proud Class of 2014 graduate who was very active in NJROTC and able to steer the numerous opportunities afforded by his nine-period day into a coveted Congressional appointment to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. I can only hope my sophomore daughter will be as fortunate as she struggles with the limited choices now imposed by the district’s eight-period day.

The students in attendance that night burned brightly with courageous passion, conviction and righteousness. Tomorrow that flame will flicker in the headwinds generated by the district’s penny-wise and pound foolish decision. To this I say, do not under any circumstance extinguish this flame. The Riverhead community did not approve the bond issue for you build a temple of mediocrity, a sentiment that I would surmise is shared even by those who opposed the bond.

John Deschamps, Riverhead