It's been one year since I wrote my first submission to this blog regarding my time on the Torrington Board of Education. Much has happened since I was sworn in this time last year, and it has been an exciting journey for me thus far. As of late, the School Improvement Committee has furthered its discussion regarding implementing a school learning community within our high school. A recent survey of current students showed significant interest in the medical field. The administration has begun to whittle down costs to a more exact figure for implementing a yearlong certified nursing assistant program. The latest numbers to come in show an estimate of approximately $1700 per pupil. This number is partially derived from taking the initial high cost of purchasing durable goods the first year and dividing it over an 8 year span. To me, this is money well spent. My wife became a CNA directly out of high school and was able to secure employment with a decent wage and benefits immediately. While working, she continued her education to become a registered nurse and is now pursuing a Master's Degree as an APRN. Her CNA certificate was the doorway to a rewarding career as a nurse. If our district can provide that same doorway for our students, then I feel that we would be heading in the right direction.
This past week, we heard from many instructors in the online learning program at the high school. It's heartening to see how passionate and dedicated these educators are. We also heard a personal story from an articulate honors student who was incredibly grateful for the opportunity the online program provides. She explained that a medical issue caused her to miss a portion of her ninth grade year. Without credit recovery through the online learning program, she stated that she would not have been able to graduate with her class. She shared her report card with all those in attendance, and we were able to see the remarkable grades this student received both online and in the classroom. She explained that the online program challenges her just as much as the traditional setting. As a current student at the University of Hartford taking online courses, I agree with her 100%. Yes, the setting, discipline, and structure are different, but it does not mean a diminished value by any means. I am a strong advocate for online learning, but it's important to note that online learning is not for every student. If that were the case, we could just simply sit every pupil in front of a computer screen all day. Rather, for some, it is an alternative; or better yet, a welcomed addition to the traditional setting. Without embracing this new approach, our district could be left behind as more and more high schools and colleges are adopting this standard.
--Vincent Merola, Board of Ed
Moving Torrington Forward