Valley Times                 Guest Editorial 
 Reader Defends Position on New High School, 
                    Rebuts False Accusations
 by WALTER MAYHEW                 Saturday, June 2, 2001
     I want to begin by thanking Ms. Mendyk for the opportunity to respond to a recent Guest Editorial by Mr. Paul Kluk which was filled with inaccuracies, distortions and falsely attributed statements to me.  I would also encourage her and her publisher to discontinue the practice of elevating a letter to the editor to the status of a Guest Editorial.  To do so gives that letter special recognition in the eyes of the reader as if the opinions in it are endorsed by the paper.  Therefore, I urge them to discontinue the practice of elevating a letter to the editor to the status of Guest Editorial. 

     In that Guest Editorial, Mr. Kluk made the most ridiculous statement when he asked "Does Walter Mayhew speak for all clergy when he supports a new high school and zero improvements for the old classrooms that the remaining 1,200 students must continue to use?"  Since when did the building of a new high school became a matter of faith?  What does my position as the pastor of a local church have to do with my right as a citizen, resident and registered voter, in Derby to support or oppose any issue relevant to our city.  Does Mr. Kluk propose that people of faith be excluded from such discussions?  Sorry, Mr. Kluk, you cannot limit my rights to free speech because of my faith.  This is still America.  We do have the rights to freedom of religion and free speech, which are not mutually exclusive. 

     Since when is the advocacy of building a high school the same as advocating zero improvements for the remaining 1,200 students?  I've never advocated that and to say that I have is the type of misinformation, or outright lie, that has become all to prevalent in the discourse of issues in the community of Derby.  While this tactic may work to discourage the participation of some when it comes to community involvement, it will serve him no such purpose with me.  I would encourage others to not let it discourage them either.  Such tactics need to be exposed for what they are and rejected.  I believe Sir Edmund Burke hit the nail right on the head when he stated "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." 

     It is ludicrous to suggest that I would adovcate such a position in light of the fact that my wife and I are in the process of adopting two boys out of the foster care system mho are currently students  in that throng of 1,200 as they attend Bradley School.  In fact, by supporting the proposal to build a new high school on the Hine Farm site, I advocate exactly the opposite of the zero improvement, age discrimination position, which Mr. Kluk falsely attributed to me.  I suppose he is ignorant of the fact, repeated a multitude of times by the school building committee, that by building the new high school this would allow the sixth graders, to be moved to the existing high school which would be used as a middle school, thereby relieving the overcrowding which exists in both Irving and Bradley schools.  This in itself is an improvement in their educational environment.  It would allow for the restoration  of a computer lab at Bradley School which had to be converted into a standard classroom because of overcrowding. 

     There is overcrowding in our schools and one only need to be involved with them to know that.  Bradley has a computer lab taken for a regular classroom.  It may in the next school year lose the music room for use as a regular classroom.  Students at Irving where I mentor a couple of boys have had to use the stage for instructional use, the staff have offices in former locker rooms and shower stalls previously used for physical education.  The high school is so overcrowded that our two-time Class S wrestling team practices on the auditorium stage because there is inadequate space for the athletic programs.  Each level of education -- elementary, middle and high school -- are reaching levels of maximum class size and are projected to exceed available facility space. 

     To build a new high school would eliminate the overcrowding problem.  It would once again separate 12 year old middle school students and 18year old high school students by providing them their own campuses.  It would give our students heading out to  college or the marketplace a state-of-the-art environment to prpare them with computers in every classroom, an up-to-date media center and science labs and athletic facilities which meet the current C.I.A.C. standards for competition.  The state is paying approximately 70% of the cost so the City of Derby can provide such an excellent facility at a monthly cost which is equivalent to what a family would spend for a meal at MacDonald's.  The plan to build a new high school includes with it recreational fields which will help address the shortage of facilities in our youth recreation programs.  It will allow the Derby track team to actually host its own track meet, something which it hasn't,been able to do in over a decade.  The new gym which meets C.I.A. C. competitive standards will allow our Class S wrestling team to host State Class tournaments instead of having to travel to the far reaching ends of the state to defend or compete for the title.

     Derby does not exist in a vacuum.  We, are in competition with other Valley communities for those families looking to move into our region.  Every other community in our region has made or is making a significant commitment to making sure they have state-of-the-art educational facilities which demonstrate their commitment to quality education.  Such a commitment is among the most important issues for families in choosing a community.  In building a new high school to meet the needs. of our children, Derby can demonstrate its commitment to providing a quality education to its children and rightfully compete for those interested in moving into our region.  Reject the typical misinformation and lies associated with the opponents to this proposal.  Vote YES to build a new high school on the Hine Farm site.

(Walter Mayhew is pastor of the Christian Community Church, Derby, and is also a Derby resident.)
(The above editorial piece is not necessarily the view of the Valley Times.)