Letters to the editor, May 23, 2002

This is an outrage!
To the editor:
   Undoubtedly many people will write either for or against the decision for football at Hopewell Valley Central High School.
   What needs to be addressed, in my opinion, is the buying of our school board. We the people voted and turned this down. There should be no way that any minority group of people can come forward and pay to overturn the will of the people.
   Everyone should be appalled at this blatant disregard of our system. This is an outrage.
Joe and Cookie Sabin, Hopewell
Social studies improvements
To the editor:
Congratulations to Hopewell Valley’s K-12 Social Studies Review Team for a job well done. This week marks the culmination of a two-year effort by the team to make our strong social studies program even better. The school board supports the committee recommendations and the improvements will be implemented over the next year. At the elementary schools, improvements include a more appropriate course sequence, new textbooks, and better consistency between schools. New textbooks along with better alignment to the high school curriculum are being implemented at Timberlane Middle School.
   The most significant change will happen at Central High School. A ninth grade course requirement will be initiated. A revised sequence of social studies course work will commence in grades nine and 10 while the popular and effective 12th grade global studies course is preserved. The new sequence increases elective possibilities and creates new honors level courses to enhance academic opportunities. The clarified direction provided by the committee facilitates replacement of outdated textbooks with new textbooks and materials.
   Thank you to the committee members for their diligence during what was surely a difficult task. Special thanks to Dr. Carol Roche, Jack Wolff, Susan Weinman, and Tom Ponting for their leadership. I believe the students of Hopewell Valley will be well served by their efforts for many years to come.
Steve Wood, HVRSD school board, Hopewell
Opposes football decision
To the editor:
On May 16 I attended the school board meeting where the board has decided to further pursue the steps to make football a reality in the next school year. I strongly object to this decision.
   The board has been unable to fully support the sports that are currently being offered at our high school and middle school. We are all painfully aware of the field problems that face our soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, baseball, and softball teams, because community support could not be mustered to build the necessary fields. The swim teams were mentioned during the meeting for their high per student costs, but no one mentioned that this is because we have to rent pool time, and that we are one of the few schools in Mercer County that does not have its own pool. Wrestling, the poor step-child sport, practices in the cafeteria, because their wrestling room has been turned into a health center, and the basketball teams are practicing in the only gym. Spectators at track meets, and all other sporting events, better bring a chair, because the board has never been able to find money in the budget for an adequate number of bleachers .
   Sally Turner spoke at the beginning of the meeting about the shortage of microphones in the board room, due to budget constraints. One student, and one teacher spoke eloquently about the shortage of academic materials at the high school.
   A parents’ organization feels they have solved the football problem by pledging to pay for the initial start up costs, and then continuing to support the program on a declining basis over the next four years. Where will the money come from as they pull out? Is the board aware of some influx of funds that will make football more affordable in four years? Will the programs that have the biggest booster clubs be the ones that survive future budget cuts? Several years ago when Hamilton Township schools were faced with budget constraints they eliminated all middle school sports rather then dismantle their expensive football programs. This decision left hundreds of young people wandering their neighborhoods, with no constructive after- school activities. In four years could this happen in Hopewell Valley?
   Finally, how does the board plan to repair the damage that has been done to their credibility with the voters. No matter what the board lawyer tells us, it appears to many, that the "no" mandate on the football referendum has been ignored. I have spent countless hours in my tenure as a parent making phone calls, hosting coffees, and stuffing mail boxes, to get out the "yes" vote for every budget and every referendum with the exception of the football referendum over the last 14 years. I cannot imagine how difficult it will be to pass any budget in the years ahead when even your most loyal supporters feel that you are putting the interests of a few ahead of the needs of an entire community.
Debra A. Burd, Titusville
Thanks, Merrill Lynch
To the editor:
F.I.S.H. of Hopewell Valley has been serving this area for 30 years, delivering meals-on-wheels and transporting people to medical appointments.
   Last year, over 100 volunteers delivered almost 4,000 meals, prepared by the Pennington Market, to convalescent and homebound persons in Hopewell Borough and township, Pennington, Titusville, Washington’s Crossing and Brandon Farms. In addition, 400 people were transported to medical appointments.
   To honor the ongoing service of this group of dedicated people, Merrill Lynch hosted a luncheon on May 16 at its Hopewell Township campus, which was attended by 110 past and present volunteers. We would like to thank Merrill Lynch for so honoring F.I.S.H. on our 30th anniversary.
Betsy Barlow and Connie Dixon, volunteer chairwomen of F.I.S.H.
HIKE can take hike
To the editor:
   Last year, Hopewell Valley voters overwhelmingly defeated a referendum to fund football and several other sports programs. Although I had cast my vote against the proposal, I was not among those whose opposition was apparently more steadfast than mine and who attended the Thursday night school board meeting. Based on what I recollect about the referendum, and what I have heard and been told about the meeting, I offer the following thoughts:
   According to the information shown on the Hopewell Valley Regional School District’s Web site, specifically the District Election History, Valley voters didn’t just vote "no" against the football program; they voted "no" by the biggest margin in Hopewell Valley’s history. Now, one would think that a vote total of that magnitude would have to count for something in gauging the community’s response to the idea, but no; the proponents, namely HIKE (a little football lingo there, referring to the snap of the ball from the center to the quarterback), or "Hopewell Involved in Kids’ Enrichment," didn’t take no for an answer. They were obviously resolved to get their way, regardless of the referendum, and came up with an idea that a sympathetic school board could approve under fire.
   The good folks at HIKE would fully fund the program for the first two years. After that, the board would evaluate the program and decide if it should continue. If the program goes forward, HIKE would partially fund it (along with the property taxpayers) for another three years before the board (read "property taxpayers") begins to pick up the full tab. I suppose that tab will include not one but several coaches, new locker room facilities, uniforms and other associated equipment, transportation, insurance, medical treatment, weight room, trainer, perhaps even a new stadium, etc.
   But, like board member Carl Swanson said, and implied, "we stand alone as a district whose youngsters want to play football and are denied that chance" by those miserable tightwads who voted "no," and are thus against "the children." (Ever notice that once a government program is proposed, and can in any way be tied to "the children," it almost always passes? After all, who could possibly be opposed to doing anything for "our kids"?)
   I would like to point out one example of sheer arrogance and utter hypocrisy which I understand occurred at last Thursday’s meeting: A township resident, who was apparently outraged with the board’s position, asked the question, "What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?" The astounding response by Sally Turner, board president, allegedly was, "This is a democracy. If you don’t like what we’re doing, you should not elect us". Well, duh! In case Ms. Turner and the other supportive board members didn’t notice it, you don’t get much more of how a democracy operates than when free people exercise their right to vote; and that they did last year in turning thumbs down on football. I certainly do hope that Ms. Turner’s suggestion is taken literally by the Valley voters when the next few school board elections are held. We need to throw the rascals out!
   In closing, let me respond to Ari Gabinet’s request, in the Thursday, May 9, edition of the Hopewell Valley News, that all residents who care about the issue "search honestly for the true source of their feelings, and to share them in the spirit of honest debate." First, as I have stated earlier, your description of those who should be able to prevent the creation of a program as a "vocal minority" doesn’t seem to square with the size of the negative vote in last year’s referendum. Second, I, as a taxpayer, am pretty darn sick and tired of having to pay more taxes each year for somebody else’s children. I have lived, and paid taxes, in Hopewell Township for 28 years. My daughter spent exactly three years in the Hopewell Valley Central High School. My son spent six years here in the public school system. Because he was determined to play ice hockey and lacrosse, which Hopewell Valley did not have at the time (1981), I pulled him out of the high school at the end of his sophomore year and sent him to The Peddie School in Hightstown.
   Perhaps you can see now that I took care of my own children, and that I am disinclined to take financial care of someone else’s. It is more than apparent to me that people want to move to a town with a good school system. After moving in, with three, four, or more children, many of those people expect the best—and expect someone else to pay for it. I, for one, do not wish to be skinned even more by being forced to pay for an unnecessary football program. As far as I am concerned, HIKE can take a hike!
Craig T. Bell, Hopewell Township
Lacrosse tourney a success
To the editor:
Recently, the Hopewell Valley Lacrosse League again hosted New Jersey’s premiere youth boys lacrosse tournament at Princeton University. The tournament was another complete success thanks to the extraordinary efforts of tournament directors Dennis Devlin and George Lane and tournament founder Greg Rashdorf.
   With 48 teams from six states, including upstate New York, eastern Maryland, Long Island and Connecticut, the spacious lacrosse facilities at Princeton University, and lots of sunshine, the 2002 Hopewell Valley Invitational Lacrosse Tournament has become one of the best lacrosse events of the lacrosse season.
   The fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade Hopewell Valley boys teams all competed in a very successful two-day tournament effort. Team tents and tailgate festivities surrounded the playing fields and nearly 1,000 players competed in this super event. When it was all over the Hopewell Valley lacrosse teams achieved numerous outstanding performances against some of the better teams in the region.
   Thanks again to Dennis and George for their great organization, patience and hard work!
Hopewell Valley lacrosse coaches, parents and players
Crazy to turn it down
To the editor:
The school board of HVRSD has been given a very generous financial gift from a group of local citizens. This donation comes to our school district by way of an organization called HIKE, Hopewell Involved in Kids Enrichment.
   Essentially this grant will allow the administration and the school board to study the feasibility of a football program in our school district. It is an amazing opportunity because this will be a two-year fully funded study that will be of no cost to the taxpayer.
   There are no special stipulations attached to the grant and the administration can set up and run this program in accordance with the policies and high standards of our school district. There are no strings attached to this grant. After the first season and again after the second season a comprehensive study will be performed. This study will include among other things; the number of students in the program, the effect on participation in other sports offered at the school and the effect on the overall school atmosphere. If any of the findings in these reports are negative, the program will not continue. Further, there are two additional years of guaranteed partial funding that have been included in this grant. The third year will be funded at 75 percent and the fourth year will be funded at 50 percent. This would allow the Administration to study the football program for at least another year with minimal financial impact.
   The school board and the administration have been studying the possibility of bringing a football program to our school district for over two years now. We have read through hundreds of pages of facts, figures, and surveys, as well as reviewing data on football programs in other similar districts. We have followed the progress and success of the two-year-old football program in Montgomery Township. Every question we have asked has been researched and answered to our satisfaction. The only prominent issues that remain are funding and the community’s concern over a potential change in the social climate in the high school.
   The grant from HIKE will provide an opportunity to study football and its impact on this school district with no cost to the citizens of the Hopewell Valley. If it does not meet the high standards that are set for all of our athletic programs, the football program will not continue. As two of the board members from Montgomery said after hearing about the grant from HIKE, "You would have to be completely crazy to turn down an opportunity like that."
Kim Newport, Edward Gainsborg, Valley school board
HoVal does provide textbooks, materials
To the editor:
In their attempts to dissuade the district from offering football, some people have asserted that the district is currently not providing our students with the textbooks and materials they need. This is not true.
   Our first priority in building any budget is instruction. In the New Jersey Department of Education Comparative Spending Guide for the 2001-2002 school year, we are among the top spending districts in terms of general supplies and textbooks, averaging $235 per pupil. We spend more per pupil in this category than districts such as Montgomery, West Windsor-Plainsboro, and South Brunswick.
   Our major annual purchases of textbooks and materials are directly related to the instructional program reviews conducted that year. Each year in accordance with the State of New Jersey’s mandate we select several subject areas to review. As part of these program reviews, the committees recommend new textbooks and materials, as appropriate. For example, this year the mathematics program was reviewed; consequently, next year, there will be new textbooks and materials in this area in the schools. We also have been reviewing social studies; so next year there will be new social studies texts at the elementary and middle levels. The high school texts will be purchased the following year based on the new recommended scope and sequence of courses in this area. The fact that no new texts were purchased for the government course relates to the extended review that occurred in this area and the fact that the material in this course will soon be incorporated into an newly designed U.S. history course.
   As to the contention that the high school is still using outdated maps, this is surprising, since new maps were purchased for the high school this past September.
   Along with the major purchases relating to the subjects that were reviewed, other new materials are purchased annually at the request of the supervisor or administrator. Does every request made by a teacher for new materials get honored each year? No, as in planning any budget, priorities are set and sometimes requests are delayed.
   Our goal is always clear when we are planning our budgets: to provide our students with the essential materials they need for a high quality education. Will football change that goal? Absolutely not!
Dr. Carol Roche, assistant superintendent, Hopewell Valley schools
A very generous proposal
To the editor:
Hopewell Valley Students have been offered a generous gift, and it is one we should not refuse on their behalf.
   The gift comes in the form of a grant from HIKE (Hopewell Involved in Kids Enrichment). This non-profit community group has offered to fund the development of a high school football team fully for two years, and then in conjunction with the school district for two more. In light of this generous gift, your Board of Education asks: Why is it that some folks feel that certain sports or cocurricular activities are more "appropriate" for students than football. Are kids who wish to participate in a football program of less value than those who participate in the myriad of other extra-curricular programs offered by this district? To this we had to say "no."
   Therefore, the Board has decided that the district should begin, and begin now, to build a high school football program that mirrors the excellence and fullness that define our schools existing academic and extracurricular roster.
   A football program will reach students not currently being reached. Not into cross country or soccer? If you are a high school boy in our district, you are flat out of luck when it comes to fall athletics. Studies have shown the positive relationship between participation in sports and academic performance. Football helps improve self-discipline, academic performance, teamwork, and for many, it is an opportunity to build self-confidence and self-worth. All of these traits are important objectives of good education and conform naturally with our Strategic Plan.
   Too often, community members will say no to something, no matter how much a school could benefit, because, well, its been done a certain way for eons, and besides, they don’t think they can afford it. This gift gives us a chance to overcome inertia and possibly change for the better. The very idea of a hometown football team has the potential for a reinvigorated public embrace of our high school. In addition to players, there are numerous opportunities for both boys and girls in programs such as marching band, color guard, cheerleading, TV production, etc.
   It is also important to recognize an important dynamic. A caring group of private citizens has come forward with a remarkably generous proposal. Because private sources have offered funds to begin the program, the school district can, at no cost to the taxpayers, introduce a trial football program into the Valley. The trial period will be carefully monitored to ensure that this will be good educationally and also fiscally responsible, imposing no unfair burden on our taxpayers. Research clearly indicates that school systems with the most engaged and innovative private sector relationships are the better performing ones. As our school system moves into the 21st century, we need to be encouraging, not hindering, public-private partnerships that enhance the breadth of opportunities we offer our students.
Carl Swanson, Lisa Marin Main, Valley school board
An abuse of power
To the editor:
The school board has once again shown us how arrogant people can become when elected to a position of quasi-power. Their decision to continue with football, despite the largest vote ever in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District against adding new sports to an already well- rounded sports program, defies a representative democracy.
   In a representative democracy (the United Stated of America) an elected official must listen to and represent the constituency. In this case the voters were overwhelmingly against a new sport. Yet, our elite board members always seem to think that they know better. So do all dictators throughout history.
   I suggest that all citizens of Hopewell Valley take note of what is happening. Whether you voted "yes," "no" or didn’t vote at all, you should be outraged at this abuse of power. And it is an abuse of power. What comes next?
   Remember that this a democracy and you don’t have to re-elect the present members. Remember that all of you will have to explain to your children and grandchildren how this is happening. Do you have an explanation?
   I also suggest that all members of the school board go back to history 101 and review how a representative democracy is supposed to work. This is why you were elected, to represent the majority of the citizens of the district.
Karen Facompre, Hopewell Township
How to help EMS personnel
To the editor:
Help is a heartbeat away. There have been many great strides in EMS services in the last 25 years, including better training, technology, and public education.
   Here are some things you can do to help EMS personnel in a time of emergency: When calling 9-1-1, it is important to give clear and accurate directions to the dispatcher. Stay on the phone until the dispatcher has all of the information or until the police or EMS arrive at the scene. Have your house number visible so it can be easily read from the street, and make sure your walkways are shoveled and cleared of ice during the winter. Doorways, hallways, and tight openings should be clear of furniture and rugs, be well lit, and in good working order. It’s a good idea to secure pets in a different room to prevent harm to EMS personnel or to yourself. Keep a Vial of Life in your refrigerator, a piece of paper that contains your medical history and treatment preferences. If you are a DNR individual, make sure to have properly displayed DNR bracelets.
   Remember, all of these things save time, and time saves lives.
Ian S Malik, president, Hopewell Valley Uniformed Firefighters Association