Hats for Alexa

Alexa Boucher is a 9th grader at the High School who was recently diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma – a type of soft tissue cancer.

Alexa’s prognosis is good, and she will be receiving treatment for the next year.

Along with other efforts, the “Fight Like A Girl Team” is selling winter hats as a fundraiser to help with medical expenses, and SWRTA is assisting in the sale of these hats.

Not only will your purchase support the Boucher family and show Alexa how much the SWR community cares, you’ll be getting a warm winter hat that’s well made and very comfy.

If you’d like one (or more), please send $15 per hat (cash, or a check made out to “cash”) to Rob Verbeck at Wading River School. There is no firm deadline, but it will make it easier if we can get all orders in by Friday, February 3rd.

hat alexa

Not Just DeVos

Before we get into the update on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a couple of local items of interest.

Lessons in Falling
As reported in the Riverhead News Review, a forthcoming novel from SWR alumna Diana Gallagher was named by Barnes and Noble as one of the Top 10 Most-Anticipated Indie Young Adult books of 2017.

“Lessons in Falling,” scheduled for release on February 7th, is a story about “two best friends grappling with the aftermath of the one friend’s suicide attempt.” Ms. Gallagher is quoted as saying that she “remembers hearing reports of suicides or attempted suicides during all four of her high school years,” and that she hopes this book “will help break the stigma surrounding the subject.”

It is immeasurably heartbreaking that that this topic is still so relevant. But it is good to see efforts being made to deal with it, and resources (especially YA Fiction) that can help our students make sense of it are always welcome.

Tesla Museum
CBS reported that construction is about to begin on the Tesla Museum in Shoreham. This is great news for our community and for the memory of a nearly forgotten genius.  It’s expected that the welcome center will open by the end of this year and the full museum will open within three years.

A few local people are quoted in the article, including Jane Alcorn and Marc Alessi, but we’d like to highlight three SWRTA Retirees who have given lots of time and energy to the museum, including running their after school education programs: Deb Lohman, Carol Davis-Wiebelt, and Mary Schwartz. Thank you for your tireless efforts in keeping our students engaged and interested in science. (Special thanks to Carol in particular for teaching me that “Tesla > Edison”).

More DeVos?
If we’re gong to broach this topic again, let’s start with two positives.

The first is that while previous Education Secretary appointments have gotten some press attention, it has never been like this. Stories about John King, Arne Duncan, and their predecessors, were mostly limited to education journals or columns. But the DeVos train wreck has gone mainstream.

Trevor Noah did a segment on the Daily Show.  The New Yorker offered up the Betsy DeVos standardized Test. Cartoons and memes are all over the internet (see below). Even Newsday has come out against her.

Sadly, this probably won’t stop her from being confirmed. But it does help our cause in giving the general public a much clearer picture of how public education is under attack in this country, and may well help us grow support as it becomes ever more necessary.

The second encouraging element of this story is that the vote to confirm Ms. DeVos has been pushed back a week to January 31st. For their part, the GOP leadership is not giving any indication that this means that their support has wavered at all. In fact, rather than seeing her dismal performance as an indication of her lack of qualification for the job, Sen. Alexander blamed the Democrats for asking “gotcha” questions.

Still, while the odds of stopping DeVos are long, the delay allows a little more time to make the effort. If you haven’t gotten to read up on why DeVos would be a disaster for public education, please see my previous post or read this article from the Washington Post.  Then…

Call our Senators:

Contact the Senators on the Health, Education, and Labor Committee

If you don’t know what to say, this link has some sample scripts.

Stopping DeVos

As you surely have heard, hearings were held on Tuesday for Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.  By any reasonable standard she showed herself to be completely unprepared for the hearing and completely unqualified for the position.

How bad was it?  She wouldn’t/couldn’t answer questions, didn’t understand basic education concepts, wouldn’t commit to upholding basic values, and didn’t realize the IDEA is Federal law (and that’s not even mentioning the grizzly bears).

For a great summary, please see this article in Mother Jones  (with video clips).

In the world we live in, nobody who performed so poorly on an interview could have any hope that they’d actually get the position. Nonetheless, based on the comments of HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander and other Senate leaders, she will almost certainly be confirmed. Sadly, while this is an affront to anyone who values education, it should not be a surprise. As Shaun King of the Daily News wrote, “Donald Trump’s cabinet is the least educated in modern American history,” but all reports indicate that they will all sail though their confirmation hearings.

Time to throw our hands up? Certainly not. The odds of stopping DeVos’s appointment are slim, but it it’s not done until it’s done. And even though we already can feel confident that our Senators will oppose her, it’s still worthwhile to let them know how we feel – that we support them for supporting us.

And the bigger picture, of course, is that even when the odds are high against us, we still must speak out lest our silence be interpreted as acquiescence.

Please see the letter below from Carol Burris, Executive Director of NPE.


I am sure that you were as appalled as I was by yesterday’s HELP committee hearing on the appointment of Betsy DeVos.

– DeVos had no understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

–She would not promise to defend the rights of students with disabilities in all schools that receive federal funds.

–She refused to commit to keeping our schools free of guns, using “grizzly bear attacks” as the excuse.

–She refused to agree that voucher private schools, online schools and charter schools should have the same accountability to students as public schools.

–She had no idea of the differences between proficiency scores and growth scores.

–She refused to discuss the failings of the charter schools of Detroit.

She is woefully unprepared, and apparently made no attempt to familiarize herself with the obligations of a US Secretary of Education.

We are asking you to write your senators and ask them to commit to voting against her appointment. They should make that commitment known to members of the HELP committee today.

We make it simple. Click here and you will find a letter that you can send to your senators. Post the link to this message on your Facebook Page.


Thanks for all you do. We must stand up for the integrity of our schools and the welfare of our students.

Carol Burris

Executive Director

The Network for Public Education is a 501(c)(3). All donations are tax deductible. You can make a donation here.