Letter: Social workers needed


Editor of the Reformer:

I was elated to read that the Brattleboro School Board will be adding the full-time position of a school social worker to the budget in March.

As a recently retired school social worker, I cannot emphasize too much the statement made by Jody Mattulke, the social worker at the Academy School, that the goal of a school social worker is "to enhance students' academic, social and emotional successes." This is accomplished by identifying and helping school families access community resources tailored to individual family needs, thereby helping students to learn. For a hungry child, a homeless child, a child experiencing discrimination, even for a child needing a coat, as Mattulke stated, constructive, pertinent help enables that child to be available for learning. The principal of the Academy School, Andy Pacuilli, stated in the article that "without a social worker, a lot of kids would be falling through the cracks." Superintendent Ron Staley called this position "a godsend to our families."

Brattleboro is lucky to have a School Board that sees so clearly and constructively a way to assist all their students to survive and excel in a troubled world.

Lindall Boal,

Brookline, March 3

The principles of Sen. Jeffords

Editor of the Reformer:

While Senator Jim Jeffords was struggling with the decision to leave the Republican party David Frum, a speech writer for President George W. Bush, was likely crafting some of the very messages that drove our Senator to this decision. In his announcement on May 24, 2001, Senator Jeffords said that he "became a Republican not because I was born into the party, but because of the kind of fundamental principles that ... many Republicans stood for: moderation, tolerance, fiscal responsibility." He went on to say that "In the past ... the various wings of the Republican Party in Congress have had some freedom to argue and influence and ultimately to shape the party's agenda. The election of President Bush changed that dramatically." He saw ahead "more and more instances where I'll disagree with the president on very fundamental issues." He made an honorable choice to "best represent my state of Vermont, my own conscience and principles I have stood for my whole life" by leaving the Republican party.

Sixteen years later David Frum, still a Republican, describes the spread of "repressive kleptocracy" in other nations and sounds the alarm that it is happening here. (The Atlantic, March 2017). "By all early indications, the Trump presidency will corrode public integrity and the rule of law — and also do untold damage to American global leadership, the Western alliance, and democratic norms around the world. The damage has already begun, and it will not be soon or easily undone."

What I find most interesting, and what reminded me of Senator Jeffords, are these lines: "The duty to resist should weigh most heavily upon those of us who — because of ideology or partisan affiliation or some other reason — are most predisposed to favor President Trump and his agenda. The years ahead will be years of temptation as well as danger: temptation to seize a rare political opportunity to cram through an agenda that the American majority would normally reject." In short, he is challenging members of the Republican Party to choose between passing an agenda or preserving our democracy since it can't have both.

This will be hard for Republicans in Congress and elsewhere. They will have to go against their party's positions. They will risk punishment from the president and what Frum describes as "a troll army explicitly modeled on those used by Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdo an and Russia's Putin to take control of the social-media space, intimidating some critics and overwhelming others through a blizzard of doubt-casting and misinformation." Sticking to the principles of "the party of Lincoln" might never be harder, or more important.

And we have a part to play, as Frum points out. "The way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them." Senator Jeffords did this. May we all, regardless of party, positions, and short term goals, insist on the practice and preservation of our democratic principles in the days to come. If we fail, we only need to look to Hungary, Honduras, Turkey, South Africa, the Philippines or so many other countries for examples of our future in a decaying democracy.

Tom Franks,

Brattleboro, March 3


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