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OPINION: Prove Me Wrong!

by Dave Hitchner, Bridgeton

I just can’t stay quiet any longer. Ah, there’s nothing more to promote the truth than “the power of the pen” (or word processor). With 46 years involved in education serving students, staff and communities as a teacher, principal, athletic director and superintendent, I feel I have a responsibility to respond to recent comments expressed through a variety of media outlets.

It’s obvious to me that a recipe for American life today does not bode well when the following ingredients are mixed—politics, finances, education, religion and, most of all, health. Putting all those issues in a blender produces a spattering of hardships and the continual deterioration of the family.

While today’s scene of life in Cumberland County thrives on social media, few quality services are evident. Definitive trust is a consistent link toward quality-of-life issues. A lack of manufacturing continues and what is present, declines and disappears. Major city governments will not plan major renovation projects but prefer to balance their budgets with state and federal grants; thus, continuing the status quo and keeping alive low-income housing and rentals. Why not investigate how Cape May transformed into a healthy visitor’s center? Any movement in that way could possibly improve the quality of life in surrounding center cities and result in removing drug-infested housing and availability.

Wouldn’t it be meaningful and appropriate for the U.S. Secretary of Education and NJ Commissioner of Education each be required to have actual classroom teaching experience prior to being placed politically in such figurehead levels of federal or state government? It’s obvious each one is surrounded by legal experts who advise. Most recently, the political appointments have little or no knowledge of educational practices or needs.

After researching the most recent information from scientific sources, medical and education guidelines for having children return to the classroom must be determined by trusted local personnel who know their community. Teachers, parents and students need to feel they are being provided with the best advice, supplies/equipment and support. That will only originate from those who understand and can effectively communicate what actions and procedures are required to best return to school classrooms. Politicians are not scientifically versed in thoroughly understanding the effects and spread of COVID-19 that have devastated families and what can be done to return to a near-normal school environment, with common sense changes. Until these factors can be achieved, distance learning should remain the norm.

There are experts and there are “the other experts.” Conflicting reasoning abounds. The media’s use of attractive adjectives only fuels fires or exhilarates eye-catching headlines. I’ve lost count of the unscrupulous lies that have been told to media outlets, especially regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, economy, racial unrest and conflicts as well as many other topics. It’s much like any restaurant’s “Special of the Day.”

But I do have a solid and unwavering opinion regarding the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. Until there becomes available a proven antidote or vaccination to counter the coronavirus, I would NEVER allow any school of which I was responsible to re-open for students, staff and community. There have been numerous questions and no concrete answers or solutions provided by government. There have been suggestions but no solid universal plan for combating this virus. Those in authority at the state and national levels have little concrete knowledge or experiences (but plenty of opinions) about children (how to raise or educate them), or with understanding the health, wellbeing and safety of those charged with the responsibility to do so. Prove me wrong!