Letter: Barrington teacher deserves better treatment

Posted 9/20/22

To the editor:

I am writing in response to the lengthy letter written by Craig and Pam Van Ness that was published last week in the Barrington Times.

Full disclosure. I am a former member of …

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Letter: Barrington teacher deserves better treatment

Posted

To the editor:

I am writing in response to the lengthy letter written by Craig and Pam Van Ness that was published last week in the Barrington Times.

Full disclosure. I am a former member of the English Department at Barrington High School, having retired in 2006 after a 35 year career. After reading your evisceration of my former colleague and lifetime friend Kevin Blanchard in the Times last week, I followed the advice of my late Principal John Gray and postponed composing my response for 24 hours. He had reminded me that once my words were in print, they become part of a permanent record, very much like your screed. 

So instead of immediately sitting down at my computer to compose this letter, I did some math, never my strongest subject. On average a high school teacher will have five classes of 25 students in each per academic year. As Kevin approaches 30 years in the employ of the Barrington Public Schools, that amounts to over 4,000 real and/or virtual students that he has instructed, guided, counseled, motivated, etc. in his career without prompting a single Letter to the Editor like your diatribe. In the six months it took you to compose said letter, did you reach out to just one of these students, past or present, to learn how out of character his choice of the words that you cite in his email to your son are? You made certain to share the email with numerous friends and family and related their shock and disgust. However did you consider contacting other faculty members to gauge their reactions as well, perhaps your son’s volleyball coach. He has taught with Mr. Blanchard for almost their entire careers and could also have provided context regarding the character of his colleague.

Sensitive to redundancy as an English teacher, I am aware that I repeated the word character in my previous paragraph, but I felt it necessary because your letter amounts to the character assassination of one of the finest educators I have had the privilege to work with, whether at the University of Dayton, Providence College and, of course, Barrington High School. The fact that you never refer to him as Kevin suggests that you don’t know the man personally. I would like to introduce you to the teacher you have chosen to publicly malign. You need to be made aware that Mr. Blanchard has attained a Doctorate in Education from Northeastern University while teaching full time at Barrington High. He spearheaded the Senior Project graduation requirement that became a model for other high schools in Rhode Island. Kevin resurrected a moribund student newspaper, The Talon, and introduced its online publication. As a National Board Certified Teacher for 20 years, Dr. Blanchard has chaired numerous committees consisting of parents, teachers and administrators that have focused on educational reform. In this incredibly challenging time for our students and teachers caused by the pandemic, Kevin Blanchard has been an effective department chair encouraging and supporting an amazing team of English teachers. However, in your mind, the regretful wording of an email trumps these professional accomplishments and his standing in the community.

This letter may seem like an attempt to “kill the messenger.” I can assure you that I am only using a figurative expression here, one that dates back to Greek literature, but I am sure you will refer to your Cambridge Dictionary for a definition. While you have the dictionary open, look up the word “vendetta” as well. 

In closing, your letter prompted me to reread one of Shakespeare’s plays, The Merchant of Venice. You should do the same.

Ralph A. Caruso, Jr. 

Barrington

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.