Some of those who voted “no” have long-believed that the OHSD’s problems cannot be solved with more money. To demonstrate that point, we’ve received a series of letters containing first hand experiences within the Oak Harbor School District, along with permission to publish these letters here at Island Politics.
The Stoneham family provided six letters. This family’s experience within the OHSD was so bad, the parents eventually fled OHSD. They enrolled all five of their children in the Anacortes School District and drove them there themselves from Oak Harbor.
- Thomas Stoneham, Sr. is a retired Navy veteran with 24 years of service and is now a local pastor in Oak Harbor. He tells of teachers “putting up an image of teaching but not teaching”, of several teachers directing his two sons to “sit in the back of their classes doing nothing” and their complaints about this being “swept under the rug”. He contrasts the Anacortes and Oak Harbor school districts as different as “night and day”.
Thomas Stoneham, Sr.’s letter
- Jacquelyn Stoneham reports observing a “multiple number of school teachers and educators who…intimidated, underestimated, and belittled students in the classroom” in the OHSD, and she delineates that her own children were made to pick up trash and sort it “for most of the day” as sixth-graders. While numerous Oak Harbor educators had told her that her two boys “would never eclipse a 2nd grade reading writing and math level”, they both managed to graduate high school in Anacortes with a GPA above 3.0.
Jacquelyn Stoneham’s letter
- Timothy Stoneham is one of two twin brothers, both of whom have Autism. He documents that in Oak Harbor, almost daily, teachers simply did not pay any attention either to either him or to his brother. However, in Anacortes, teachers had a “passion for students” and his classmates were “more polite and understanding”.
Timothy Stoneham’s letter
- Anthony Stoneham, the other twin brother, tells a tale quite similar to that of his brother. He says he “did not get that much attention” in Oak Harbor, that the teachers lacked patience there, but that in Anacortes the teachers “would not only help me out but made sure that I knew what I was doing”.
Anthony Stoneham’s letter
- Christopher Stoneham, relates that when he was in the OHSD he was “never pushed in classes that I excelled in” and “was left behind” in classes in which he struggled. He says “very few (if any) teachers in Oak Harbor would go out of their way to provide extra attention”. He contrasts Anacortes as being made up of “determined teachers” and he credits his placement there as having “drastically effected the outcome of my life in a positive manner”.
Christopher Stoneham’s letter
- Thomas Stoneham, Jr. contrasts assigned projects at Oak Harbor High School – which were intended to be challenging – as being no more complex than “arts and crafts”, while assigned academic projects at Anacortes High School were “interactive and intellectually engaging”. He documents an entire year being mostly wasted in a General Science class at Oak Harbor High School due to a permanent substitute who spent most of each class period “reading a magazine while the students socialized over a few questions he would assign”.
Thomas Stoneham, Jr.’s letter
Sharon Purcell has had experience with two granddaughters in the OHSD. With one granddaughter, she documents a general lack of textbooks in OHSD classrooms. Instead “reams of pages from the books” were copied for students, and when copy paper ran out, the students were made to “copy the books from an overheard projector”. When queried about this issue of textbooks, OHSD school board directors defended the practice and told her that students “could get what they need by going on line or to the library”. One day, Sharon’s husband went to pick up their other granddaughter at an OHSD school, and he observed her “sitting on the floor sorting trash” (as she had been directed to do). Sharon sought refuge in Anacortes School District, but was told that “Anacortes could not absorb any more of Oak Harbor’s special education students”. She nonetheless dis-enrolled her student from the OHSD.
Sharon Purcell’s letter
Duane and Christine Smith document OHSD’s class-disruptive system of “extra help” for elementary students to help them read better as one which caused their daughter to feel like she was being punished, as it it caused her to miss class time in science and other core subjects. They report an over-emphasis on fast-reading in the OHSD that caused their daughter to fail evaluations in reading, based solely on her lack of speed-reading. In middle school, OHSD’s policy of not allowing their daughter to challenge herself by checking out a school library book above her “assigned” reading level robbed their daughter of a love of learning. When their daughter asks for help from he OHSD teachers, their daughter is often rebuffed with responses such as “I have already explained it”, “read your instructions”, “I am the substitute”, or the teacher simply ignores her. When their daughter stays after school for a one-hour availability period with her teacher or extra help (the one-hour claim having been made by teacher), the teacher often departs after only 15 minutes.
Duane and Christine Smith’s letter
Jamie Whiton documents an OHSD Title 1 reading program which not only routinely removed her daughter from her regular core classes, but which consisted of nothing more than “reading the same paragraph for an entire week during the special class time as well as at home to see how fast they can get through the paragraph”. The net result: her daughter memorized one paragraph each week, an exercise which was supposed to enable her to “catch up to her peers” who were being assigned more reading than this and who were not being pulled out of their core classes to do so. After a surgery which temporarily caused her daughter to be wheelchair-bound, Jamie received their doctor’s “okay” to return her daughter to OHSD classes, but to do so she was forced to provision at the school a family friend “to push my daughter in the wheelchair, help her with her lunch as well as sitting with her during lunch so she would not be in a classroom by herself”. During this time, a school district employee told her daughter that her “parents were not doctors” and that they “did not know what was good” for her. The net result: her daughter cried and begged not to be made to return to school. All attempts to communicate with the school district about this child-upsetting incident were rebuffed by the OHSD. At a later point in time, when her daughter broke a foot and the doctor ordered a scooter to enable mobility at school, the school district nurse attempted to go around parent Jamie to have the doctor’s orders changed. Jamie feels her daughter has been “blackballed in this district because I am a parent that questions what they do and I do not let them get away” with things.
Jamie Whiton’s letter