Losing instructor would be ‘tremendous loss’

To the editor,

RSU 21 community, the 2020-21 plan is to remove Linda Ruskoski and her Kennebunk High School reading-instruction, part-time position and allocate those funds to provide another part-time counselor at KHS.

This is a tremendous loss for our district. Our family has experienced Mrs R.’s reading instruction with both of our children. With our son, only after hiring an advocate in 2015. Mrs. R was able to help him improve his reading from a fifth-grade level (sophomore year) to beyond grade level that same year.

Because of this, we hired Mrs R to tutor our daughter near the end of fifth grade, because she was ending the year with a third-grade reading level and finally getting an IEP, after six years of us asking about her reading struggles and being assured she didn’t have any. She gained leaps and bounds during her time with Mrs R. These last three years, she has been just waiting to have Mrs R as her case manager and reading specialist when she enters KHS as a freshmen fall 2020. Because of her own experience with Mrs R, she has been comforted knowing she will get the reading instruction she needs very soon. Our district doesn’t offer this type of specialized instruction in any other program. So, our daughter has been biding her time, waiting to get to the high school to get the specialized help she needs.

Mrs R cares very deeply about each of her students, as a whole, not just their reading struggles. She strives to find the most effective way to work and connect with each of them. She eases their anxiety and makes it possible for them to learn in a calm environment, where they become invested in their own education.

Per the website, All About Adolescent Literacy, struggling readers shouldn’t be lumped together in a single, catch-all remedial class. You need to figure out exactly what kinds of support students need and treat them as individuals. When planning special reading assistance, be flexible, and don’t assemble these elements into a one-size-fits-all reading intervention.

I leave you with this: I asked my class of 2018 son, to give me thoughts on Mrs R’s program. I said, ‘If you hadn’t had the reading instruction with Mrs. R, you wouldn’t have caught up to grade level?’ and his reply, “No, I wouldn’t have, because I didn’t care. she made me care.”

Lorraine Burr

Kennebunk