Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Voices of Franklin: Robert Vacca "Education is More Than Back to Basics"

At the October 14th Candidate’s Night, Franklin School Committee Candidate Mark Bisson stated that his platform is “back to the basics, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.” This sounds very pragmatic, however, this has been in place for years and we, as educators, do a whole lot more.  Our schools have math specialists who meet and plan with the math teachers to bring high level lessons into the classrooms. Students collaboratively use math skills to solve problems and analyze their responses.  We also have reading specialists in every school who plan and collaborate with classroom teachers to bring high level literary instruction into our classrooms.  The district has implemented the MAP testing program which will allow educators to use data collected from math and English tests to better plan and instruct, as well as provide differentiated instruction to our students.  

Several years ago, our school system invested in a program called Three Keys to Literacy. Through this program, educators in all content areas have been trained in how to bring literacy instruction into the classroom.  This instruction includes building vocabulary skills through comprehension and categorization, comprehension strategies which include note taking and the process of persuasive argument writing.  Students also learn how to use question terms in order to remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate and create. As an educator, I have found this program to be invaluable in my planning and instruction in order to help my students develop as 21st Century learners.  

“Return to the basics” is redundant.  The basics, and a whole lot more, as stated above, can be seen in every subject, classroom, and school.  To settle for the basics would be to sentence our students to a substandard future.  As educators, we do not settle for the basics as our students deserve so much more than that. 

Robert Vacca

Franklin Resident

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Robert Vacca "Education is More Than Back to Basics"
Robert Vacca "Education is More Than Back to Basics"


  1. Thank you, Mr. Vacca! Sounds like some candidates need to learn a bit more about public education in Franklin.

  2. In response to the comments I made at last week’s Candidate’s Night, Robert Vacca wrote in this space earlier this week taking issue with my “back to basics” and ‘reading, writing, `arithmetic’ comments. He went on to imply that my views were narrow – maybe even backward – and that I didn’t give enough credit to the many great things happening in the Franklin School System.

    Fair enough. In truth, I think all of the candidates for School Committee struggled to articulate their positions meaningfully in the 180 seconds, or so, that we were each allotted.

    In my case, with a spouse as a veteran educator, believe me, I understand that our teachers do a great deal and the program Mr. Vacca refers to is a great example of a successful program implemented properly to aid in developing the fundamentals of literacy, which is my goal.

    But our district has also rushed into other programs. For example, voters have told me some years ago a new elementary math program was adopted. It was literally handed to the teachers just days before the start of school. The administration clearly failed to properly pilot the program and obtain enough teacher feedback prior to its adoption, because within that first year, teachers were already supplementing from other math programs and within six years we now have a whole new math program. This was a good example of lack of planning, vetting of the program, and implementation, which cost our teachers time and efforts which could have been better allocated. And it did nothing for students.

    The schools have many positives, and the School Committee has included many talented individuals. What it lacked was diversity. Almost everyone had a background as an educator. Unfortunately, this leads to narrowness and a willingness to accept that ‘this is the way things are.’ Moreover, in the last two years, every School Committee meeting has become a repetitious litany of Covid policies and diversity, equity, and inclusion. What happened to excellence and education?

    Corporate and non-profit boards – the good ones – include people from different fields to ensure that the blinders come off and that the best possible outcomes result.

    My background in commercial construction, and management – in a field where mistakes can literally cost lives – would be a refreshing change for the Franklin School Committee. Especially now, where we need to ensure that students are front and center and that parents are being heard while we prepare to navigate funding challenges ahead, voters can count on me to be pro-educator and pro-student but always with a fresh perspective and a willingness to listen to all voices – and bring my fresh insights and perspectives to the table.

    Mark Bisson |

    1. "Moreover, in the last two years, every School Committee meeting has become a repetitious litany of Covid policies and diversity, equity, and inclusion."

      That's because the last two years have dealt with the COVID pandemic that's killed 700,000 Americans and much was needed to transition to remote learning, prepare for safe return of students, and provide the best education possible while keeping student safety a priority. Hearing you complain about teachers and administrators paying attention to this and working harder than ever is wildly off-putting.

      Also, why shouldn't there be more attention paid to DEI? Casting things like diversity, equity, and inclusion in a negative light sets off a litany of red flags.

      - Aaron Gouveia