Blogs | Ethan Shorey

Miller's personal issue shortchanges Shea students

What a shame for the students of Shea High School.

On Friday night, I was scrolling through Twitter and saw some mediocre photos of the annual Shea Fashion Show popping up from an account run by outgoing Principal Don Miller. The Breeze has given the front-page treatment to the show in the past and it’s one of our favorite events to cover.

But as has been his practice for the entire 2015-2016 school year, Miller didn’t invite us to take pictures of the show, and students were once again shortchanged.

Miller’s ongoing decision to shut us out goes back to a story I wrote last summer about inflated graduation and attendance rates at Shea. My story detailed how there was a major error in erased attendance data at Shea, according to an internal memo from Supt. Patti DiCenso to the school board. According to that memo, clerks at Shea said they were following protocols established by building administration on the attendance data. The memo also described how student folders went missing and Shea staff couldn’t provide evidence for some students leaving the country or state when they were taken off the Shea High rolls.

I heard from staff members that Miller was upset with me over the story, though he never approached me about it. Neither he nor anyone else said anything about the story being inaccurate.

Prior to that story, Miller regularly invited us to Shea to cover events, telling me he was a big believer that students should be recognized for their achievements.

On Jan. 24, after not getting one invitation to anything at Shea since the start of school in September, I wrote a note to Miller, which I copied to DiCenso, telling him I was surprised he hadn't sent me a single notice of events going on at Shea or on individual student achievements. I told him it was a shame if he was letting personal differences with me hurt the students of the school.

Miller responded with a link to his weekly newsletter. He said he'd been sending it out to keep parents and others informed. He mentioned that Shea would have two teams competing at the state finals for robotics at New England Tech in Warwick that weekend.

I expected that I might at least start getting the weekly newsletters, but they never came.

On March 11, I wrote to Miller again, and again copied DiCenso. I told him it looked like I hadn't been put on the newsletter list and hadn't been told about an open house at Shea, an event we would have liked to cover. I reminded him that we still hadn't heard from him the entire school year.

Two days later, Miller sent me a copy of that week’s newsletter, again with no explanation for why he wasn’t inviting us.

At a Pawtucket School Committee meeting in April, member Michael Araujo, commenting on news that Shea students had been accepted to Brown University, said he was happy to finally be seeing students recognized for their personal accomplishments. My response to Mr. Araujo? Don’t look at us.

Miller helps run a Sunday night education discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #edchatRI. He frequently discusses the need for educators to show their students that they care, not to just talk about it. Will Miller follow his own advice and put his grievance aside for the good of Shea students?

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