by John Sherin

Published in What's Going On?, a Brentwood Union Free
School District Publication, October 1974

All behavior, said Abraham Maslow -- teacher, writer, humanist, psychologist, and founder of the Human Potential Movement -- is an attempt at need satisfaction.  A glance backward over the past few years in Brentwood will reveal to the reader the residue of unsatisfied needs that might be said to have begun the chain of events leading to the establishment of the present alternative program.

Increased enrollment, crowded schools, increased taxes, rejected bond issues, pressure to heighten academic standards while improving student performance, changing demands in curriculum have all placed pressure upon an already overburdened system.  Decreasing elementary enrollments in several schools, coupled with the issuance of the Commissioner of Education’s paper on Optional Learning Environments, provided a setting in which Brentwood’s newly-appointed Superintendent took action. Seizing the opportunity, he announced a willingness of the District to entertain new approaches to solving the old problems and meeting student needs.  Encouraged by the readiness of students and their parents for an alternative approach, individuals and groups of teachers and administrators submitted their ideas to a District Evaluation Committee, headed by the Superintendent of Schools.  What followed is history.  Authorized by the Board of Education, with the support and approval of the Superintendent of Schools, we have founded a unique and structurally sound alternative school program in Brentwood.

The fall semester began for about 90 students at a ribbon cutting and tree planting ceremony at the High School Annex, on Paradise Lane, a building which last year housed the South Elementary School.  In a relaxed atmosphere, students mingled with members of the Board of Education and Central Administration as the opening dedications were sung or read by other students.

 

Students proceeded to plan their own schedules within the structure provided and previously agreed to by them and their parents at the time of their formal application to the school.  As part of their week, each student is required to attend an Orientation Laboratory, a Career Motivational Workshop, an Evaluation Seminar, participate in a minimum of two (2) elective courses, take at least one (1) Independent Study Course, Physical Education, and a course in Health.  Physical Education offers a wide variety of choices of activities, permitting students to meet State requirements on the basis of personal needs.

Students are also required to engage in a work experience program of their choice.  They are expected to be in attendance at weekly sessions of the Forum.  This body meets promptly at 1 p.m. and generally lasts until 4 p.m. each Friday.  The Alternative School design encourages students to become substantially involved in Management Groups or Committee functions, thereby contributing to the actual administration of the school through the democratic process of decision-making that is its very essence.  It is during the Forum that the “family” airs its problems, offers mutual support, shares its concerns, and votes on issues.

The Maslow-Toffler School of Futuristic Education is an alternative program that serves as an umbrella for several mutually supportive programs in which students participate as part of their Work Experience.  A brief listing of programs would include, among others, Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center, The Town of Islip, Business Experience, Head Start Day Care Center, Exploring Childhood, Participation for Parenthood, and the Performing Arts Center.  Agencies funded by the Federal Government, the State of New York, the County of Suffolk, and the Town of Islip have expressed their enthusiastic support for the Maslow-Toffler effort by their exemplary spirit of cooperation in action.

Under an internship program sponsored jointly by the Town of Islip and the Brentwood School District, approximately 20 young men and women are being afforded the opportunity of working for educational credit in the career fields of their choice.  Only the University of the State of New York at Stony Brook has a similar arrangement with the Town.

Pilgrim State Hospital has offered our students internship positions in the following career clusters:  Office Procedures, including Medical Secretary and Switchboard; Security; Construction Trades; Recreation Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Nursing.  Approximately 20 students will avail themselves of this opportunity during the present semester.  They are planning to begin a 32-hour Orientation Program on the grounds of the hospital during the month of October.  The course will be taught by the Hospital’s Director of Educational Services, Harry Clayman.


 

The Suffolk County Police Department, in cooperation with the Third Precinct, have been collaborating with a group of students in setting up a Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Program that meets the needs of still another minority of students who want to know more about police work and security operations.

In addition to the many work experience opportunities for which some students receive both pay and educational credit, the alternative school student body may enjoy courses in Futuristics, Semantics,  Consciousness Raising for Women, Impressions and Expression in Prose, Humanistic Psychology of Human Values, and Views of Nature.

The Performing Arts Center is an optional learning experience for approximately 20 current student participants.  The productions of this group will be entirely mobile and consequently able to be shared with many audiences of all ages throughout the community before the completion of this first school year.

Blocks of unstructured leisure time encourage each student to learn to plan the responsible use of free hours according to personal goals.  Within existing leisure time blocks, students may choose to take responsibility for relaxing, studying piano, preparing for the Math ACT, take a course in First Aid, study oil painting, read, take a student taught course in Telephonics, learn the art of macramé, work with a puppetry group, choose an Independent Study Project, volunteer as a member of the Projection Room Staff, or give to the running of the school in some other capacity.

Classes are 90 minutes in length, but staff members and students alike find that there still isn’t sufficient time to complete a learning activity.  There are no bells signaling the beginning or end of classes and so all participants in the learning process must take responsibility for arriving on time.

Experts have traditionally been people who live 20 miles out of town.  Perhaps that is why the alternative program, its staff and students have been accepted and received eagerly in communities far removed from Brentwood even before there was a local awareness of the program's existence here.  At the time of printing of this present edition of What’s Going On?, the students and representative staff will be conducting the third in a series of visits to Adelphi University, where on this occasion they will be paid to conduct one session of a graduate course on that campus, the guests of Ms. Estelle Carter of the Health Sciences staff.
 
 

We are currently exploring some exciting possibilities of cooperation with Dr. Gerry Edwards, Director of Adelphi University’s National Training Center located here in Islip.  He has expressed an interest in involving our students in the next cycle of programs scheduled to begin in November.

Individuals at Harvard, Antioch and Radcliffe Universities have applauded the achievements of our School and have expressed genuine interest in the candidacy of a number of our students.

On Friday afternoon, the 4th of October at approximately 3:10 p.m., the students and staff of the Maslow-Toffler School of Futuristic Education voted by an overwhelming majority to schedule regular classes on the day of the Regents Scholarship Examination in the High School.

They might have stayed home on that day if they weren't scheduled to take the exam, but instead they voted to come to school.  Fifty percent of our students took the Regents Scholarship Exam.  Almost all of them came to school following the exam.

Brentwood’s Alternative School Program has been gaining stature from Boston to New Orleans and has been recognized as far west as California.  One professor who has taught in universities around the globe said of our program, “It is unlike anything I have ever seen anywhere in the world, except for a school I visited in England.”  Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, in his dedication to Milton K. Siler and myself, wrote a personal note in which he said, “Thank you for helping to make the future happen.”   (Click here for further correspondence from Alvin Toffler.)

Our design for alternative education geared to this community provides what we believe to be a sensible and stimulating direction for future systems.  A Handbook and Guide is presently in preparation and will eventually be available for general reading.

Explore the future of education with us.  We have lived with criticism amidst the peaks of our achievement.  We expect to continue to deal with daily crises.  We believe that all innovations worthy of their name challenge existing structures to some degree.  The value of lasting institutions is surely in their tolerance of diversity, their flexibility when put to the test of time.

Brentwood is creating its future in the alternatives it is exploring.  We need your help in opening up those alternatives.  Come and visit us at the South High School Annex and see what an Alternative School is all about.


 
(Photos: Johanna Caleca, M-T Facilitator, 1974-1977; Laura Morelli, M-T Nurse and Facilitator, 1974-1982; Conrad Follansbee, M-T Principal, 1974-1982; John Sherin, M-T Co-Founder; Milt Siler, M-T Co-Founder; Ken Moss, M-T Co-Founder)

 
 
 
 

 
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HISTORY 3  ::  HISTORY 4  :: HISTORY 5  ::  HISTORY 6
HISTORY 7  ::  HISTORY 8