School board member calls for less use of word 'college'

LEWISTON — A veteran School Committee member told Lewiston educators Monday night to stop using the word “college” when talking about student futures.

Ward 6 member Ronella Paradis told curriculum director Janice Plourde that too much emphasis was being placed on college.

Paradis was commenting on a proposed new teacher training plan when she asked Plourde, “why do we always say 'college'? That's another thing. Let's just say, 'after-school for lifetime learners.' Let's get away from college. Everybody doesn't go to college. Everybody's not ready for college."

Paradis told Plourde her son didn't graduate from college “yet he's making more money than I do.”

Plourde tried to respond to Paradis, but Paradis continued talking, saying she wants to see “after-school” language used to include those who want to become electricians, plumbers or policemen.

On Tuesday, Lewiston educators said they have no plan of backing away from using the word college. Some were puzzled by Paradis' comments.

Businessman Peter Geiger, who has long worked to boost aspirations in Lewiston and Maine, and who has donated thousands of dollars to help Lewiston students go to college, said he couldn't disagree with Paradis more.

“She's well intentioned but very misguided,” Geiger said Tuesday.

“We can't be afraid to use the college word in this town, especially our school board. It's a disservice not to use the college word,” he said.

“We have in this community an aspirations issue. We have to be the ones to think big.”

Whether students pick a two- or four-year college, “it's our job in education to think about what the child of today is going to need. The jobs of the future are going to require college.   . . . They're not going to be making shoes in a mill.”

Plumbers, electricians and others also need higher educations, Geiger said. “Just because you're a policeman doesn't mean you don't need a college education. The more education you have the more opportunity you have.”

Lewiston High School Principal Gus LeBlanc said students are, and will continue to be, coached on the world of work, the military and college.

This year, Lewiston elementary schools introduced college to the youngest students yet — 4-year-old preschoolers.

Elementary school classrooms have “adopted” colleges and hang banners in or outside classrooms. At Montello Elementary School the words “After high school comes college” are written over doorways. Talk of college is constant, Montello Elementary School Principal Deb Goding and Longley Elementary School Principal Linda St. Andre said.

College can mean two years, four years or trade school, St. Andre said. With young students it's important to plant aspirations and use simple language. Using the word college makes it easy for them to grasp the subject, St. Andre said. It helps them cement the belief “that I'm going to be doing something college or college like.”

Reached Tuesday, Paradis backed off to some degree from points she made Monday.

She explained that when she hears the word “college,” she thinks of a four-year college and that can exclude “work experience. Going for plumbing with an associate degree” and other trades. “Some kids are not ready at age 18 to go to college. Let's get them ready for the real world.”

Paradis, a college graduate herself, is a public health nurse for the Maine Center for Disease Control. She said she's from “the generation of Lewiston workers where many did not go” to college. She's seen many people who did not go at all, or went later in life, and have done well.

Paradis said she doesn't want someone who doesn't go to college to feel like a failure. There are different paths to college, she said Tuesday.

She acknowledged that a two-year degree for trades like the ones she mentioned at the meeting Monday is college. All paths should be promoted in school, she said Tuesday.

“Sometimes I don't always explain myself well,” she said.

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Ummm, what?

How does someone like this get on the school board in the first place, let alone be a "veteran" of it? The idea of removing a word or phrase from the curriculum is absurd and harmful to the students as a whole. In the last 15 years we as a society have become so focused on making the students "feel good" that we have forgotten what the schools are supposed to be for; Education! We complain about low math and reading scores, yet there are policies in place allowing students to make up work as late as they want to, letting missed school work slide by with a reasonable excuse and making all the changes within the classroom environment geared towards boosting personal self-esteem while at the same time lowering GPAs and the intellectual content are students are being exposed to or retaining.

It is time to wake up people and realize that we need teachers like I had when I was in school; ones that will hold students accountable for their own actions and are not afraid to give a student a poor grade without fear of parental retaliation. We need to let the teachers and the schools do their jobs in educating our children. Parents do need to communicate with their children and the teachers to insure that everything is being covered properly, but this business of parents handicapping the educators so that their children will have a pleasant and enjoyable experience in school and be made to feel "super special" every day needs to stop now and let the kids go to school.

Denisa Laflamme's picture

College or Bust

I was appalled reading this article. First of all being a member of the SCHOOL Board I would have expected better from this person. I am happy to say she is not my daughters educator. I would like to know what her son does for a living compared to what she does, then lets compare salaries, [This comment has been edited by the administrator]
I do agree that cramming the word "college" down a 4 year olds throat is a bit much, they are just content to go play with their friends and learn how to read "see jane run" and "dog has spots" but seriously we need to show our students at home and in the school setting that their are options whether it be a 2 or 4 year college, military, apprentischips or a trade school. But to be worried about the word "College" is a bit much, we have bigger things to worry about in this community and in our schools then what word we use. So I think that this school board member needs to spend her time thinking about other things that would be encouraging to our students versus monitoring the words of those that do educate our children. Sounds like this woman has nothing better to do than think up stupid statements like this.

Denisa Laflamme's picture


Ok so I see that my comment was edited by the administrator....I would like to know why....I didnt put anything in there that was vulgar or use profanity. I made a point about her statement and you delete it? I could understand if I had used profanity or been out right disrespectful but I wasnt I giving and example...that simple.....I am highly irritated with this.

Jim Cyr's picture

word police

Is this what our precious school members are spending valuable time on? Beware, the word police are here!

Peter Blake's picture


I believe that Ms. Paradis should be more concerned with the use of phrases like "very fun" in the writing and speaking of today's students and school staffers. Allowing it to be "ok" in the early grades is the kind of thing that should be discourage, not a word like "college". Does she plan on attacking the word "University" next? LOL

She may not be familiar with a program that the university of Maine ran about twenty-five years ago called the "World of Work" in which teachers from grade 5 through grade 12 were encourage to display books and talk about alternate educational programs to college.

We agree not everyone is suited for a 4 year education beyond HS, however extended learning will get you a better job.

Was Ms. Paradis referring to her school committee salary as opposed to what her son might be making at McDonalds? LOL I doubt that is true, however, I would like to know exactly what amount she does make and what her son to accurately compare or comment further.

I agree!!

"Everybody doesn't go to college."

"Everybody's not ready for college."

“Sometimes I don't always explain myself well,”

Joking aside I do feel bad for her - i think the article was a little harsh. I actually agree to some extent with what I perceive to be the intention of her comment - at least the way I would word it - that there apparently isn't much focus on the big chunk of kids who will inevitably end up working with their hands in some way or another.

On one hand that (college emphasis) is probably the safe route to take given limited resources, and along with that is the fear that if college isn't the primary focus, there is always the danger that some of those who may have been in the best position to benefit from a college education might end up going into a trade, and being less productive than if they had gone to college.

On the other hand, knowing that there are so many who underachieve in college and in life, it is difficult to avoid the question of whether or not they might have been better off honing a particular skill or being exposed earlier on to a different path...

Simon Diaz's picture

instead of College, would you

instead of College, would you rather use the words wendys, burger king, or even "dollar tree"??


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