David Goby — a longtime science teacher at Staples High School and Bedford Junior High — died yesterday. The cause was complications of lymphoma treatment, many years ago.
After retiring from Staples, Dave taught at Ezra Academy in Woodbridge. He also founded Merkaz, a community high school for Judaic studies in Bridgeport, and served as director there for 12 years.
He is survived by Ilene, his wife of 43 years; sons Jonathan of Fairfield and Adam of Florida; daughter Robyn of North Carolina, and 4 grandchildren.
Services are tomorrow (Tuesday), 2 p.m. at Congregation B’nai Israel, 2710 Park Avenue in Bridgeport.
Contributions may be made to the David Goby Merkaz Fund, c/o Merkaz, 4200 Park Ave. Bridgeport, CT 06604.
Starting in 1975, Dave taught in Staples’ Alternatives program. An interdisciplinary project that reached out to alienated, disaffected youngsters, it lasted only a few years.
However, its impact on the students — and teachers — who participated was enormous. In 2004, I interviewed Dave about Alternatives for my book “Staples High School: 120 Years of A+ Education.”
There were so many disenfranchised kids who were not functioning well in school, because of emotional, family or learning problems. Every school deals with those kids in a different way. A lot of schools give them detentions or suspend them, but that doesn’t solve the underlying problem.
Most of what we tried to do involving traditional academics didn’t work. So we had to be creative, to disguise the social studies, English, science or math, and teach it through the back door. We didn’t necessarily work on each discipline each day.
It wasn’t easy. We were really looked down on – not by the faculty; they said they admired what we were doing, and couldn’t do it themselves – but by the other kids. They thought our kids were the dregs of the school.
We were very successful, but we became the dumping ground for all kids who had any problems. We didn’t solve problems overnight. It took a lot of hard work, a long time for kids to settle down.
It didn’t last long, in part because so many kids had emotional and special ed issues. Then the state mandates for special education were handed down, and more and more kids suddenly became officially mandated to the special ed program.
Our program decreased in direct proportion to the rise in special education. We saw that special ed would eventually absorb our kids, so rather than die a slow death, we decided to end it on our terms. We died a graceful death, with dignity.
But the program worked. So many kids came back later, and said it kept them in school. They may not have loved Alternatives, but they liked it better than the rest of school.
And they told us it looked like we really cared. We gave them a lot of individual attention. We had community meetings, and we met individually with them a lot. We learned a lot about kids that way.
It was absolutely right for the times. And today — if you’re diagnosed with a special ed condition, you’re covered. But if you’re just a troubled kid who could fall through the cracks, there’s still a need for an alternative school. Kids haven’t changed that much.