Opinion: Demise of a legacy — the Rochelle Center

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 at 11:45pm

My special needs son has received services for almost 20 years from the state Division of Mental Retardation Services (now called Division of Intellectual Disabilities Services.) He has received those services at the Rochelle Center, once a stellar service provision agency in Nashville for individuals with developmental disabilities.

What has happened to make the state consider withdrawal of funding to the Rochelle Center? (It has been reported that the Rochelle Center received $2.7 million in government funds in 2008.)

Custodians (i.e. in this case the Rochelle Center) of taxpayer revenue have some standards attached to receiving that money. The following is an ultimate understatement: Rochelle Center administration has not met for some time appropriately established service directives of DIDS, hence a possible withdrawal of service funds to the Rochelle Center.

W.R. Rochelle established the Rochelle Center in 1972. There is an august portrait of Mr. Rochelle in the administrative offices section of the Rochelle Center. I did not know Rochelle personally, but what I have heard about him makes me think that the adjective “august” should also be applied to him along with other descriptives such as honorable, caring, benevolent, etc. I have heard so many stories of Rochelle’s compassion to students at Cohn High School where he was a principal, students who pursued achieving their life’s potential (in spite of difficult life circumstances) at the tender guidance of Rochelle.

What else has happened to precipitate this degeneration-this decay-of a legacy left by Rochelle, whose ultimate purpose was good and kind? The Rochelle Center Board of Directors has poorly executed its responsibilities to maintain quality at the Rochelle Center for my son and his colleagues and to honor Rochelle’s memory. Some of these board members even knew him.

Board membership at the Rochelle Center has been blithely listening to, and agreeing with, the Rochelle administrator who has been the primary perpetrator of “this mess.” There have been futile past attempts to communicate with the board about problems.

I wish that Mr. Rochelle’s memory could be honored with a center providing appropriate services for individuals with disabilities. I am certain he would have even understood a change since 1972 in the philosophy of disability services provision.

I am equally certain that Rochelle would not understand the failure of the people who act on his behalf for his legatees (my son and many others) to preserve what he so lovingly established.

Sandra G. Davis, 37214