Category Archives: Education

Bruce Menin, Newburyport School Committee

In my quest to learn more about the Newburyport School Committee election which I now know a little bit more about than “zip,” I contacted folks about who they would consider voting for Newburyport School Committee.

Bruce Menin’s name was also one of the names at the top of the list. Again, from some of the not the usual suspects.

“Menin–Tip O’Neil said always lash to the old oaks when the storm wind blows. Bruce is a proven commodity.” Was one reply I received.

If re-elected this would be Mr. Menin’s 3rd term (one 4 year term and half of a 4 year term, 2 years). (Please see “Editor’s Note” below for clarification.)

That anyone could have a sustained and tenacious passion for trying to solve the ongoing conundrum of our school system is remarkable. (I would give up after the first week. It seems as if the position chews folks up and spits them out. This is not an easy volunteer undertaking.)

I met Bruce Menin one day on the street about 3 months after he had begun his first School Committee term and he looked gaunt. I must have had a questioning look on my face like, “How’s it going?” because Mr. Menin looked up and said, “It’s real different when you’re in the inside.”

Yes, and “Amen” to that. How true.

It strikes me that change in any political process is like moving a barge or trying to wade in a swimming pool full of taffy.

If the barge gets moved even the slightest bit, that’s quite an accomplishment. In my experience the barge rarely turns a quick 180 degrees.

And politics, most politics, appears to me, to often be slow and sticky.

One of the things I have observed about Mr. Menin is that he is never afraid to ask the question which no one wants to hear and no one wants to talk about. It appears to me that in the last 6 years Mr. Menin has more than once challenged the “status quo.”

As uncomfortable as that might be, challenging the “status quo” is something I happen to think would be a good idea. And Mr. Menin does so often with a New York sense of humor and approach, that I very much appreciate.

Mr. Menin has a certain “ironic irreverence” that may not be understood by one and all, but there is more than just this blogger who thinks that that character trait is “not all bad.”

And Mr. Menin is not afraid to let people know who he is or what he thinks. His blog is a testimony to that. If you would like to know who Bruce Menin is, I would check out his blog at: newburyportschools.blogspot.com.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

(Editor’s Note: Please see the very moving post by Bruce Menin about Vickie Pearson that clarifies the length of the School Committee terms (4 years) and how Bruce Menin has come to serve 6 years on the Newburyport School Committee. Please press here to read that post).

Stephanie Weaver, Newburyport School Committee Election

Well, I learned something.

For me, anyone with a name associated with the “Yes for Newburyport” folks would be “polarizing.”

But, I think that the election for Newburyport School Committee is really, really important, and I got to tell you I know almost zip about the candidates. (Now I know a little bit more than completely zip.)

So since Stephanie Weaver (who is running for Newburyport School Committee) lives near by, I decided to stop by on one of my walks and introduce myself.

Well, I gotta tell you folks, I had an incredibly pleasant surprise.

Stephanie Weaver, in my book, turned out to be not a “this is how we are going to do it” sort of person, but instead someone who is a “listener” and appears to have a talent that is very much needed– a communicator and a “bridge-builder.”

It takes a whole lot to impress me, and I was way impressed.

I’m sure many of you have noticed signs around town. Most of the time they are clumped together in ideological groups.

But take a look at this twosome:

weaver_roberts1.jpg
Stephanie Weaver, School Committee
Gary Roberts, Councilor at Large

In most people’s books, this would be a political and ideological “odd couple.”

But there they are. Two folks very much trying to be Newburyport “bridge-builders.” And I got to say that this works for me.

And the feedback that I’ve gotten from other folks, and I gotta say unlikely candidates, is that Stephanie Weaver is one of the folks at the top of their list.

Ms Weaver has been working real hard at going door to door. So if she happens to knock on your door, take a moment, have a chat and take the time to introduce yourself to this young lady. Be a bridge-builder too.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Messy Municipal Process

I’ve read (I think) a number of times in the Newburyport Daily News and at least once on Bruce Menin’s Blog that the electorate is impatient with the Newburyport School Committee and would like them to hurry up and make decisions.

As I recall, I have read these words or similar words, from “Yes for Newburyport” members (pro-override group for the Newburyport Schools).

And a number of “Yes for Newburyport” folks are running for Newburyport School Committee.

Unfortunately, running a municipality is a slow and messy business.

John Moak hoped to come in as Mayor of Newburyport, MA and clear up the Central Waterfront and parking issues ASAP, and what he found was, nope, not so easy to do.

In fact Mr. Moak’s opponent in the November 6th election, Jim Stiles, is a pro-waterfront, less-parking on the waterfront candidate. So much for easy, no hassle solutions.

And if one, some or all of the “Yes” folks get elected to the Newburyport School Committee, I imagine they would find that, yes indeed, this is not a CEO, let’s make a decision now sort of thing.

Having the honor of serving as an elected official is about public process and public input, which is almost always muddled and chaotic.

And if that public input could be short-changed, look out. Whatever decision was made, almost always backfires.

In fact, I hate to say it, but it’s almost always best to have too much public input than not enough, especially on hot-button issues.

And the since the special spring election for the override for the Newburyport schools, unfortunately, (in part, in my opinion, due to a hurried decision–an example of a quick decision backfiring big time) the Newburyport Schools have become a very polarizing issue in this small New England city.

So whoever wins the election for Newburyport School Committee would, I imagine, need to ask for the “Wisdom of Solomon,” because that, and public process, is what it is going to take to start to resolve the conundrum that is facing our Newburyport city schools.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

(Editor’s note: The folks running for Newburyport School Committee for the election on November 6, 2007 are: Nicholas Dekanter, Scott Frisch, Tracey Hurst, Barbara McDonough, Bruce Menin, Stephanie Weaver.)

Listening and Hearing on a Municipal Level

So far there are 2 candidates running for political office for the November 2007 election who have blogs (that I know of).

What can I say, I am becoming more partial to political candidate blogs, than I am to political candidate websites, because the blog format seems to give a more down to earth and realistic idea of who the candidate might be, without political spin.

This is true of Bruce Menin’s blog:
(newburyportschools.blogspot.com)

One discovers Mr. Menin is both informed and at times, long-winded.

Bruce tells me that very complicated issues cannot be addressed in short posts.

I am sure that those who care passionately about the issues of our schools are grateful for the more detailed entries. However, if I’m zoning out on long posts, and I really pay attention, what is your average reader going to do?

And the blog could demonstrate the difficulty that the Newburyport School Committee has in communicating with the public. The electorate in general can absorb short, one sentence sound bites. Very little else. Sad but true.

Meticulous explanations might not be as effective as one might hope in connecting with the public.

The blog may give you a “truthiness” insight into what you would get if you re-elect Mr. Menin (who at times can be funny and audacious) to the Newburyport School Committee.

And Ed Cameron now has a blog.

So far this delights me.

Here is a quote from Mr. Cameron’s blog:
(edcameron.blogspot.com)

“Over Labor Day weekend, I met two households on Howard Street whose situations illustrate the pressures. For a retired couple with a fixed income, property taxes are the main issue in this campaign. For a younger couple at the other end of the street, schools are the most important issue and at the same time they too are feeling the pinch (or perhaps vise-grip is a better analogy) of local property taxes.


To me, lowering reliance on the property tax and providing for an excellent public education experience are not mutually exclusive…” (edcameron.blogspot.com, September 4, 2007)

I am still unclear how any of our elected officials or concerned citizens are going to find the massive amount of funds that we as a city need (and have needed like forever). However, for the purpose of this post, that for the moment, is beside the point.

What that entry suggests is that Ed Cameron has the makings of a first rate Newburyport City Councilor. He appears not only to have the ability to listen to his possible future constituents, but to also to “hear” what they have to say.

Oh, my, what a gift.

Seriously, what I often run into with political folks (not to repeat myself endlessly, but to repeat myself endlessly) is that they nod at you as you are speaking to them and then proceed to tell you why you are wrong or worse yet, don’t even address the question or concern at all.

Listening and hearing and even changing one’s perception of what might be needed for the folks in Newburyport, MA is a rare gift. Mr. Cameron appears to be moving more to the political “center” just by going “door to door” and hearing what folks in Ward 4 are saying, feeling and what they are afraid of.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

(Editor’s Note: The Primary to vote for Mayor of Newburyport, MA is Tuesday, September 18, 2007.)

Task Force for Newburyport Schools, Revenue Sources

Bruce Menin has a pretty interesting blog. I’m a pretty tough blog critic, and Mr. Menin seems to have the blogging thing down so far. Factual, easy to read, half info, half campaign… a very interesting approach… so far… and with a couple of pretty funny pictures (which I like a lot).

On the blog Bruce Menin reports that Mayor John Moak has appointed a “task force” to analyze the city of Newburyport’s revenue sources (i.e. money for schools).

“The Mayor has invited William Heenahan, Dr. Ralph Orlando, Brenda Reffett, Jay Iannini and Ellen Supple from the Community; Deidre Farrell will represent the School Administration, Ari Herzog will represent the mayor, Mark Wright and I (Menin) will represent the School Committee, and a member of the City Council will have the opportunity to volunteer next Monday.” newburyportschools.blogspot.com, August 21, 2007.

I’d say I’m pretty impressed by that list of folks. Ellen Supple has been a very helpful reader of the Newburyport Blog, and I am relieved to see Brenda Reffett on there and my very bright young neighbor, Jay Iannini on there as well.

These are all passionate folks and passionate from different points of view, and not afraid to speak up or speak their minds.

This is working for me.

Mr. Menin has all kinds of information about the task force on his blog. So if this is a passion of yours, go check it out.

(And as a btw, the list at the side of the Newburyport Blog listing candidates for the Newburyport 2007 election, Newburyport City Council, Newburyport Mayor and Newburyport School Committee is growing, so be sure to check the side of the Newburyport Blog as the list gets added onto.)

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Blogger Relief, No School Override on November Ballot

Relief.

Immense relief.

The Newburyport School Committee has decided NOT to put an override on the November 2007 ballot.

Whew.

Who says people can’t learn from their mistakes.

And Mayor John Moak is creating a task force “that will research and analyze revenue sources for the schools. The task force will include two School Committee members, one city councilor and four community members, among others. It will be charged with identifying and examining every source of revenue for the school system, from Chapter 70 state aid and local taxes to athletic fees, private grants and school-choice fees…” (Newburyport Daily News, “Schools abandon bid for fall override vote,” by Nick Pinto, July 25, 2007)

Yeh!

Yes, it’s time to politically navigate school funding waters, and it looks like someone is paying attention to smart political minds, because if an override were on the November ballot, it would most probably fail and there would be even more rancor over the issue of the Newburyport Schools than there is already.

And now we (or at least some of us) can concentrate on all the other myriad of issues and concerns that face our small New England seaport city (at least for the time being).

So good go’n Mayor John Moak and the Newburyport School Committee (and Vice-Chair Steven Cole).

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Mayoral Mind Mush

I’m getting mayoral mind mush.

We have so many people running for mayor of Newburyport, MA, that I’m having a hard time keeping everybody straight. I we have until July 27th to see if yet someone else pulls papers for mayor too. With this mayoral election, who knows, who might pull papers at the last minute. Anything is possible.

I talk to people about the mayoral election, and enviably they start listing all the candidates, and they go, “I’m missing some one. There’s someone else, right? Ok, who is it?” And we go through the whole list again, trying to figure out who was left out of the long list.

And Steve Cole, the present Vice-Chair of the Newburyport School Committee, the most recent candidate to pull papers for mayor of Newburyport, MA, is an incredibly nice, kind, decent human being.

But, actions speak louder than words. And as Vice-Chair of the Newburyport School Committee, everyone who has paid a tiny bit of attention to “that” issue has seen Mr. Cole in action.

It was just in December of 2006 that the Newburyport School Committee was seriously contemplating asking the residents of Newburyport, MA to commit to what in my mind was one wild and unbelievably expensive elementary school building project. I believe I kept referring to it as a “diamond necklace” approach or the “Taj Mahal” of elementary schools.

This is around December 2006 and even as late as February 8, 2007 on the Newburyport Blog.

And then the residence of Newburyport, MA are told, ooops, the Newburyport school finances are in such bad shape, that guess what, we’re going to close a school, restructure the entire elementary school system and ask for the tax payers to pony up for a $1.58 Million override, so we don’t have to slash more stuff for the schools.

Hello. Didn’t the Newburyport School Committee just think about asking us for how much for new buildings just a few weeks ago??

And in my mind, true leadership would have been never to have contemplated a wild Taj Mahal elementary building scheme in the first place.

And it would have shown much stronger leadership not to request a special spring election that cost the tax payer $17,000, to ask residents of Newburyport, MA for an override of $1.58 Million — that many felt was an almost guaranteed disaster. But instead to “act” instead of to “react” (in my opinion) and to give a great deal of thought about how to politically navigate school funding waters.

And the leadership of the Newburyport School Committee during all of this was under Vice-Chair Steve Cole (and yes, the Chair, Mayor John Moak).

I guess you can tell I’m still pissed about the whole thing.

Yes, and those are 2 of the folks on that long mayoral candidate list. Oh, good grief.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, One Issue Elections Make About as Much Sense as “Easy on the Eyes”

This is from Forbes.com.

I can take no credit. No, the editor of the Newburyport Blog, moi, does not peruse Forbes Magazine. I was given the heads-up by the ever faithful Yahoo.com.

The article, By Christina Settimi, Forbes.com, July 5, 2007, “Best And Worst School Districts For The Buck,” can be found, on you guessed it, Forbes.com.

“More spending doesn’t necessarily buy you better schools. With property taxes rising across the country, we took a look at per-pupil spending in public schools and weighed it against student performance–college entrance exam scores (SAT or ACT, depending on which is more common in the state), exam participation rates and graduation rates.

Winners in this rating system are counties whose schools deliver high performance at low cost. The losers spend a lot of money and have little to show for it.

Marin County, Calif., provides the best bang for the buck. In 2004 Marin spent an average of $9,356 ($6,579 adjusted for the cost of living relative to other metro areas in the U.S.)” ( Forbes.com, July 5, 2007)

You get the idea, we weren’t in the top 10. We also weren’t in the bottom 10, which is a good thing.

But it made me think, that yes, it might actually be possible to get more bang for our school buck in Newburyport, MA. If Forbes Magazine says it’s possible, it’s got to be possible. I mean, for goodness sakes, it’s Forbes.

And it’s the old override thing for the Newburyport schools that the Newburyport School Committee is contemplating putting on the November ballot (I don’t know if they’ve made up their minds yet).

On the one hand, I talk to and look into the eyes of mucho worried young parents. We do have a reality here, there have now been 5 years of cuts for the Newburyport, Schools.

On the other hand, the concerns of some members of the Newburyport City Council that this could be a “one issue” election are quite right. I mean people are already deciding on who they would vote for only in relationship to how a candidate would have or has stood on the spring override for our schools.

I mean, good grief, people are actually considering voting for Al Lavender, because he would vote against an override.

A friend of mine had this to say about Al Lavender (who is running for Newburyport City Councilor At Large), “Al made Mary Carrier look absolutely brilliant.” (Just as a btw, I’ve always thought, Mary Carrier was a much better mayor than many folks give her credit for.)

But, no offense, and I really try my darnedest on the Newburyport Blog not to give offense, my own opinion is that Al Lavender was one of Newburyport’s least effective mayors.

I think that judging a candidate on only one issue is a BIG mistake. Why not have the voting criteria be “easy on the eyes?” Makes about as much sense to moi.

And buried deep in the Sunday’s, Globe North, July 22, 2007, Kay Lazar has uncovered the fact that we actually have 3, count ‘em, 3, (thank goodness) people running for Newburyport School Committee. (I was beginning to despair that no one was going to run for School Committee, since everyone in the world seems to be running for mayor of Newburyport, MA.)

Along with Bruce Menin, there is now a father daughter duo, William Deans and Barbara McDonough. I know nada about these last 2 names. However, I’m sure in due course, we will all learn more.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Son, Shakespeare and Theatre Stuff

One of the “perks” of being the editor of the Newburyport Blog is that I get to brag brazenly about my son.

The justification of course is “education,” that a young man who went through the Newburyport Public School system could this day be doing Ok.

MY son, in NYC 10 months and in his fourth play. Yes, very proud Mom.

And the theatre company, Hipgnosis, has picked, for such a young, “hip” theater company, in today’s world, a very politically incorrect play, “The Taming of the Shrew” (by William Shakespeare).

Could Mr. Shakespeare consider moi, a female blogger with an occasional strong, uncooperative opinion, a “shrew?” Goodness, who knows? Maybe.

Taming_shrew.jpg
Hipgnosis Theatre
William Shakespeare
Taming of the Shrew

How did the Hipgnosis Theatre Company go about reconciling what could easily have been done in 1950, no problem, in the year of political correctness, 2007– the solution, a combination of Shakespeare and vaudeville. What can I say, I loved it.

A wonderful romp and what I considered a tongue in cheek approach to the “taming” part (which would be considered “spousal abuse” today) by the hubby and the “compliance” part by Kate, the “tamed shrew.” Plus, by the end of the play, there was no doubt about it, it was real obvious, that they were real, real “hot” for each other. Sizzle.

For goodness sakes, Shakespeare, if he were around today, would be right. It’s not until real, real recently, that women have gotten the privilege of speaking up about stuff (for which this female blogger and painter is most grateful, good grief) without being labeled a “shrew” or whatever nifty label equivalent. (Not that that doesn’t still happen on occasion today.)

We’ve had millenniums, not just centuries of women not being able to have a “say.” And it is this blogger’s humble opinion, that it’s not just in previous millenniums, centuries, decades that men like to have their women good looking, and to shut up and be quiet, and for goodness sakes do and say what you are told to say and do.

But in today’s world, my goodness, there are equivalents. Take the “trophy wife” with a lousy pre-nup:

Darling the sky is purple.

Yes, dearest, the sky is purple. And now can I have my Mercedes-Benz?

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Politics and Power Plays

I’ve been thinking a lot about the “Yes For Newburyport” committee and their campaign for the override for the Newburyport Schools, which did not pass.

It seems to me that the “Yes” folks were predominantly young parents. Usually, if one has a 6 year old and you explain something that you think is important, the 6 year old would usually agree with you and most likely comply.

It is my observation that the “Yes” folks assumed that the electorate of Newburyport, MA would respond like a 6 year old. The group explained their position. And if folks didn’t agree, they explained again, just like one would with a younger child.

However, it is my take that the electorate might be much more like a 14 year old. A 14 year old hears you the first time. However, if the point is made repeatedly, or they feel belittled and/or scolded, the 14 year old may well dig in their heals, do the opposite and see suggestions, instructions as a “power play.” And then they will let you know exactly who has the “power.” And then lo and behold, whoops, things are not going as one would have expected.

And I think that’s part of what happened with the special election for an override for the Newburyport schools. The whole thing ended up in a series of “power plays,” ending up with the ultimate “power play” of election day.

And what I think maybe happening to our mayoral race here in Newburyport, MA, is that in reaction to the platform initiated by Jim Roy, we may end up seeing that this election may not, in part, end up being about issues, but about a series of “power plays.”

Would Tom Ryan have taken out papers to run for mayor of Newburyport, MA if Mr. Roy and company had not put forth their platform? We will never know, but it does appear that whatever multi-determined reasoning Mr. Ryan may have, Mr. Roy’s platform was one of the “tipping points” for Mr. Ryan’s entry into the race.

And in another turn of events, it looks like Jim Stiles, although he has not yet pulled papers, is having a get-together this Sunday for an informal enlisting of support as a candidate for mayor of Newburyport, MA. An informal “enlistment” usually means a person is running for mayor of Newburyport, MA.

I had heard a rumor that Mr. Stiles might run for mayor, and it looks like that rumor could be true. It is no secret, however, that Mr. Ryan and Mr. Stiles are not the best of friends. Mr. Stiles would be making a “pre-announcement” just after Mr. Ryan has pulled papers. One wonders about the conscious or unconscious “coincidence.”

It appears that the race for mayor may indeed, for the electorate of Newburyport, MA, end up being more about personalities than principals or issues. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. It could get the electorate’s small attention span (after all it is Paris Hilton that appears to be making headlines, not the war in Iraq), and some of the issues might actually subconsciously become part of the election process.

Weirder than fiction.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Override, How Did Newburyport Organize so Quickly

The post override question I often hear is “how did ‘you,’ ‘they’ organize so quickly” against the override for the Newburyport schools?

I think one of the answers to that question is that “we,” “they” were never “unorganized.”

If you were born here in Newburyport, MA there is a deep interwoven fabric, that simply exists, “it” doesn’t need “organization.”

If you’ve been here in Newburyport, MA for a while, raised a family, become interwoven in the community through various activities, you too have become interconnected as part of the community fabric. You just know. You just are. “It” simply exists.

I also still maintain that the override on some level was never about education. It was about something else.

Newburyport is a “Yankee” town, as in “thrifty,” “cautious,” “prudent,” “economical.” The very notion of an override goes against the grain, so to speak (yes, I know I’m mixing metaphors here), of the fabric of the community.

And it seems “we” resent anyone who might try to disrupt that inherent, very intricate part and personality of this small New England city.

If the override had succeeded I would have wondered, I think, if Newburyport, the soul, good, bad or indifferent, of Newburyport had radically changed. The fact that the override failed by a 60% margin, didn’t say to me that “we” were against education, but that our fundamental “Yankee” temperament was still primary. And on some collective unconscious level, it was an act of civic rebellion against anyone or anything that might attempt to in any way unravel it.

I think it is one of the reasons there is such an unspoken “distain” (harsh word) of the “money” that has come into town within the last 5 years or so, since the price of real estate has made it almost mandatory to make some fairly big bucks.

“Yankees” don’t drive around in fancy cars talking on cell phones. “Yankees” probably glare at their cell phones as an unwanted necessity, and their cars may well be less than brand new.

“Yankees” don’t demand a “fancy” education. Meat and potatoes would do. The “frills” could go. An intrinsic “Yankee” thrift would prevail.

I don’t think any amount of “educating” people on the issue would change that fundamental and underscoring temperament. That might happen in a place like Wellesley or Arlington, but there is a chance it might not happen here.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Everything I Learned, I Learned from Jon Stewart

At times I am overwhelmed, especially since 9/11, by the evening news. And often I tune into world events with a little amount of sugar and a big dose of humor. I get my dose of whatever is happening in the world from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I might even stay tuned for the Colbert Report.

And by pure chance, I happened to catch on PBS, Bill Moyers’ interview with Jon Stewart on April 27, 2007. It was a fascinating interview. (Plus, I also love Bill Moyers.)

What a great combination, wisdom, humor, intelligence and insight.

My.

And Jon Stewart said a fascinating thing about issues. (I found the transcript on PBS website, www.pbs.org, I wanted to get things right here, so whew.)

He said “people are busy” and basically it is very hard to “mobilize a busy and relatively affluent country, unless it’s over really crucial– you know, foundational issues. That come sort of sort of a tipping point.”

And he pointed out (the issue was war in Iraq) that the only way people are really going to pay attention is if a draft were instigated. “And the minute you do that, suddenly the country’s not so damn busy anymore. And then they really fight back…”

And I think it’s not so different on a local level.

People’s lives are very busy, and it’s very hard to get them to pay attention to local “issues” much less to get them involved.

One of the things that I found so fascinating was that for, especially, it seems, young parents in Newburyport, MA, the education of their children became a “tipping point.”

And basically, they proposed what many found to be another “tipping point,” raising taxes. And people fought back.

And suddenly, Newburyport, MA became politically awake, in the middle of May, no less, to the tune that almost 50% of the population actually came out and voted one way or another regarding the special election for the override concerning the Newburyport’s public schools.

And the great thing that happened is that so many people paid attention, made room in their busy lives, and became involved in their hometown of Newburyport, MA.

I think both of those “tipping points,” education and an antipathy towards raising taxes are not going to go away.

And I’m still hoping for a win-win situation. And if Massachusetts Stand for Children (www.stand.org/ma) is at all sound, it might be a way to unite those two tipping points. Could you imagine even 25% of Newburyport, MA fighting for educational reform on the state level. Good grief. Wow.

And this Thursday, May 31, 2007 at 6 PM there will be a meeting on Newburyport’s downtown waterfront, at Somerby’s landing. The meeting is organized by Dominique Dear. Ms Dear, who has organized town forums, hopes that the city of Newburyport, MA could work towards common goals and a meeting of the minds on the issue of a financial approach towards education in Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

(Editor’s Note: Quotations are taken from the Transcript of “Bill Moyers talks with Jon Stewart,” April 27, 2007, © Public Affairs Television 2007, www.pbs.org. Please press here to read the entire transcript of that remarkable interview.)

Newburyport, Override does NOT pass

It’s 8:45 PM and the un-official numbers are in. The override for the Newburyport schools did NOT pass.

Yes= 2,200
No= 3,263

Total= 5,463

(Handwritten ballots have not yet been read, but according to the Newburyport city clerk, that would not change the election results.)

Number of registered voters about 11,765. So that means that almost half of the register voters of Newburyport, MA voted today, May 22, 2007. That is pretty remarkable for a special election.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

(Editor’s Note: These are the unofficial numbers broken down by wards.)

Ward 1 Plum Island

Yes= 45
No= 182

___________

Ward 1

Yes= 284
No= 376

___________

Ward 2

Yes= 403
No= 373

___________

Ward 3

Yes= 323
No= 488

___________

Ward 4

Yes= 337
No= 573

____________

Ward 5

Yes= 409
No= 553

____________

Ward 6

Yes= 399
No= 718

____________

Newburyport, Override Vote Today, Tuesday May 22, 2007

Whether you are for the override for the Newburyport public schools or against the override or just don’t know yet, make sure that you VOTE, today, May 22, 2007.

This is what democracy is all about.

I have been invited to Newburyport City Hall tonight at 8PM as the votes concerning the special election for an override for our schools come in.

I do not know whether I will be able to go or not. But if I do, I will post the results tonight on the Newburyport Blog.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Parenthood and Education

Being a parent. No small thing.

I have one child, a son, who turns 23 this Thursday.

He lives in my home town of NYC and opens in his 3rd off (sometimes off-off) Broadway production since being in NYC for 9 months.

My son is the product of the Newburyport public school educational system.

When I first moved here, low so many years (decades) ago, I would most definitely have considered the Newburyport public schools to be “mediocre.”

Somewhere along the line they could have gone from “mediocre,” as Jim Roy has said in his article in the Newburyport Current, to “average.” The great fear is that they could be “mediocre.”

When my son entered the public school system I had no illusions that he would at any time get anything close to a private school education. He did not.

And when he went to a private college following Newburyport High School, the college was well aware of the discrepancy between a public and private education and adjusted their curriculum accordingly.

No, my son did not learn Latin, but I think he learned many more valuable lessons. One can always learn Latin if one is so inclined.

He learned what it was to be part of the community of Newburyport, MA, the good, the bad, ugly and the downright wonderful and moving.

He did not think he was “special,” but he knew that he was appreciated and that he was loved.

And somehow, along the way he acquired a great curiosity for learning. Maybe one of the greatest gifts that an educational system can bestow. In his freshman year, although it was not on the curriculum at Newburyport High School, he discovered the “Beat” writers and read everything there was to read from Jack Kerouac and company.

He continued to read at a college and post college level, which again had nothing to do with curriculum, all the way through Newburyport High School. Reading Nietzsche as a high school sophomore is pretty impressive. I have never read Nietzsche, so believe me, this is something he did not get from me.

To this day he reads on, as well as discovering and reading authors that I have never heard of.

He also writes poetry and plays.

And I thought for today’s post, I would include one of my favorite poems that my son has written.

in my belly is the sea
of my mother
i am the wind
a white dress
slips through a hand
like water
this is love

© Hal Fickett

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Vote on Tuesday’s Override Election

I can’t call this override election, but I will be fascinated by the results.

One of the odd things that has happened to me as a blogger, is that I have become more interested in the process of how things develop and unfold than feeling passionately about an issue one way or another.

This is very new.

No matter what happens on Tuesday, May 22, 2007, VOTING DAY, the debate about education in Newburyport, MA has come to the forefront as one of the city’s important issues.

And I don’t think this issue is going to go away.

If the pro-override folks lose, the issue will most likely be on the November ballot.

And if the pro-override folks win, it would be my guess that we could see an “under-ride” on the November ballot.

I think one of the worst thing that could happen would be for apathy to set in and for us as a city and to have “education memory loss.”

And one of my great hopes is for folks on both sides of the issue to join forces and fight for educational funding and reform on the state level. With any luck (and a lot of hard work), Massachusetts Stand for Children stand.org/ma could be a great boon to Newburyport, MA.

And one of my other great hopes is that some of the pro-override folks could become involved in the political process in Newburyport, MA, beside this one particular political issue (can you imagine all this energy going into a fight for new fire trucks?) There are some very smart, savvy, well educated folks here. They may be a little green about how the Newburyport political system thing works. But, hey, as far as I am concerned, it’s Ok to be on a political learning curve, as long as it’s a real true learning curve.

My experience is that most folks start being part of the political process with one issue in mind. Sort of like entering a forest and focusing on one particular tree. And then what usually seems to happen is that folks start to look around and realize that there is a forest, and in fact, there are a whole lot of trees. And then, often I’ve observed that people start to see how large and complex the forest is, and how the trees are in relationship to each other.

Oh, good grief, I’m beginning to sound like the fellow in the movie “Being There” (this dates me big time, but it was a great movie).

I’ll stop talking now about the forest, tree thing. Got a little carried away there. (The frogs like the tree thing, but then they would, they’re frogs.)

But right now, the most important thing for the city of Newburyport is to get out and VOTE on Tuesday, May 22, 2007. Not to sit on the apathetic sidelines and be “political couch potatoes.” (If you are reading the Newburyport Blog, you are probably not a “political couch potato,” but there may be a “political couch potato” near you.)

This election effects everyone in Newburyport, MA, so get out there and get your friends, neighbors, family and you to the voting booth in your ward, next Tuesday, May 22, 2007.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Override, Vote Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I have receive contact from people who are for the override and against the override in regards to “Massachusetts Stand for Children,” www.stand.org/ma. From what I understand, people on both sides of the issue have been in touch with each other about getting together after the override vote is over to see what they could do together to work on a state level.

I could not be more pleased.

My feeling is that “Massachusetts Stand for Children” has already “invented the wheel,” so to speak. The organization is already 85 communities strong, and there is definitely strength, as well as good old political “know how” in “numbers.” 85 communities already involved in the same fight for educational funding and reform sure works for me.

And I was also enormously pleased to see that at tonight’s forum on the override, which is now sponsored by the Newburyport Daily News, along with the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and the Newburyport Education Business Coalition, that both sides of the override issue would be represented as part of the discussion.

According to the Newburyport Daily News, May 17, 2007, former City Councilors Brenda Reffett and John Norris, who head up the “kNOw Newburyport” effort will now be on the panel.

Who says democracy doesn’t work.

The forum on the school override will be from 7 to 8:30 PM at the Newburyport High School, today, Thursday, May 17, 2007.

And whether you are for or against the override, or simply won’t know until voting day arrives, for goodness sakes VOTE on Tuesday, May 22, 2007. It is one of the privileges that we as citizens of the USA are blessed to have.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, State Educational Funding and Reform

In my quest for trying to find some sort of resolution to local funding problems that is less divisive to our community (and other communities) than a local override, I came across an organization called “Stand for Children,” www.stand.org/ma.

This is from the Massachusetts Stand for Children website:

“The financial crisis in education is no secret. On March 14, 2007, our own Education Commissioner Driscoll testified to the Ways and Means Committee that this year’s school funding crisis was the worst he had seen yet…”

“Today’s outdated foundation budget shortchanges state and federal mandates, curriculum frameworks, classroom technology, the cost of educator development, early education needs, and best practices established in the 13 years since Ed Reform. In addition, it grossly understates the costs of special education and other services to at-risk populations…”

“On Wednesday, April 25, nearly 2,000 education supporters, representing more than 85 communities across the Commonwealth, joined the Stand for Children School Funding Rally on Boston Common. And early in the day, Stand for Children brought more than 400 citizens in to the State House to meet personally with 48 lawmakers and legislative staff to deliver a simple message: our schools need funding relief and reform.

Parents, teachers, and students from across the state demanded that Massachusetts lawmakers provide immediate financial relief to school districts facing teacher layoffs and school closures. They also urged legislators to find a long-term solution to our state’s school funding crisis by committing to reforming state education funding.”

Governor Deval Patrick addressed the crowd. And in an article in the Boston Globe, May 2, 2007, “Patrick Targets School Funding,” by Lisa Wangsness:

“Patrick issued some of his most pointed comments to date, saying the state can no longer afford to rely on the local property tax to fund public education…

The pressure on the local property tax in recent years has chafed cities and towns, as the cost of healthcare has ballooned and state aid — despite recent increases — has not kept up with inflation…

Currently, the state covers less than 40 percent of the cost of local education, with cities and towns picking up the rest through the property tax. While it is a stable source of revenue, it places a sometimes difficult burden on the elderly or people with fixed incomes, and some argue it increases the disparity between communities based on personal income and property value.”

Governor Deval Patrick hopes to release a comprehensive education reform plan in June.

Well, whew, someone on the state level is listening to the anguish of cities and towns across the state of Massachusetts.

There is a “Chapter” of Stand for Children in Lowell. And there is a “Team” for Stand for Children in Gloucester.

It would be nice if there were a “Chapter” or “Team” for Stand for Children in Newburyport, MA. And that at any further rallies for state funding for our schools, Newburyport, MA might be in the forefront of those meeting with lawmakers and legislative staff fighting for educational funding and reform.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, No to the Override

I’ve seen literature from the “Yes for Newburyport” folks, but until this Saturday, I had not seen anything from the “Know Newburyport” (knownewburyport.com) folks.

But, as I was walking around Newburyport, MA, , at least in the South End of town, there were bright yellow flyers with the heading “Stop Tax Override.” The content of the first page of the flier is below:

Passing the Override Fails Our Community

    • It is a “Band-aid” approach to long-standing systemic issues.
    • Adds to each property owner’s real estate tax forever without any assurance of a solution to the financial challenges of the schools.
    • No assurance that the money will go to the schools after the first year.
    • This override only addresses school needs and ignores the fact that our city has other financial challenges. Additional overrides/debt exclusions are currently being considered for as early as the November 2007 election. A full comprehensive city/school plan is needed.

    Saying No to the Override is a Positive Response

    • Voting No encourages responsible analysis and fiscal accountability within the School Department.
    • Allows the School Department time to create a long term plan, based upon the recently approved reorganization, thus ensuring Newburyport’s children the best education possible.
    • Allows the necessary time to fully investigate other revenue sources and options.

    Vote No to Encourage Adoption of True Zero-Based Budgeting

    • Zero-based budgeting ensures against unnecessary spending by requiring complete analysis line by line in each program.
    • Successful private large and small corporations have utilized zero-based budgeting for decades as a means of insuring fiscal responsibility (not a “modified” version as the schools recently claimed they used this budget year).
    • For the past 10 years, citizens have requested the school committee and Superintendent to utilize this effective tool because it is a proven sound business practice.
    • Why is there continued resistance to this request???

    VOTE NO ON TUESDAY, MAY 22nd

    (Editor’s Note:  I was unable to duplicate the format of the flier. My apologies to the folks involved in the “kNOw Newburyport” campaign.)

    Mary Eaton
    Newburyport

    Newburyport, Override and Community

    I guess that I’ve been obliquely charged with stirring up “dissension between the ‘old timers’ and the ‘newbies.’ ” And that this might be an “unwise way of thinking.”

    Oh.

    To think that there is no tension between the newer arrivals or the “newbies” (I do believe that was my phrase) and the folks who have lived here all their lives or even a good part of their lives, would be, in my opinion, a tad out of touch with the reality of Newburyport, MA.

    To walk around town and talk to a whole variety of folks, would, I believe, confirm that possible “unpleasant” reality.

    However, to hope that we might be a “unified community” could in fact, I believe, be “unwise.”

    I went looking for a definition of “community,” and didn’t find anything that I liked much. But I did find some help from the website of the University of Texas (of all places).

    To paraphrase, the idea of “community” is a place where people know and care about each other. That there is a sense of “belonging.” But this is also coupled with a need for diversity, pluralism and dissent. And it is finding that balance between a sense of unity and diversity and dissent that is, I believe, so tricky.

    One of the things that concerns me about the “Yes for Newburyport” campaign for an override, is that people are afraid to speak out against it.

    I am ambivalent about this override, but I respect and understand and empathize with the folks who feel so passionately that it is important. But I also feel that it would be wise to “honor” and “respect” the folks who might feel differently, if we are to sustain a true sense of community.

    And, there is a public forum sponsored by the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce along with the Newburyport Education Business Coalition to discuss the issue of the override. The panel only includes people who are for the override for the Newburyport Public Schools.

    I would suggest that if we are a “true” community, and if this is a “true” neutral discussion, that at the very least, the two people who are heading the “Know Newburyport” (knownewburyport.com) campaign be included in that panel discussion as well.

    And that it would also be a good “educational” example (pun very much intended) to present in such a forum, not just one, but both sides of a political issue. Certainly that is what democracy is all about.

    Mary Eaton
    Newburyport