I worry that we’ve gotten to a state of magical thinking about how we could solve our Newburyport school’s dilemmas.
Instead of the frenzy dying down after last Monday’s Newburyport City Council meeting, the volume, at least to my ears, has gone way up.
I think it came as a big, and very disappointing (is this a vast understatement? yes) surprise, my last post… that yes, in black and white and with an email from Mass DOR’s legal department, no less, that an $1.6 million dollar override would only be allocated, legally, to the schools for one year. And then that money goes into the general funds.
I can almost sense, the panic and the fear and the anger of the parents and concerned folks who read that paragraph.
But to be determined that it is not so, unhappily, is magical thinking.
And the other reality is that expenses go up and $1.6 million dollars plus its 2 ½ increase would diminish.
I pay for my own health insurance. It went up 10% this year. The city of Newburyport’s health insurance expenses, just like everyone else’s health expenses go up a whole lot more than 2 ½ % each year. Heating bills, electric bill. Mine have sure gone up. I bet so have yours.
We had department heads this year that got 5.5% raises (not that they didn’t deserve them). That’s more than 2 ½ %. Negotiations are coming up with most of the city’s unions for new contracts. We have all just lost 2 fire trucks. $450,000 to replace one. And one was purchased 1968. A very old fire truck.
There are no silver bullet answers. And it is my opinion that the $1.6 million dollar override that permanently raises taxes, is not a silver bullet answer.
I have a very old friend, who is a doctor, who told me a wonderful story. He was a resident and it was back in the days when doctor’s still made house calls (so, yes, this is a very old friend). He received a message that there was an emergency and he rushed over to where it was. Before he knocked on the door, he stood for a moment and straightened his tie, calmed himself down and then went in and coped with the calamity.
His supervisor asked him what was the most important thing that he did, in that crisis. My friend looked at his supervisor, and with some hesitation said, “straightening my tie?” And the supervisor, said yes, that was the most important thing that this, then young intern did.
We have a wonderful example of a gentleman in our community, in the situation that we face with our schools, who has done and is doing (at least to my knowledge) just that, “straightening his tie.” And that is Newburyport School Superintendent Kevin Lyons. A remarkable example of leadership.
It doesn’t appear to be courage, it appears to be leadership, it appears to be “tie straightening.”
I think it might be a good idea for all of us who are caught up in this drama to pause and to do a little “tie straightening.” It’s important to deal with the facts of a crisis in a calm way, because magical thinking may be comforting, but, unfortunately it will not solve this very complicated Newburyport school dilemma.