Are you stupid?
No, I don’t mean 2 + 2 = 5 stupid.
I mean, is there stuff you don’t know about your town that you should know? Things going on in your kids’ school that you’re not tuned into, or don’t quite “get”?
OK, good. You have now been ruled eligible to talk about the Scarborough town referendum that was held May 14 on whether to approve a $38.9 million school budget.
The vote in Scarborough failed 898 to 643. Self-appointed analysts are turning themselves into pretzels trying to explain why the vote failed, what voters were ticked off about, and what, generally, went wrong.
(Rule of thumb this week the more a person talked about these things, the greater likelihood the person knew absolutely nothing about that which they talked).
There is good news and bad news for the Scarborough school system.
First, the good news –when the next public vote is held next, it is possible the school budget could pass.
Now the bad news.
As currently constituted? The School Department effort to gain 50 percent + 1 in the next vote has two chances for success, as former Town Council Chair George Roy used to say: 1) slim; and 2) none.
Because you, dear reader, are stupid. Or at least that is the way many school budget boosters view you. You voted “no” on May 14 because you are just not educated enough to know the “correct” way to vote. And, unless something changes with you between May l4 and the next vote, you may just do it again….
The referendum failed by about a 60 percent to 40 percent margin.
Will proponents of the $38 million school budget referendum dare look in a mirror?
An informal survey shows that for many voters, the no vote was a “symbolic” vote.
One citizen told me: “You think I was going to give them $38 million to spend on who knows what? Not a chance!” (Conversely I think Town Manager Tom Hall is on a roll; An 80-year-old watches Hall on Cable TV. He finds him a “regular person.”)
It has been a tough year-plus for the SHS community. Faculty and staff were not loved by those in charge. “For two years, we were shown the back of the School Department’s hand,” one SHS employee said. “You reap what you sow.” Ill will.
A final significant chunk reported dealings with either the Central Office or a K-2 brass that treated them harshly in dealings with their child—not adversely; harshly.
The high school is the lifeblood of this community. Nothing else in this town has as big an impact on life in town as the high school.
Develop a toxic atmosphere over there due to strained parent-administrator relations or faculty-Central Office dealings? You are toast.
In this case, the vote Tuesday was a big side order of hot buttered cinnamon raisin.
So what to do if you are the School Department?
No more “listening forums” or “communication symposiums” or whatever it was that you were calling these gatherings that you were holding the past few months.
And please please please—no more referring to taxpayers and citizens as “stakeholders” and other too-cute-by-half new-age phrases or words.
Call them citizens and taxpayers and parents, OK?
What to do to gain votes and support?
Get out in the community.
If you are the school board, remind yourself you were elected by voters; they are your boss. No one else. Act like that. Go see the boss.
Meet people. Eyeball to eyeball. Shake hands. Press flesh. Smile. Lots of eye contact.
No hiding. No running. No avoiding people at the dry cleaner.
Best display of public school administrator savvy recently?
Middle School Principal Barbara Hathorn attending a funeral/wake of a lovely lady who was a parent of a couple school kids. Hathorn moved through the room like the seasoned pol that she is NOT. A real person.
Quick, name five public school administrators in Scarborough who have done much of this lately. OK, three? Two? How about one?
One last suggestion love your enemies.
Rick Libby, SHS alumni star athlete, was a Libby-Mitchell American Legion Post 76 baseball coach for a decade. Parents would call him up and scream about lack of playing time. His response: “That was a parent who loves their son. That is a good thing.”
Seen much of that from people who are now asking you to sign a $38 million custodial check payable to them?
Call people who voted “no” stupid, if you want. But your solution about how to change Scarborough votes in the ten days you have under local ordinance to do so, you will be holding up a mirror and saying “You are stupid.”
Not a bright future in that.
Dan Warren lives in Scarborough. He can be reached at [email protected].