The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 20, 2000


Arrivals and Departures

This week, as we introduce the many new teachers at Concord-Carlisle High School, it is unfortunate that we must announce another loss in the school's administrative team, Gerry Missal, on the heels of Principal Elaine DiCicco's announcement of resignation.

In last week's Mosquito, an interview with the outgoing principal portrayed the long-time leader's efforts to provide an educational program to meet the needs of children of all abilities. I have always marveled at how, in one of the most difficult positions in a school, she consistently commands deep respect from all constituencies -- students, parents and staff. Perhaps it's because she appreciates the students and doesn't underestimate the complexity of their lives. She maintains high standards for the staff at the same time she encourages innovation, allowing them to make a mistake. While she executes her duties in a clear and consistent manner, perhaps most refreshing, Elaine does so with dignity, a smile and a touch of humor.

Regretfully, the Concord Schools and Concord-Carlisle school district will also lose an invaluable resource in their longtime Director of Financial Services Gerry Missal. Many residents may remember him as the person who always attended the finance committee hearings and Town Meetings, prepared to answer questions about the high school budget. If you can't recall his face, it may be because his calculations and interpretations were always so thoroughly researched and accurate that they failed to prompt debate. The data he prepared was clear and concise. Those of us on staff here who have called him for information have always been appreciative of his prompt reply and thorough explanations. Missal has the right blend of honesty and competency that instills taxpayers' confidence in someone overseeing a public pocketbook.

It will be a great loss for the high school when these two fine leaders depart. However, we can hope that, like this year's new teachers, their replacements will come on board with rich experiences and the enthusiasm to continue in the tradition which has allowed CCHS to maintain its reputation of educational excellence.

The Little Green Car

I feel so virtuous. I'm told that's better than feeling self-righteous, and I've tried to figure out the difference. I decided that virtue means feeling good about something I've done, without worrying about what other people are doing. Self-righteous would be if I did something and wanted everyone to know how noble I was. Well, maybe that's the better phrase; I am making my virtue the topic of a Forum article. But I feel good about it, anyway.

It's my new car. If you see it driving around town, or stickerless at the dump, you would think it's a perfectly ordinary little green car. Maybe a Toyota Echo, or one of the little Fords. But it has a heart of gold -- or green, I should say. I just bought a Toyota Prius, which isn't advertised outside the Geek media (Smithsonian, Scientific American). It doesn't have a lot of options, and you can't haggle on the price, which, if rumors are correct, is about $15,000 less than manufacturing costs. A strange beast, for all its modest appearance.

I haven't yet gotten used to complete silence when I turn the "ignition" key. It has no starter; there is no ignition. There's an electric motor under the hood, but I can't hook it up to charging stations at the Alewife T station. It charges its own battery; when I brake, it takes its kinetic energy, turns the electric motor backwards, and stuffs the otherwise wasted speed back into the battery. There's also a gasoline engine for the heavy hauling, and the car switches back and forth between them for maximum efficiency. I've been getting about 48-49 miles per gallon tooling around Carlisle roads. It does better in stop-and-go commuting, least well on the highway. At its worst, it's better than my old Oldsmobile.

Why is this so revolutionary? Diesel electric power systems replaced steam engines (or purely electric trains, with overhead wires) in the 1950s. Same idea they use an internal combustion engine to supply electricity to drive the train efficiently. There is no shortage of stories about the Future of Automobiles -- the papers are full of stories about fuel cells and electric cars. I wonder how they'll get over the hurdles of getting them into widespread use. Will gas stations carry the exotic fuels required by fuel cells? If everyone used electric cars, we'd need more power generating plants and high-tension lines. Not in my back yard! How practical is their 60-mile range? My little car drinks regular gas -- sips it, really. There's no pain to adopting this new technology. It just feels like a car. And it classifies as a "super ultra low emissions vehicle."

One of these days (not so far off), there will be hybrid-powered SUVs, buses, trucks and minivans. My little green car is just a test bed, demonstrating how the new design fares in everyday driving. I'm debugging the technology while I feel virtuous.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito