The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 8, 2000

No 'daggers' found

To the Editor:

Over the past two weeks there has been some dialogue about the bike and pedestrian safety committee. In a Forum commentary (The Will of the People, November 24) writer Jayne Prats took issue with the format and results of the recent survey conducted by the committee about new footpaths. This was followed by conservation commission chair Carolyn Kiely's letter (Volunteer Attack, Dec. 1) complaining that Ms. Prats' article "aimed daggers" at the committee.

It seems to us that Jayne Prats' comments were absolutely appropriate and well-placed. We re-read her words several times and could find no "daggers" aimed at the committee. She voiced an opinion shared by many that the survey undertaken by the bike and pedestrian safety committee was flawed. That Ms. Prats' commentary was laced with accusations as suggested by Ms. Kiely is an unfair statement. Period.

While we support the tremendous volunteer efforts that make our town a unique place to live, we're sure we all also expect a professional, unbiased approach to all issues. Just because someone is a volunteer does not make him professional nor unbiased. (And please, this is not to suggest that we've got bad people in place). Not everyone is good at everything.

The survey was a first step. It gauged some opinions and picked up a trace of a heartbeat. But to look to it for guidance for any next steps would be a mistake. We're opposed to any footpaths beyond the center of town but the survey did not provide the open and fair forum we would expect from any town committee.

All of this reminds us of the current play "I love you the way you are. Now change." If people are attracted to Carlisle for its rural aspects and unique quality of Iife why do they then want to change it?

Larry Bearfield
Robin Emerson
North Road

Carlisle donates $1,200 to UNICEF

To the Editor:

It was a wet, cold Halloween, but the school children of Carlisle still brought their UNICEF boxes with them trick or treating. The town donated $1,216.58 to UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Fund). A big thank you to all those who participated, to the Carlisle Public School for their support and to Girl Scout troops 2642, 2644, 2646 and 2647 who sorted and wrapped over $900 in coins.

Suzanne Benkley
Virginia Farme Road

Eagle Scout project a success

To the Editor:

I would like to thank all the people who participated in my Eagle Scout Project. The project was the construction of the fence and the relocation of the sign at the Banta Davis entrance. The project was a big success and it went very quickly with the great help of the people who participated. I would especially like to thank Gary Davis for taking the time to meet with me, supplying materials, and for his facilitating Dig Safe. Thanks also to the recreation commission for their approvals of the project and their help.

Andy Stone
Skelton Road

Forum article was on target

To the Editor:

Carolyn Kiely seems to make quite a leap of logic when imputing that Jayne Prats' reasoned viewpoint (Forum, November 24) about flaws in the survey used by the Bike and Pedestrian Safety Committee was an attack on volunteerism in Carlisle. Further, to suggest that Forum's volunteer writers avoid criticism of Carlisle town boards is to limit, rather than amplify, dialogue that will contribute to informed consensus about issues like sidewalks/pathways that are not cut-and-dried and need to be weighed against other pressing needs of the town.

In addition to raising good questions about the survey methodology, Ms. Prats made valid points about the greater context in which traffic and pedestrian issues should be examined. Decisions should be based on impartial studies of demand and behavior patterns, cost/benefit and environmental impact, and not public opinion exclusively. Solutions such as traffic calming techniques should be given serious consideration.

The Mosquito, with town-wide circulation, is the best vehicle from which average citizens can obtain insight and opinions about issues before an exuberant committee overlays its priorities on the town. At issue are priorities, not exuberance. Boards have convinced voters to spend significant town funds on projects that, even if worthy, didn't seem to be as critical as other needs of the time (example: recreational fields).

In other words, one would hope that sheer enthusiasm by a committee's volunteers would not distort the priority level of what they might propose, nor exempt them from having to use valid data to demonstrate the value of the project. We need informed voices for a balanced view, and significantly, to generate more dialogue about the town's priorities for its limited financial and planning resources.

Encouraging positive feedback for the outstanding contributions made by town committee volunteers is not inconsistent with the notion that our town newspaper should print editorial columns that comment pro or con about town policy and direction. The resulting letters to the editor should prove instructive as well. I think the effect of this will be to help our volunteer leaders make better decisions rather than reduce the pool of volunteers.

Mark Levitan
Wolf Rock Road

Thanks to unsung coach

To the Editor:

My sincere apologies to Sally Waite for not realizing that she was a volunteer coach along with Ellen Davin. Who would have thought that someone without children in the school system would so generously donate her already scarce free time? Thank you, Sally, for your hard work and dedication, but most of all, for your generosity!

Marcy Guttadauro
Fiske Street

Thanks from Eagle Scouts

To the Editor:

We would like to thank all those people who helped us complete our Eagle Scout projects. We would especially like to thank Mr. Stone and Mr. Carpenito. Without their help and the help of all the Scouts, our projects could not have happened. Thank you all for your help.

Jeremy and Andrew Boardman
Russell Street

'All our children'

To the Editor:

Two fine articles on Carlisle students' high MCAS scores anchored the December 1st edition of the Mosquito. Both expressed ambivalence and concern about what the high scores mean. But neither went far enough to pinpoint the darker meaning of MCAS and the damaging effects it can have on both children and schools.

MCAS follows a long tradition in our country's "mismeasuring man"to use Stephen J. Gould's apt phrase. In this case, the mismeasure is of both children and schools. To think that a single paper and pencil test constitutes a valid measure of the strengths of children and the skills of teachers flies in the face of first-hand experience.

Teachers and others who have such first-hand experience know this, but often parents do not. Often parents assume that children who perform poorly on MCAS know little or less than those who perform well. We parents do not know these children first-hand. We do not hear their intelligent chatter in and outside class, see the passion they bring to serious subjects, experience the creative way they look at life and serious issues. In short, we do not know their strengths

strengths not measured by the MCAS. And because we parents do not know first-hand, we tacitly assume that MCAS is benign, but it is not, for when students receive low scores, parents complain, and teachers feel pressured to modify their curriculum to teach to test.

We parents in Carlisle should feel lucky that our teachers do not have this pressure, do not have this diversion from the task of teaching and building on our children's strengths. Our concern, then, should be for other children and for other teachers who will be pressured and diverted from their task making MCAS yet another means by which we divide and undermine our goal of building a larger, caring and productive community whose beauty resides partly in its being diverse. Our concern should be for all our children.

W. George Scarlett
Partridge Lane

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito