Friday, June 4, 2004
Fine job, unfinished business
At the Annual Town Meeting , which sets the budget and therefore our taxes for the next fiscal year, a small crowd approved every one of the 23 Warrant Articles, most by unanimous vote. At the Town Election last week all four ballot questions requesting additional funding over the levy limit passed by very comfortable margins. In Carlisle, small turnouts do not represent apathy, but agreement. This year Carlisle residents had a high degree of confidence in the fiscal recommendations of their Selectmen and Finance Committee and did not feel compelled to question or debate their proposed expenditures.
Indeed our financial leadership has done an excellent job this year. In particular the Finance Committee, under the leadership of Lisa Jensen-Fellows, did a lot of homework, working closely with each town unit to understand their needs and help them live as close to the levy limit as possible. Despite the certainly of another cut in state aid and the uncertainty of town revenues they crafted a well-balanced, no-frills budget that fairly distributes the available funds. It takes a lot of knowledge to guess right.
While the FinCom has completed their primary assignment for FY05, Carlisle citizens still have two pieces of unfinished business before we head for the hammock. First, our budget cycle is not yet finished; Concord and Carlisle have not yet agreed on a budget for our high school. Next Tuesday, June 8, Concord votes on two overrides for CCHS, both of which must pass to match the budget level requested by the Regional School Committee and approved by Carlisle. A positive outcome in Concord is far from certain, as that town faces a number of large expenditures and a significant increase in taxes. If an override fails in Concord, the Regional School Committee may accept the lower and cut teaching positions, or it may call for a Joint Town Meeting in July. To avoid this complication and give the high school a fair budget, each Carlisle resident should call three Concord friends (Concord population outnumbers Carlisle by 3:1) and urge them to support both CCHS ballot questions.
Second, we need to assure ourselves of continued good financial leadership. Unfortunately two experienced FinCom members are leaving the committee. Lisa Jensen-Fellows has resigned and Deb Belanger was elected last week to the Board of Selectmen. This leaves two vacancies (and no women) on the committee. New volunteers are urgently needed. Before we relax for the summer, we need to ask ourselves, our spouses and our neighbors whether this is the year they can contribute their time, talent and experience for the benefit of the community.
Not a memorial
For someone in a position of considerable importance and influence who is about to retire, especially someone beloved, there are weeks, months really, of accolades and reflections to enjoy and endure even as she's trying to finish up the job at hand. Yes, Big D, I can see you waving me off, giving me the "cut" sign, but this is my last opportunity, so deal with it.
Davida Fox-Melanson is about to leave us after 13 years as Carlisle School superintendent. She's accomplished much in this time. As a terrific judge of talent, she's brought us many gifted educators. As a leader, she's helped teachers and staff continually improve. She brought us systems thinking, both the philosophy and the tools, along with the grant money to support teachers in learning to implement this innovative approach. With her creativity and management skills, she has effectively coped with rising special ed costs. She instituted the pre-kindergarten program, which helps the school address learning needs early. She championed the full-day kindergarten. She has fought hard for budgets that would meet all children's needs; when she's lost those battles, she's been not only gracious, but adept at blunting the impact of resulting cuts. A great listener, she has been open to input and questions from parents and others in the community. She's also been politely firm about why she does what she does. She has insisted on civility as an overarching value in the school community, knowing full well the inevitable limits, yet she has modeled it constantly nonetheless. This paragraph grows overly long; a complete list of her accomplishments, large and small, would not fit this space.
So what I really want to get to here is the friend-mentor and excellent-human-being part of the list. I think of her as a parenting mentor, though she never lectures or instructs. Rather, she shares stories from her own upbringing or from her trials and joys raising her own two kids, of whom she is immensely proud. Davida has always been there for families in need, stepping in to marshal resources when a home has been destroyed by fire, for instance. She's there for the quieter crises as well, as she was for me when both of my parents were sick and dying. I'm not sure she knows it, but her friendship at that time was a very big reason I didn't move away from Carlisle and subject my children to the Florida schools. She has always made me feel special and that she feels my children are special. It is no less gratifying to know that many other parents and teachers feel the same way.
Davida is passionate, fun, and funny, which makes the many meetings she attends a whole lot more bearable for the other attendees. Through the long slog (not quite ended) toward the building of a wastewater treatment facility for the school, she has been professional and philosophical, bearing with good humor the tired suggestions that the facility be named after her, saying always, "Just don't call it a memorial!"
This is no memorial, Davida. I can't wait to see what you do next.
© 2004 The