The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 29, 2007

Opinions




Don't forget Old Home Day

Summer has finally arrived and it's time to celebrate — Old Home Day festivities begin this evening with a bridge tournament in the Corey Dining Room at 6:30 p.m., but the main activities, including the pancake breakfast, the races, the parade, awards, Country Fair, games, art show, pet show, softball, soapbox derby, Fire Department barbeque and cakewalk are all tomorrow (see page 19 or www.carlisleohd.org for details.) Festivities will continue on Sunday with tethered balloon rides, ice cream and music at Spalding Field from 5 to 8 p.m. It is a wonderful small-town community event, hosted by a group of dedicated volunteers led by Dave and Florence Reed.

Because Old Home Day is held this weekend, Carlisle will not have a July 4 celebration this year. But there are plenty of opportunities nearby to join in the national birthday party. Concord will host Picnic in the Park on Wednesday, July 4 at Emerson Field, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There will be music, food, races, children's games and a demonstration of the Concord Police K9 Unit. Boston's pyrotechnics are duly famous, but you can also enjoy fireworks closer to home, at NARA Park, located off Route 27 and Quarry Road in Acton. Shuttle buses will run from the Nagog Park office parking lot. The Help Wanted Band will perform at 6 p.m. and fireworks will begin shortly after 9 p.m.

The Mosquito will not publish next week as it begins its summer schedule. The next issue will be published on Friday, July 13. Additional issues will appear on July 20, August 3, August 24, August 31 and September 14, after which the newspaper will resume publishing weekly.

If you are traveling, remember the Mosquito is available on-line at www.carlislemosquito.org. Also, if you travel to an unusual spot, be it Mount Everest or your grandmother's basement in Hackensack, send the Mosquito a post card. We'll print a list of responses at the end of summer.



Schools of thought

Two of my favorite Carlisle celebrations are the Strawberry Festival and Old Home Day. At the Strawberry Festival, I always go for the largest possible helping, and if by chance some friendly neighbor is behind the counter serving up the goods, I'll plead for an extra dollop of whipped cream. In addition to catching up with old friends who are emerging from winter's hibernation, we get Morris dancers and a barbershop quartet at no extra charge. How great a deal is that? A few short weeks later we celebrate Old Home Day quintessential Americana. I've been known to reschedule family vacations just to make sure that we don't miss out on the annual parade, pie contest, and chicken barbeque. This is what makes Carlisle unique place that's still small enough where, like the bar at Cheers, "everybody knows your name."

However, as the town gets bigger and more expensive to run, issues are becoming ever more difficult and complex. The recent controversy about proposed 40(B) housing projects is a good example. Lately we've seen the ongoing difficulties in the school come to a boil. I'm one of those people who is verging on Old Fogeyhood our kids graduated from the public school long ago. Still, all of us have a vested interest in this (if only because the largest portion of our property taxes, by far, goes to pay for the school system). I remember the school as a place with great teachers and a committed administration working in obvious harmony. Recent events, especially the overwhelming vote of no confidence, make it clear that this is no longer the case. What happened?

There are several factors. One is new leadership. Under the best of circumstances, this would bring new perspectives and fresh ideas. Another is a tight budget, which requires difficult choices about staffing and priorities. A third, and perhaps most important, is a lack of effective communication across the board. The trouble has been pretty much out in the open for several years, starting with a letter of concern sent by the Carlisle Teachers Association to Superintendent Doyle in June of 2005. Efforts by the School Committee to mediate the affair, including hiring a special consultant who subsequently was dismissed, have so far been ineffective.

To be fair, let's assume that there is no lack of good intentions all around. To be equally fair (especially to the kids and the taxpayers), it's clear that these problems have to be fixed, and soon. After a while, phrases like "we appreciate your concern" and "we're working to solve the problem" not only are unhelpful, they tend to erode credibility even further. In sports, if a team is chronically underperforming and can't turn things around, eventually either the coach or the players will find themselves wearing a different uniform. I have great admiration for anyone who is committed enough to serve on the School Committee. (It's a tremendous responsibility and extremely time consuming, but at least the pay is low!) As our elected officials, it's up to them to sort this out.

As luck would have it, last week I attended a retirement party for Matt King, who's leaving the Wellesley school system after ten years of service as an admired and respected superintendent. You may remember Matt from his days as Carlisle's superintendent. One of the speakers recalled that when he was originally interviewed for the position, Matt was asked to define his educational philosophy. His reply was simple, direct and spot on: "My job is to get the best possible teacher in every classroom. Everything else comes from that." Good advice, and worth heeding.

 

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2007 The Carlisle Mosquito