Troy's Take Superintendent Has Falmouth Singing The Blues

Troy ClarksonAmy Rader Photographer - Troy Clarkson

I love to sing. I sing in public, I sing in the bathroom while I’m brushing my teeth (that can be messy), I sing while I’m cooking, and even while I’m working. At the office, people know when I’m coming down the hall, as my sounds precede me. As a result of that happy propensity, and an ill-advised governmental policy, it’s unlikely that I’ll be traveling to Winnipeg any time soon. 

The Executive Policy Committee in Winnipeg, the capital city of Manitoba and that province’s largest municipality, recently approved a bylaw outlawing singing on city buses. Outlaw crooners can even be subject to a $100 fine if caught humming a few bars on the bus. 

As silly as this idea sounds, it clearly had the support of some governmental decision-makers who were either unaware of the absurdity of the proposal when applied outside of the boardroom, or fully aware of how foolish it was and just did it anyway. Either way, it was a bad decision. Sometimes, government just does that. 

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As much as I love to sing, I also love to read. I’ve been an avid reader since the age of 5. I can fondly remember Marsha Zafiriou, the librarian at East Falmouth Elementary School, affectionately dubbed “Mrs. Z” by the bibliophiles who would descend into this comfortable corner of Davisville’s educational edifice, encouraging me to challenge myself with ever more interesting and exciting choices to take home and absorb. My love of linguistics, my affection for information, and my esteem for encouraging others to share their thoughts, was cultivated in those early days by a librarian who cared—and who was available to spend time with a young and eager book lover. 

Alas, as with the Executive Policy Committee in Winnipeg eliminating the gift of music on public buses, the recent decision by school superintendent Bonny Gifford to eliminate the gift of reading by cutting the librarian position at one of our public schools was just as foolish and just plain bad. Her announcement that the library teacher at Lawrence School would be eliminated, while other new positions are being created, left me—and many Falmouthites—singing the blues. It’s a good thing I wasn’t on a bus in Winnipeg when I read the news.  

As a governmental budget professional, I am well aware of the challenges of sometimes scant public dollars available to fulfill the many missions and demands of a public entity, but leaving a library without a librarian is akin to leaving those music-less buses in Winnipeg without a driver. An outpouring of sentiment since the decision was announced buttresses the notion that this decision was conceived in the same sort of Winnipegian governmental echo chamber where the decision-makers say “it’s a good idea” enough times that it reverberates. I’m sorry, but it’s just not so. 

Even Mrs. Z agrees. In a recent letter to the editor, the now retired librarian noted that without a dedicated library teacher, the school would be, “totally without the unique skill set of that profession and the space itself becomes a warehouse of taxpayer-funded resources without a trained person to promote and facilitate their use.” I couldn’t have said it better myself—but of course I couldn’t—because my love of language was nurtured by Mrs. Z herself. Future young Falmouthites may be denied that opportunity. 

Many other respected and committed members of the community have chimed in to lament this out-of-tune idea. School committee member Judy Fenwick even took the rare step to leave her seat on the committee during a recent school committee meeting to speak during the public comment period and plead for the restoration of this critical member of the Lawrence School learning team. Scores of citizens, through e-mails, personal pleas, and letters to the editor, have noted a similar sentiment. 

It’s not too late. The school year doesn’t start until September. Here’s hoping that the superintendent changes her tune.

(Mr. Clarkson may be contacted at votetroy99@aol.com and followed on Twitter @TroyClarkson59.)

Comments

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  • peter

    Troy is absolutely on the mark in lamenting and questioning the wisdom of the school budget cutting strategy. Please note that the slicing and dicing of the cost structure of the school budget includes more than at librarians. Valuable teaching assistants were sent packing at the end of the school year as well. The Superintendent also dismissed the head of curriculum for the schools and her budget director is no longer employed.I am not sure what prompted these dismissals, but clearly these positions not filled means costs are reduced. It also means these folks and their economic activity will be smaller ocgs in our town's economy - the multiplier effect of layoffs and firings is a real and painful cost. I truly believe we cannot ask the Superintendent to perform magic - fully staffing a well-armed arsenal of teachers and support staff with a budget squeezed by rising non-discretionary costs is folly. Is there room for cost improvement? Of course. Can we find money without firing essential personnel? Yes! First, selectpersons better figure out that the long AND short term economic and social health of our town is inextricably tied to the health of our educational system and fund it appropriately. Second, look no further than a few miles north of us to the town of Sandwich to see how a town can cut costs and free up capital. Sandwich just opened a solar farm and as the Enterprise article points out, officials there believe it will save MILLIONS over the next couple of decades. Look no further than ALL the municipal buildings in Falmouth - acres of roof tops that conceivably could be converted into solar power cost savings for the town. Logistics aside, I have seen scant public inquiry into this concept and idea. But if Sandwich can figure it out, so can Falmouth. I would like to see Superintendent Gifford step up and lead - I think she has a unique platform as a relatively new to the town official to impact business. But firing teaching assistants and librarian isn't leading Falmouth's educational system anywhere except into troubled waters. Bonny is not alone.The town's ruling bodies need to accept the responsibility of their positions and help her win this funding battle.