Forum, March 10: Lebanon School Upgrades Yes, Auditorium No

Friday, March 09, 2018
Upgrades Yes, Auditorium No

At a time when surrounding school districts are tightening their belts, the Lebanon School District has presented voters with not only a bloated $43 million operating budget but a questionable $29 million renovation plan that includes a $12 million auditorium at the high school. Upgrades and maintenance of our school buildings are a must, but to roll all of it into one package hoping Lebanon voters will go for it is an unfair tactic.

We should remind ourselves the School Board vote was 5-4 on this article. Yes, a new auditorium would be nice, but we already have a barely used auditorium at the former Seminary Hill School and the use of the Lebanon Opera House. Expansion of entryways and administrative offices do not enhance the education of our children, nor does it attract new young families to our community.

What this proposal does is tax the lower and middle class out of town. If our buildings are crowded, they might want to look at reducing the number of adults in the classroom. Hanover Street School has 80 teachers or paraeducators for a student population of 347. Mount Lebanon School has 57 teachers or paraeducators for a student population of 243. That’s 1 adult to every 4 students. Maybe Lebanon should consider building a new auditorium with the revenue made from the sale of the four buildings during the consolidation several years ago and not ask the taxpayers for yet again more money.

Mary Kelleher


Support Newport School Staff

As a citizen of Newport and president of the Newport Support Staff Association, I am writing to urge Newport voters to vote yes on Article 6 on Tuesday at the Newport Opera House. The agreement we ratified with the School Board had one primary aim: to attract high-quality paraeducators for the many open positions in the schools and to retain the experienced staff the district has spent time and money training to support our children and teachers every day.

Newport’s paraeducators maintain their state certifications with many hours of professional development offered by the district. Annual turnover costs time and money and often leads to staffing shortages.

To retain the district’s investment in its staff, the School Board agreed to offer one-step salary increases and $2,000 to create a mentoring program. Support staff members have not had a step increase in more than five years and many remain on entry-level steps, despite years of service to Newport’s children and teachers.

For its part, the Newport Support Staff Association voted last year to change insurance plans in order to save the district money; we are offered the same plan the town of Newport offers its employees.

For many students, the strongest, most consistent relationship at school is with a paraeducator. It’s the administrative assistants who are your first and often only contact with the schools. You and your children deserve experienced, high-quality employees who know that their contributions are valued by the community.

Terrie Scott


Continue the Excellence in Lyme

Lyme residents have enjoyed a commitment to excellence by those who have built and rebuilt structures within the town’s commercial district. Over the past nine years, we have all benefited from the construction of two additional restaurants, a new hardware store, a refurbished general store and a completely refurbished Lyme Inn and restaurant with an emphasis toward town residents, but also offering visitors a grand place to stay. Along with the Dowd’s Inn, our town has consistently provided residents and travelers alike a cross section of amenities of which we can all be proud.

Over the past year, a new commercial property has been in development. New structures have replaced the old and the commitment to excellence is pervasive. Essentially, the new structures represent the entrance to the town of Lyme from the south and I believe demonstrate the quality we now know and expect to continue. Sadly, the construction of these buildings has been stopped by a few who would deny us visual satisfaction when coming home on Route 10, and they also deny us the revenue the town of Lyme so desperately needs. The people of Lyme have a chance to rectify this situation and show those who seek to stop this project what we think is good for our town.

Please make the effort to vote on Tuesday at Town Meeting on Article 2 to amend the Lyme zoning ordinance concerning the commercial district, which will allow the unfinished gateway of our town to come to fruition.

Duncan Mackintosh


Countries Doing Gun Safety Right

Thank you for the Opinion page essays of March 1 — one “for” and one “against” new gun laws (“In the Aftermath of Parkland, What Do We Do Now?”).

I owned my gun and National Rifle Association membership back in my rural, Midwestern high school days. Cool red-and-black sticker, but now it is like a different organization. The NRA seems to have an agenda that opposes the great majority of Americans who believe we can have both gun-safety laws and no “Hitler” government.

I think presenting two sides after a massacre lets the NRA elevate its polarizing logic to being half of a dialog.

After reading the two essays, I wondered if you might give us more information about which countries have ended massacres without going “Hitler.” The British Independent recently reviewed some examples of such countries. I offer my notes.

Australia: After a 1996 massacre of 35 people, the government offered to buy back automatic weapons and shotguns, netting half a million guns and cutting the gun homicide and suicide rate in half over 10 years. By 2017, Australians were several ranks above the U.S. on the World Happiness scale of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Japan: You can own a shotgun or an air gun, but wisely must first pass a skills test, written test and background checks. Compared with the U.S., Japan has one-third the population, but 1/300th the gun deaths.

Norway: Besides strict gun-safety laws, Norway also emphasizes community policing to the point that police have earned community trust. While Norway has one-sixtieth of our population, it remains impressive that Norwegian police shot fewer people in 10 years than U.S. police shoot in a day. Norway’s rank on the 2017 World Happiness scale? No. 1.

How those countries simultaneously got happy, stopped gun massacres and avoided a “Hitler” dictatorship would be very helpful to read more about.

Robert Spottswood


No Uncertainty About ‘Heisenberg’

Heisenberg, the play which continues through Tuesday at the Shaker Bridge Theater, is well-written, well-acted and a very enjoyable theater evening. No knowledge of physics required. Kudos all around.

Sarah and Ben Gilson

Phil and Jerry Friedman


Play Offers Sorely Needed Lesson

Heisenberg, the current production at the Shaker Bridge Theatre, offers an exceptional production of a drama in which two people transcend popularly perceived boundaries of age and social backgrounds to establish a trusting relationship, a lesson that is sorely needed.

Deborah Metzger