Friday, March 22, 2013

Football Is Not Free

At the last board meeting, our normally unflappable superintendent seemed shocked at the last paragraph of ORYA's proposed agreement with the district on football. The document is now public (pdf, my marked-up copy: page1 page2) and here's the last paragraph:
In the event that the ORCSD in any way tries to terminate, manipulate and or interferes with the growth of football within the first 4 years of this agreement, ORCSD shall be responsible for the initial startup expenses. Prior to the start of the first season ORYA will provide a detailed accounting to the ORCSD of all startup expenses.
I've been to every meeting and this is news to me.  I heard many times how the program was cost-free to the district. I heard many times that the board could just approve now as they would have a second opportunity to pull the plug in a couple of years when the club team becomes a varsity team. No one mentioned that canceling comes with a substantial bill.

Actually, as I read this, a board member just saying he or she might not support the varsity team approval could count as the district trying to terminate or interfere with the growth.  Perhaps even just putting the varsity team vote on the agenda is sufficient to trigger the bill.

Do you want to know how a  football program fully funded by ORYA becomes a football program fully funded by the taxpayers?  According to the proposed agreement, it's up to ORYA:

While it is not the intent to terminate, ORYA reserves the right to terminate its involvement in this agreement with 90 days'[sic] notice.  Any and all additional expenditures from the date of notice forward shall be the responsibility of the ORCSD.

Wow.  Is "date of notice" a little extra screwage?  If the district has to start paying on the date the notice is issued, what's the 90 days for?

Update: My wife points out this post is humorless.  She's right.  What did the mother of the first Jewish president say on Inauguration Day? "See that boy with his hand on the Bible? His brother is a doctor."

The two page contract is riddled with ambiguities, grammatical errors and typos. It's mostly about how ORYA handles all the money and how the district has to fork over more to them when certain things happen.  The district doesn't even get to hang onto the money it collects: it has to hand it over to ORYA and hope it gets it back.

The contract clearly indicates football is not free to the taxpayers. The last two points are:

  • The program and or ORYA will not be charged for any administrative charges provided by the school in supporting the operations of the program.
  • The ORCSD shall provide any and all required athletic trainers as required by its school policies.

So, the document indicates that multiple trainers and administrative charges are explicitly paid for by the district.  That doesn't sound free.  While clear on some things it won't pay for, the document is pretty vague about what ORYA actually will pay for.  Use of existing facilities?  Wear and tear on the field?  Achieving a particular safety standard?  Fees and equipment for underprivileged players?  Staff time?  Renting lights? The document doesn't say.  Is this intended to be the entire agreement between the district and ORYA?

On March 6 we did previously get a presentation with a sample budget:

The proposal gives ORYA a weird incentive to lowball individual budget line items as the taxpayers may be liable for overruns. The superintendent refers to $10,000 in costs not in the ORYA budget in this clip:





What started out to me as a wholesome and enthusiastic group of families trying to get football into the high school now has me feeling a bit like I'm being deceived. For a program that was billed as cost-free to the taxpayers ORYA's proposal has the district paying for substantial parts of the program, with lots of traps triggering additional district payments.  ORYA proposed they be allowed to end their support immediately whenever they like while the district is hit with tens of thousands in penalties if it even thinks about opting out.

Who's going to pay for a varsity team as fundraising wanes in the years ahead? Who's going to pay for the girl sports impelled by Title IX? Who's going to pay for the cheerleading squad and the marching band? Are the taxpayers really in the mood to fund any of this? The people who would normally show up to complain about the spending have largely remained silent.  It's my turn to be the grumpy old man.

I'm not that grumpy.  If the district wants to go down a path toward a fully funded varsity football team with cheerleaders, a marching band and girls curling I'll pay my share. I'd just like to know how much it costs ahead of time.

Let's close with the clip of Superintendent Morse's comment on this proposal. He refers to the document as an "MOU" (Memorandum of Understanding), as did the March 6 presentation, though the document refers to itself as a contract, which to me denotes something much more binding than an MOU.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Football Study Committee Formed

Kenny Rotner and Peter Zwarts take their seats on the board.

The Oyster River School Board voted tonight to authorize the superintendent to form a football study committee. The committee, to be chaired by Principal Todd Allen and Athletic Director Corey Parker, is charged with studying all aspects of bringing football to the high school, including safety, costs, impact on other sports, Title IX, facilities and transportation. The committee will have five additional members, and will report a recommendation to the board in June.  Board members Lane and Turnbull voted against the committee, with Lane saying it was unnecessary as the issues were addressed in the March 6 presentation.

Pro high school football demonstrators line the hall
The upshot of this is that there will be no football in ORHS in 2013.  Despite the pressure of a picket line and many public comments urging the board to approve football "tonight," the board chose to seek more information before deciding.  At this point the question being considered is the approval of a football club team starting fall 2014.  Despite not having their demand met, the footballers who managed to stick it out to the board's discussion seemed to take the approval of a committee and the additional year delay rather well, with some of them quickly volunteering to be on the committee.

Tom Newkirk, who proposed the committee, insisted that it was not a delaying tactic, but rather the board's way of doing its own due diligence in making an informed decision.  A majority of the board appears to recognize that this is the major decision point.  They understand that once they vote to approve, we will eventually have a varsity program with its concomitant costs, benefits and consequences.  They're right to be skeptical about "just try it for a couple of years."

Board members Ann Lane and Al Howland congratulated ORYA and the pro-ORHS-football forces for demonstrating a strong, genuine desire for football in Oyster River.  Apparently the athletic director had a survey of high school students to report, but, inadvertently I think, was not given the opportunity to speak about it at the meeting.

Todd Allen, who by policy is responsible for issuing the recommendation to the board, tried to push the report date out to August, claiming he's already busy this spring, extra busy as the district romances various tuition towns.   At the superintendent's behest, the board declined to go along with Todd, sticking to the June date.  The football supporters can at least count this as a victory.

The meeting went down more or less as I predicted in the previous post.  I missed a couple of things:  First, I failed to predict a committee would be formed.  Second, the planned discussion on the new policy JJIF did not happen, as the Policy Committee's meeting to complete a draft was snowed out and rescheduled for next week.

Probably what I got most wrong was downplaying how important this meeting was for football.  It was indeed an important meeting as advertised in the email.  It was the right meeting for the football fans to show up for in numbers.  There hasn't been this sort of turnout at board meetings since the summer of 2011, when there was all the outrage over the tweets.  The football decision is much more pleasant.  And with all the children at meetings, the adults are generally on their best behavior.

The pro-ORHS-football folks have done a great job organizing. Glen Miller and Dave Dembowitz made a very impressive pitch on March 6. There's no doubt that the board sees all the people at the meetings, hears all the comments, and has the impression that there's a whole lot of support for football in the district.

Public comments: One kid said he liked football because he got to hit people without getting in trouble, or words to that effect.  I thought I heard someone claim that 30 district kids wouldn't show up at ORHS in the fall if football is not offered.  There were more football boosters disclosing concussions and other injuries in their past.  The group continues to be simultaneously encouraging and cagey about sponsors.  Tonight's clues: Not Marlboro, not Anheuser Busch, local, $4,100. And Dave D. looks familiar -- isn't he the guy who tried to sell us turf in Lee?

If I had to guess on the eventual vote for approval, I'd say Lane, Turnbull and probably Howland vote YES, Barth votes NO.  One of Newkirk, Charle, or Rotner needs to vote YES for football to pass.   All we have are hints: Tom Newkirk's brother played football. Ed Charle and Kenny Rotner are both M.D.s. Kenny said at the meeting that he was willing to grant parents the freedom to decide for their own child whether the game is sufficiently safe.  Presumably he'll make his decision on other grounds. My guess is that there's probably a fourth vote to be had, so we're likely looking at football in ORHS starting September 2014. Calm down folks, it's just a guess.

The election mattered.  Approval would be easier if Krista Butts was still on the board.  (It was nice to see her make a public comment tonight.)   Approval may have been easier had Carl Piedmont won instead of Kenny.  The football folks probably would have been better off presenting to the board a few months earlier.  With all the public support, they could have probably even gotten a couple of people elected to the board.  I'm personally grateful they didn't try.

This is an interesting occasion where some normally cost conscious board members seem eager to spend. They do hide behind the fig leaf of the "won't cost the district a cent" proposal.  Superintendent Morse said the athletic director had identified at least $10,000 in costs not in the original proposal. The board boosters are probably not naive enough to believe the costs presented are a full accounting, that external fundraising and other revenue won't ever dry up in the future, or that equity demands that football be paid for like other sports won't eventually arise. In other words, everybody should assume that a vote to approve is a vote to spend district money on football.

I would add to the list of items the committee should consider (and they may already be there -- this post is all from memory): the effect on the culture, especially with regard to academics, and, with regard to equity, how students with fewer resources who'd like to play are supported.

Equity is the new buzzword around town, apparently being the talking point settled on by members Turnbull and Lane.  I guess the argument is: The students are allowed to play other sports, so, to maintain equity they must be allowed to play football.  Or perhaps: past boards recklessly approved other club teams, so they should recklessly approved football as well.  I don't think either of these arguments are particularly good.  Equity is mostly about fairness: the opportunities the school affords should ideally be available to all students. Obviously there's no right to a football team, even if the school offers other sports. It's each board member's decision to make however they see fit.

Someone mentioned that we should review existing sports for safety as well. I guess the idea was a bluff: it sounds fair but also sounds like lots of work, so rather than doing it we can just do a less thorough job on football. I'd call. Reviewing safety issues for all sports sounds like a pretty good idea to me, and certainly a better choice than not carefully considering football safety.

I'm interested to see if there continues to be a public football presence at the board meetings, or if the board has quelled things down until the June recommendation.  Here's a cautionary tale to football supporters who plan to attend going forward: I started going over one issue two years ago and I'm still going.


In other news, the board welcomed new member Kenny Rotner, reelected member Tom Newkirk, and newly elected student member Peter Zwarts.  Maria Barth and Tom Newkirk were once again chosen to be chair and vice-chair.   Congratulations to them all.

Andrea Bulfinch was in attendance, and here's the piece in Foster's under her byline. I assume Ms. Bulfinch is not responsible for the misleading headline.



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sad News: Mrs. Nadori Will Retire

Mrs. Nadori in her long-time Halloween role
Long time and deeply loved Mast Way second grade teacher Barbara Nadori will apparently retire after this school year. Among parents and students, Mrs. Nadori is widely viewed as the finest elementary school teacher in the district. Her departure is a great loss for all of us. I want to thank her for all those wonderful years of teaching and to wish her a fantastic retirement.

Both my children had Mrs. Nadori for second grade.  (Being the best, Mrs. Nadori gets more than her share of tough cases.)   My youngest is currently in Mrs. Nadori's class. I'm sure he's not the one that finally drove her to retire. Almost certain. Pretty sure. We just feel so lucky our children got to experience Mrs. Nadori as a teacher, and we're sad than no new families will have that chance.

Update: I spoke to Mrs. Nadori for a few minutes today.  She's looking forward to traveling to Europe. She's still not sure she made the right decision to retire. We'll probably see her around as she lives in the district and she thinks she might volunteer in the schools a couple of days per week.

Mrs. Nadori's name has appeared on a new list, included in tonight's school board meeting agenda, of district employees that have taken retirement incentives offered by the board.  It is my recollection that the incentives were offered through October.  There were 14 names on the list from November.  The district made only three hires to compensate, for a net reduction of 11 positions.   This saves the district over $500,000 in staff costs in FY14 (next school year, when the retirement incentives are paid) and over $1 million each year after. The list to be discussed tonight has 3 additional names, with Mrs. Nadori being the only additional teacher. The larger list means even more savings for the district, with the superintendent announcing only Mrs. Nadori will be replaced.  We all know that's just not possible.

Have a great retirement, Mrs. Nadori.  We will all miss you very much.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New Board To Face Football Demonstration

Before they can even elect new officers, the Oyster River school board will walk past a demonstration planned by the pro-high-school-football folks.  The goal of the demonstrators, as stated in an email reproduced below, is to get "the board to vote for football TONIGHT (not next month or next year, but TONIGHT)."

I personally don't have a well-formed opinion on how the board should vote on the football question.  One thing I am pretty sure of is that it takes a while for any board to gather information, develop policy, solicit input from the community, and hear from experts.  But that's pretty much what should happen, and what I think is going to happen, before the board decides about football.  In my mind the big question isn't approval of the program so much as how the board assures that best safety practices are truly being practiced, and what the true costs, system wide and in the long run, are.    

The demonstration email, reproduced below, states "there is a very important school board meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, Room C124 in ORHS, 7 pm meeting start)."  I scoured the agenda and I think what is being referred to here is the scintillating item "Progress on Football Policy."   I checked the policy committee minutes and learned this is policy JJIF, and that there was another meeting tonight to work on it.  I have not seen a draft.

In any case, policy JJIF isn't on the list for first read.  What I think that means is there are at least two more meetings before the policy can be approved.  My guess is that the board will be inclined to wait for the policy to be approved before on voting on approving the football club team.

My prediction on how things will go:  Public comments will be long, with lots of pleading to vote to approve football tonight. The new board, with Tom Newkirk re-elected and Kenny Rotner replacing Krista Butts, will once again choose Maria Barth as chair and Tom Newkirk as vice-chair. Chairman Barth, who I believe regrets how she let the March 7th football presentation meeting get out of control, will run this meeting in more strict accordance with policy and tradition.  This basically means that after public comments are over, there will be no more public comments until the end of the meeting.  Public comments during the meeting proper will be out of order even if "a boy wants to say something."  The policy JJIF will be discussed, and scheduled for first read April 3rd.  No vote will be taken on the approval of a football club team.

Football folks, if it goes down this way, it doesn't mean you're being ignored, or the goal is to delay, or any such thing.  As a parent, you would go through a process of doing some reading, maybe talking to some people before allowing your son to play football.  You'd want to assure yourself the program was as safe as could be.  You'd want to make sure you could afford it.  The board has a similar job to do before it can responsibly allow football in the schools.   It may take some time.



From: Christina Buteau <omitted>
Date: March 19, 2013, 8:21:55 PM EDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Please Help Oyster River High School Football tomorrow Night!
We appreciate all of the people that went to the OR School Board meeting two weeks ago, signed the on-line petition, wrote letters to the school board, and wrote letters to Fosters. I can assure you that all of these things have had a big impact. We have a school board chair, a superintendent, and a HS principle that wanted to dismiss football outright, or at least table it long enough that it was effectively dismissed. The strong show of support from the community prevented this from happening. The entire school board and the HS administration realize that there are many people in our community—all of you—that support football at ORHS, and they cannot ignore you. Thank You!


There is a very important school board meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, Room C124 in ORHS, 7 pm meeting start). I respectfully request that all of you attend this meeting if at all possible. Your show of support at this meeting is absolutely critical. Please try to arrive early (by 6:15 pm) so that we can line the hallway leading to the meeting room with football supporters. We will have simple, supportive signs ready to go. By arriving early, the school board members will have to walk past you to reach the meeting room. Your presence will make a very strong statement, and spur the board to vote on the football question.


With no community involvement, the high school principle and superintendent would likely stall, request more time to do things they could have already done, ask for studies relating to the impact that football will have on soccer, etc., etc. -- anything to avoid progress; anything to avoid a vote. With your strong presence, I don’t think they’ll get away with this tactic. We do indeed have at least a few supporters on the school board and your strong presence will no doubt empower them to push the discussion forward.


There will be a Public Comment at the beginning of the meeting. This is a time when anyone present can speak to the board (3 min time limit). You are certainly welcome to speak if you wish. If you speak, please be very positive, very respectful and brief. Please end by asking the board to vote for football TONIGHT (not next month or next year, but TONIGHT).


Whether or not you speak, please make every effort to attend tomorrow (Room C124 of ORHS, arrive by 6:15 pm). And once again, thank you for your fantastic support. With your help, we have to be successful.


Let the kids play football at ORHS!

Christina Buteau

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rotner & Newkirk Win, Articles Pass, Brackett Loses

Winner Kenny Rotner and a shiny first lady at his victory party
Breaking News:  CircumDecision 2013. Moyel Simcha reports that with the Rotner win, the board now has F.O.R.E. skin in the game.  (Thanks John & Ruth.)


It was a great night. Congratulations to Tom Newkirk on his definitive reelection. Congratulations to Kenny Rotner on getting elected by a wide margin. It was another landslide, folks.

I want to thank Carl Piedmont for a hard fought contest. He got lots of votes for a newcomer, but it wasn't enough in the tough field this year.  I'm hoping Carl stays involved and runs again next year.

Winner Tom Newkirk celebrates
All four ballot questions passed with wide margins.  The Sustainability article garnered the largest number of total votes (2075) and the narrowest margin of victory: 20 percentage points.  That's still a huge show of support for what appeared to be a very controversial question at the deliberative session.  Congratulations to Paul Gasowski and the Sustainability Committee.

The budget was approved by 24 points.   This is a big margin showing the board has really united the community behind them.  (Last year a budget barely above the default budget was approved by 11 points).  I congratulate the board on an incredible year.

After a 50% jump last year to over 3100, turnout was down to more typical levels, with 2162 ballots cast (OyC'mon).    That's more evidence the board has calmed things down immensely.

It's back to business tonight, with a newly added board meeting to discuss the division of the elementary schools and tuition students.   Speaking of which, Newmarket voted 1104 to 203 (84% to 16%) to "enter into non-binding discussion with Oyster River to send students."  It's pretty much up to us now.  One concern I recently heard expressed was that a tuitioning agreement with Newmarket might lower our property values, as people moving to get their kids into our schools choose our less expensive and lower taxed neighbor rather than Oyster River proper.  Deerfield, whose education committee came out with a strong recommendation to send its HS students to Oyster River last month, didn't have a ballot question about it.

Thanks so much to all who worked so hard to get these results. As always, it was great working with everyone. I want to especially thank my beautiful wife Ruth, who worked hard getting out the vote to great results.  And a great thanks to all my readers -- there were a whole lot of you the last couple of weeks, and I bet almost all of you voted.


Lee Results.  It appears we had good but mixed results from Lee (town results).  Congratulations to Carole Dennis, who won with 57% of the vote (Bugbee 30%, Brackett 12%).   It's been 20 years since a woman sat on the Lee Select Board.  I'm glad we were able to get the word out before the election that Carole had resolved her conflict of interest issue (thanks Krista).   Unfortunately, this meant our endorsed guy Scott Bugbee didn't pull it out, but we're pretty happy over here at ORCSDcleanslate as our primary goal, keeping Henry Brackett from being elected selectman, was achieved.  I'm sure Scott will run again soon. (Ruth suggested for next time he change his name to Bugbegone, which might be more attractive to the voters.)   Other Lee results: The raceway school failed (by just a few votes), all other questions, including the grass field and police cruiser, passed.  Jan Neill beat Scott Turnbull in the hotly contested Cemetery Trustee race.


I got our school ballot vote counts from FORE  -- thanks Stephanie.  I've added percentages to the raw tallies.

ORCSD Election Results    Posted on  by FORE Editor

Moderator – 1 year term
Richard Laughton – 1661 – elected   (77% of the 2162 ballots) 
School Board  – 3 year term  (Percent share calculated assuming everyone chose two, so 3410 votes = 200% of the voters, percent ballots uses 2162 = 100%).

Thomas Newkirk – 1470- elected        86% share   68% of ballots
Carl Piedmont – 682                              40% share   32% of ballots
Kenneth Rotner – 1258 – elected        74% share   58% of ballots
ARTICLE 3:  To approve the collective bargaining agreement for the Oyster River Educational Support Personnel Association (ORESPA)
YES – 1379 – passed    67%
NO – 690                       33%
ARTICLE 4:  To raise and appropriate the sum of $40,000 for the purpose of supporting initiatives requested by the Oyster River Sustainability Committee.
YES  - 1237 – passed     60%
NO – 838                        40%
ARTICLE 5:  To authorize the retention of year-end unassigned general funds in an amount not to exceed, in any fiscal year, 2.5 percent of the current fiscal year’s net assessment, for the purpose of having funds on hand to use as a revenue source for emergency expenditures and over expenditures or as a revenue source to reduce the tax rate.
YES – 1330 – passed     67%
NO – 666                          33%
ARTICLE 6:  To approve the operating budget, totaling $38,815,855.  Should this article be defeated, the operating budget shall be $38,546,021 (Default Budget).
YES – 1250 – passed     62%
NO – 782                         38%

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Kenny and Tom Win!

Congratulations to Dr. Kenny Rotner and Dr. Thomas Newkirk for being elected to the Oyster River Cooperative School District board.   Congratulations to Carl Peidmont on a hard-fought race.  Thanks to everyone.

http://forenh.org/2013/03/12/orcsd-election-results-2/


More later,
Dean



Busy Polls in Lee

Please check out my last post or the banner above if you're looking for information about voting in today's election. - Dean


The Lee Public Safety Complex was hopping today, as voters turn out to weigh in on school and town leaders and issues.   In addition to school board, Lee voters have a contested selectman's race and ballot questions on expanded Lee Speedway operations, a grass field in Little River Park and a new police cruiser.  Reports from Durham indicate a lower turnout than last year, with a less contentious school board race and no library initiative on the ballot.

It was a foggy morning at the polls, with the various sign-holders in opposing camps getting along nicely.  Selectman candidates Brackett and Dennis were there, and candidate and current school board member Newkirk stopped by for a while.   Candidate spouse Amy Piedmont came out for a spell as well.  Here are some pictures.


Sarah and Stephanie came out to hold signs for Rotner and Newkirk
Bob Barth flees from a mob wielding "Piedmont for School Board" signs

Chairman Barth wants us to know that standing next to Sarah here does not constitute an endorsement of any candidate
Shortly after this shot was taken, Jan Neill (not pictured), acting in official capacity in accordance with local election law, removed this poster from a car that was too close to the entrance, and then lectured us sign holders about the rules.   Right AFTER I voted for her.  In the back Bob Barth offers to be handcuffed for not showing his ID to vote.
Selectman candidates Henry Brackett (red coat) and Carole Dennis (tan coat)


Here's my completed school district ballot for your perusal.



Well I'm headed back there.  Vote for Rotner, Newkirk & Bugbee!

It's Election Day, Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Today is Tuesday, March 12, 2013. It's Election Day in the Oyster River Cooperative School District.

I'm a busy voter; tell me what to do. Vote today at your regular polling place for Thomas Newkirk and Kenneth Rotner for school board. Vote YES on all the YES/NO school district questions. Lee voters, please vote for Scott Bugbee for selectman.

Well, I have a little time to read. Familiarize yourself with the ballot by reading ORCSDcleanslate's Voting Guide for the 2013 Oyster River Cooperative School District Election.  Read about the candidates forum.

Why should I believe you when you tell me who to vote for? You should vote for who you think is best. I'm telling you who I think is best and why.

This school board race isn't like last year's. Last year was a real good versus evil fight. Rather than continue the era of condoned hate speech and serial Right-to-Know violations, the community sensibly chose overwhelmingly not to reelect Jim Kach and Henry Brackett. Mr. Brackett is running for Lee Selectman, which is why I want you Lee residents to vote for Scott Bugbee.

This year, Carl Piedmont (website) is the newcomer who went to his first school board meeting six days ago, compared to world-renowned scholar and current board member Tom Newkirk (unofficial website) and long time Durham doctor, parent, and school board devotee Kenny Rotner (website, endorsements). When Mr. Piedmont did answer at the candidates forum, it was usually to agree with Tom and Kenny. Mr. Piedmont never really attempted to make a case that he brought to the table something so great that it made up for his lack of familiarity and expertise that the other candidates so clearly carry. Having "skin in the game" isn't enough. And I have to say, it makes me a bit uneasy to refer to children as "skin" and their education as a game.

Other possible reasons to vote for Mr. Piedmont include a vague hope he might be more supportive of football than an MD (neither candidate has publicly expressed a view to my knowledge) and that Bob Barth, who isn't running for anything, wrote a letter to the editor to which Mr. Piedmont took offense. I'm sticking with the very well known quantities Tom Newkirk and Kenny Rotner.

What about the YES/NO Warrant Articles?  I'm voting YES on all of them.  Article 3 approves the office and custodial workers contract.  Article 4 is $40,000 for the sustainability committee.  Article 5 authorizes a reserve fund of up to $770,000.  Article 6 appropriates the $38.8 million for schools from the taxpayer.  My Voter Guide has more.

A note on the Lee Selectman race. Obviously don't vote for the lawbreaking Henry Brackett. Until yesterday afternoon, I had stated it was easy to choose Scott Bugbee over Carol Dennis due to Ms. Dennis's conflict of interest because her husband Allan Dennis is Lee Code Enforcement Officer and Lee Planning / Zoning Director. The upcoming year would have been especially thorny, as the selectman have engaged a consultant to examine the efficiency and manpower needs of the Planning and Zoning office. Allan Dennis announced his resignation yesterday (the day before election day) thus ending Ms. Dennis's conflict of interest issue. Nonetheless, I found Scott Bugbee's record superior to Ms. Dennis's, and I thought that Ms. Dennis would have displayed better judgement had she disclosed her conflict at the outset, rather than resolve it with this disruptive, last minute resignation.

What's next? The results of the election should be announced after 9pm tonight.  Check FORE -- they're diligent and they'll post immediately.   I'll post them here when I get home. After that, I take a long vacation from blogging.  And hopefully I don't have to mention tweets and lawsuits again, but I'm not making any promises.

Are there any other websites for information? As much as I'd like to service all your Oyster River School Board needs, there are many others. Stephanie and Lorna over at FORE know more than pretty much anyone what's going on in the district. I've been having lots of fun with Oy'C'mon (OysterRiverCommunity.blogspot.com) this cycle.  You can also check out our endorsed candidates' sites: Tom Newkirk, Kenny Rotner, and Scott Bugbee.  The Sustainability Committee's site is the Green Oyster. Mike McClurken's site is www.orcsdnumbers.org.  There's not too much excitement about the election at the district's site orcsd.org.

Anything else?  Happy Election Day. Go vote. Bring some friends.

Dean Rubine, Lee

Monday, March 11, 2013

Voting Guide for the 2013 Oyster River Cooperative School District Election


ORCSDcleanslate busy voter guide: Vote for Kenneth Rotner and Thomas Newkirk for school board, and YES on all the school district articles. Lee voters, please vote for Scott Bugbee for Selectman.

2013 ORCSDcleanslate Voter Guide


This is my second annual biased yet informative voting guide, this time for the upcoming Tuesday March 12, 2013 ORCSD election. That's tomorrow, people.  If you just want to see the ballot, click here.

Election Day is this Tuesday, March 12th, 2013. Vote at your regular polling place. Depending on which town you live in, that's the Lee Public Safety Complex (7am-7pm), Madbury Town Hall (11am-7:30pm), or Oyster River High School in Durham (7am-7pm). US citizens at least 18 years old who live in the district (even college students) are eligible to vote. If you're not already registered, you can register at the polls on election day. It helps to bring a driver's license and proof of address (utility bill) to register, but if you don't you can sign something swearing you've told the truth about these. Voter ID laws are still in effect in New Hampshire, but if you forget your ID you can sign a form swearing who you are. Here is FORE's election information.

As always, voters in Madbury, Lee, and Durham see identical school district ballots. There are two at-large school board seats up for election this time. (An at-large seat is one that may be filled by someone from any of the three towns.)  Three people are running, and every voter in the district gets to choose two of the three. ORCSDcleanslate has endorsed Kenny Rotner and Tom Newkirk.

Let's go through the ballot:





Article 1 elects the moderator, and there's only one person running. I'm sure he'll win. As the elected official whose sole job is to moderate the deliberative session, you may recall that I don't think he did that very well this year. I have seen Mr. Laughton being official at the polling places on election day, so maybe there's a bit more to the job.


Article 2 elects the school board members. Voters get to choose two of the three. I'm voting for Kenny Rotner (website, endorsement) who has been a doctor in the district for over a quarter century, an involved parent of his daughter who completed K through 12 entirely in the district (she's now a freshman in college) and an engaged citizen who has been to more school board meetings than half the current board. I'm also voting to re-elect Tom Newkirk (unofficial website), world-renowned expert on boys literacy, who was elected last March to serve out the remainder of Ann W.'s term, and now is running for a full three-year term. I'm glad Carl Piedmont (website) has decided to get involved, but he may have to wait for a year when the other candidates are not so incredibly well-qualified to get his seat on the board.

The candidates didn't disagree about all that much explicitly.  The race has divided along last year's lines, with the three longer-serving board members and hateful tweeter Jim Kach (who was voted off the board last year) siding with Mr. Piedmont, while the four freshmen have not indicated a preference (except that Tom Newkirk is for himself).   When creationism in schools was raised, the debate between the candidates was minimal (Carl Piedmont denied he would impose religion in schools, the other candidates, who presumably concur, did not comment) and instead focused on how Bob Barth, who isn't running for anything, asked the question.   Now football has emerged as an issue, but the candidates haven't made their positions known.  We're left to guess: Carl's older boy is on an athletic scholarship, Kenny's an MD.  It's not much to go on.

So in the end, I've gone with the candidates we all know. Tom and Kenny have long histories with the district.  We know what to expect with them, and we know it will be great.




Article 3 is the ORESPA contract (office and custodial staff). It looks like the board negotiated a good deal with ORESPA and I'm voting YES. Thanks, ORESPA.



Article 4 raises $40,000 for Sustainability Committee initiatives. This was the most contentious article at the Deliberative Session, where an amendment to remove the $20,000 in stipends lost 58 to 60 after a tedious debate and vote (story). I'm voting YES. This is probably the last time the sustainability budget will appear as a separate warrant article -- it will likely be folded into the general fund next year. Check out the Green Oyster, the Sustainability Committee's great website.  FORE has a good piece on the Sustainability Committee and this warrant article.



Article 5 creates the reserve fund. The 2.5% of "net assessment" worked out to about 2% of the budget this year, $770,000. This article is essentially permission for the school district to start the fund. If it's approved, each year there's any unspent money, the board can decide how much goes into the fund and how much is used to lower next year's taxes. They can't put more than $770,000 in the account total (or whatever 2.5% works out to.) To be clear, that's not a one year contribution limit, but a limit on the total amount of money in the fund. I think the article is being sold to the voters in a bit of a condescending way (the fund will "smooth out" your taxes) but a rainy day fund is a good idea, and this one is pretty small, so I'm voting YES. This article will increase taxes each year after money is added to the fund, and decrease taxes years when the fund money is spent.








Article 6 is the vote to raise $38.8 million to pay for schools. If YES wins, we raise about $270,000 (0.7%) more than if NO wins. This represents a 1.6% rise in the top line over last year (article), mostly due to retirement cost shifting from the state. However taxes are going up around 4.6% due to a reduction in revenue from state and federal sources, as well as from an end to the 3 year spending-down of a $2.2 million fund balance in FY10. I'm voting YES.

The Deliberative Session was split 50/50 along the old lines, as indicated by the sustainability amendment vote. Yet every one of those people sat on their hands when given the opportunity to change these amounts in article 6. I think they were there, like I was, to vote against any attempts to change the board's budget. I think it was a remarkable show of community unity, demonstrating that the board elected last year really has brought the community together.

How it ends


FORE usually posts the election results as soon as they're available.  I'll post them later in the night.  Last year the election results were announced at the high school sometime after 9pm on election day.

- Dean Rubine, Lee

P.S.  Lee voters, please vote for Scott Bugbee for selectman and keep the lawbreaking former school board chairman Henry Brackett off the Lee Select Board.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Scott Bugbee for Lee Selectman

I think the citizens of Lee would be best served by choosing their selectman from among the candidates without a record of serial lawbreaking and condoning hate.  Those are Scott Bugbee (statement) and Carole Dennis (statement).

Lee election facts: Lee's voter rolls show 1068 registered Democrats, 700 registered Republicans, and 1337 registered as Undeclared (including yours truly), for a total of 3105 voters.  Obama got 1621 votes to Romney's 921 and Gary Johnson's 36.  All three candidates running for selectman are registered as Republicans.

I didn't have much trouble choosing among the candidates.  Even inattentive readers know I'm not voting for the lawbreaking Henry Brackett. So for me it comes down to choosing between Scott Bugbee and Carole Dennis.

This section used to say:
Initially I was inclined toward Carole Dennis.  It would be great to finally get a woman back in the seat.  But unfortunately when I researched Ms. Dennis I learned her service has a serious problem.  Her husband is Allan Dennis, Lee Code Enforcement Officer and Lee Planning/Zoning Director.  As much of the selectmen's work is in these areas, Ms. Dennis's conflict of interest would often result in her recusing herself from deliberations.  I confirmed this with one of the existing selectman.  I find it worrisome did not disclose this conflict in her campaign statement, or anywhere else as far as I can tell.
The Lee Select Board only has three members, so it's a real problem when one of them cannot participate.   If the two remaining Selectman disagree on a issue, no decision will be made because no point of view will command a majority.  I think all else being equal, the town owes itself someone who can serve without conflict.
The conflict of interest issue is exacerbated because in this upcoming year the Lee Select Board plans to engage a consultant to assess the efficiency and manpower needs of the Planning and Zoning Office.  (The consultant, Barry Brenner, is currently wrapping up his assessment of the Transfer Station.)  Given the generally small number of building permits in Lee, "efficiency and manpower needs" appear to be not so subtle code words for whether Mr. Dennis's job is really necessary, or at least if needs to be funded at its current level, a decision in which Ms. Dennis could obviously not participate.
So that leaves Scott Bugbee.  Of course, someone good with a conflict of interest would be better than someone always available to vote but otherwise awful, so I didn't want to just choose Mr. Bugbee by default. I started asking people in Lee who they were voting for.  Among those with an opinion (admittedly not many) Scott Bugbee was the clear choice.  Those I found for Carole Dennis felt like I did: it would be nice to elect a woman.  It's not an election where the voters know much about the candidates.
Krista Butts was kind enough to call me (3/11 2:25pm) and inform me of this item on the Lee Police facebook page:
Well, that throws a wrench in my argument against Ms. Dennis.  I find the timing of all this a bit fishy, Mr. Dennis's retirement coming in the middle of his wife's race and just before his department's efficiency and manpower needs are assessed.   I feel Ms. Dennis should have addressed this conflict forthrightly from the outset of the campaign.  This last-minute scramble gives me a bad feeling. So I'm inclined to stick with Mr. Bugbee, but my readers deserve all the facts.

Why do I care about the Lee race at all?  My concern, admittedly not based on any particular evidence, is that Henry Brackett would use his position as Lee Selectman to meddle in school district affairs. I'm not sure how this would be done, and I don't really want to find out.  I've exchanged emails with Scott Bugbee and I have assured myself that he has no particular plans for the school district, instead focusing on the issues of the town proper.

Given the conflict issue is largely resolved, I think a quick head-to-head comparison of Mr. Bugbee and Ms. Dennis is in order.  I don't know either of them personally, so I'm going to base it on their statements.

Focusing on public service, Mr. Bugbee comes out way ahead.  Ms. Dennis offers her experience on the Lee Agriculture Committee (no dates given), her job at NH DOE, and a reference to "vast public service and volunteer experience."  By contrast, Mr. Bugbee lists five committees from the town of Lee on which he has served.  He's been on the Advisory Budget Committee 19 years (14 as chair) and the Trustee of the Trust funds 15 years (9 as chair).

My other concern is how the elected selectman would related to the public schools.  Like I said above, I've assured myself that Mr. Bugbee has no particular interest in the school or the school board, which to me was much preferable to any plans to meddle.  Ms. Dennis's statement offers "I will pursue every opportunity to communicate with the Oyster River School Board to understand the benefits and challenges our school system and our children experience" which seems innocuous enough.  The extent that she'll leave the school board to cope with its own challenges is not relayed.

Let me close with Scott Bugbee's statement.  "Indispensable" was a word I heard used to describe his service to Lee more than once.  The man is a dedicated public servant to the people of Lee, and has been for a long time.

Here's his statement:
Name: Scott Bugbee swbugbee@gmail.com
Biographical Data:
I have lived in Lee since 1987. I have two sons – one a Junior at Oyster River High School and the other an Army military police officer. 
Personal Background:
Graduated from UNH with degrees in Computer Science and History
Town of Lee:
  • Advisory Budget Committee 1994 – Present; Chair 1999 – Present
  • Trustee of the Trust Funds 1998 – Present; Chair 2004 – Present
  • Town Building Committee 2000 – 2006; Chair 2001 – 2006
  • Capital Improvements Plan Committee 2007 – 2008
  • Finance Committee 2010 – Present

UNH:
  • PAT Council 1991—1995 & 2004-2008, Vice Chair 1993-1995 & 2005-2008
  • Memorial Union Board of Governors 1991-1993, Vice-Chair 1992-1993
  • Professional Development Grant Committee 1995-1997, Chair 1996-1997
  • Judicial Board 1996-2009

Community:
  • Board of Durham Children's Center 1985 – 1989, Secretary 1987 – 1988; Chair 1988 – 1989
  • Board of Friends of Durham Day Care 1987 – 1993; Treasurer 1988 - 1993

Professional Background: 
Worked for 25 years for New Hampshire Public TV / University of New Hampshire (UNH); United States Courts in Manchester, NH

Reasons for Running for the Position of Selectmen:
Lee is a wonderful place to live and is full of great people who add to its character and rich history. I want to keep that feeling alive so our children can experience that as well. I have tried to give back to my community by serving in various capacities over the last 19 years – from the Advisory Budget Committee and the Trustee
of the Trust Funds to the Finance Committee. I think it is important to make the community you live in better by devoting your time and effort to improve the lives of its citizens and culture. If I am elected selectmen, I will do my best to continue to make the Town of Lee a great place to live for everyone.

Challenges & Opportunities Facing Lee
We all know about the terrible financial crisis this country has been in for the last few years. No one knows that more than the citizens of Lee. From the high cost of fuel and health care to unemployment and the tight job market, I don’t think a person in Lee who has not been affected by these problems. The Town of Lee has these same issues – the increasing price of fuel for the police cars and the Town’s plow trucks to escalating costs for goods and services including benefits for town employees. The Town has the same issues you have at home. Just like in your house, we have to find ways to the same or more with less. I want to support that idea as a member of the Board of Selectmen and continue to explore more efficient and economical ways of doing business in the Town. I think we need to look at all of the Town’s operations and see if we can improve them and save some money at the same time. And this process does not just involve the town employees but all Lee citizens. I would want to hear any ideas that any Lee citizen has to offer. This is a group effort and if we all work together we will have outstanding results.


Please vote for Scott Bugbee for Lee, NH Selectman this Tuesday, March 12.

- Dean Rubine, Lee


PLEASE Don't Vote for Henry Brackett for Lee Selectman


I try to stick to the topic of the Oyster River Cooperative School District here at ORCSDcleanslate. I generally avoid mentioning the goings-on in the three towns except as they relate to the schools.  So why am I talking about the Lee Selectman race?

It's because none other than former ORCSD School Board Chairman Henry Brackett is on the ballot Tuesday.

I'm going to make to case to vote for Scott Bugbee for Lee Selectman in two steps.  First, in this post, I ask people not to vote for Henry Brackett, who's already shamed us all as the Lee representative and chairman of the ORCSD school board through twice being found guilty of violating NH's Right To Know law, as well as condoning hate speech in the form of Jim Kach's tweets

In the following post I'll ask you to please vote for Scott Bugbee, who has a great record serving Lee since 1994, has indicated he'll let the school board do their job while he focuses on the town, and who appears to be the favorite to win.  

The third choice, Carole Dennis, is married to the town’s Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) and Planning/Zoning Director, Allan Dennis.  Unfortunately, this would necessitate Ms. Dennis often recusing herself, leaving only two selectman to conduct business, and potentially no majority.  While I would love to see a woman in the position, I think this problem with recusals makes Ms. Dennis a poor choice.

Ms. Dennis has resolved this issue of conflict of interest as her husband announced his retirement today (the day before election day) on the Lee Police facebook page.  Nonetheless I still think Mr. Bugbee the better candidate, which I detail in the next post.

Don't Vote For Henry Brackett


The candidates have issued statements which are posted on the Lee website.  In a low-information race like this, these statements may be the only chance a candidate has to make an impression on the voter.  It's obviously in each candidate's interest to review their statement carefully, checking formatting, syntax, grammar and tone as well as content. It would be a good idea to solicit some honest feedback from friends before sending it out.

Henry Brackett's official candidate statement begins:
I am a Father of three young adults and Grandfather of three children. Two of
which who live in Lee.
I think this shows the kind of attention to detail, grammar, and random capitalization we can expect from Mr. Brackett in the future.  No thank you.

As the Lee representative to the school board, Henry Brackett has demonstrated he is a deceitful and incompetent governing board member.  Under his direct leadership the board was twice found guilty of violating New Hampshire's Right To Know Law.  I don't just mean two counts at the same trial.  There was the first trial, at which the board under Chairman Brackett was found guilty of having illegal, secret board meetings in the Durham Police Station, among many other things.  They were basically working in secret for months on replacing the superintendent before they passed a motion in public authorizing the work.  This is a big no-no in New Hampshire governance, and they promised the judge they would never, ever, ever violate the RTK law again.  Then the board, again under Chairman Brackett's leadership, had a secret ballot as part of the selection of the new superintendent search committee.  Given the recent promise, the judge in the second trial was understandably angry, and imposed the maximum available penalty on the board.

That penalty is still in effect: ORCSD board members now serve under the risk of contempt of court, including jail time, if they again violate the RTK law.   Though Henry is long gone from the board, having been defeated soundly last March by the good people of Oyster River (835 votes to Maria Barth's 2,020), the legal consequences of his leadership linger on indefinitely.  Is this what we want to happen in the town of Lee?

Mr. Brackett's sordid history does not automatically disqualify him from seeking and holding office in the future.  It's up to us to remember the disruption and embarrassment to the community his service has already caused each time his name appears on the ballot.   I talked so much about Henry Brackett last year, especially here, that I really don't want to do it again.  But just in case you think I'm exaggerating, click on these pictures to enlarge.  They're just two pages out of the voluminous court documents, in this case from the first trial.  The first is a page from the rulings describing the illegal, secret meetings in the Durham police station in early June. The second is a bill from then-Chairman Brackett's secret lawyer that was sent to his house instead of the SAU office (where it would be a public record), indicating work on Superintendent Howard Colter's termination was going on March 24, 2011.    Both these are examples of violations of the Right To Know law, because Mr. Brackett acted to keep the facts from the public, and no vote authorizing such work was taken until June 15th, 2011.

I was trying to recall if Chairman Brackett had ever done anything in particular to the voters of Lee.   You know, in addition to shaming us for ever electing him by violating Right To Know laws.  There was the time he tried to disenfranchise all of us on 12/21/2011.  The ORCSD Deliberative Session, as has been traditional, was scheduled for a Tuesday evening.  Chairman Brackett, claiming he and Jim Kach had consulted with some constituents (probably each other), passed a motion moving the deliberative session to Saturday, February 4th.  At the time it seemed to me a pretty low form of election manipulation, changing the time to be more inconvenient to parents who at the time were quite inclined to vote against Mr. Brackett.  Several public comments pointed out that the Lee Deliberative session was also Saturday, February 4th, and that it would be impossible for Lee voters to attend both.  Chairman Brackett refused to reopen the question of changing the date back.  In other words, Henry Brackett, elected representative of the town of Lee, our elected representative, acted to disenfranchise us, the voters of Lee,  by preventing us from voting in all elections in which we were entitled.  He's lucky there wasn't another lawsuit.  The story is all in the minutes.  (The DS was on a Tuesday, so they must have come to their senses at a later meeting.)

Then there was the first time I encountered Henry Brackett, at the meeting at which the public overflowed the room to vent their outrage over Jim Kach's tweets.  Chairman Brackett was in California, participating by speakerphone.  Shortly after public comments had begun, a loud dial tone emerged from the speakerphone.  The board scrambled to quiet it.  Henry Brackett had hung up on the public.   Here's the clip.

Let's close with the clip of Chairman Brackett blaming his lawyer for giving him "permission" for his bad deed.  Blaming the lawyer makes the chairman sound like convicts everywhere.  The chairman is of course referring not to the school board's usual attorney, but the secret attorney, who happened to have no experience in New Hampshire local governance.  And chairman, weren't you even a little surprised when the lawyer gave you permission to have secret superintendent interviews with two other board members in the Durham Police Station?  One remarkable fact about the invoice above is Chairman Brackett got all this wonderful legal advice for nothing, and was still overcharged.  

Sorry about the quality of the video, but it's kind of amazing that we live in a world where we can dredge up recordings of obscure meetings.





So in conclusion, please don't vote for Henry Brackett for Lee Selectman on Tuesday.  Please vote for Scott Bugbee instead.



Saturday, March 9, 2013

Kenny Rotner for School Board

Lots of letters in Foster's today.  I'm pretty sure Bob Barth is not going to be elected to anything.

Among the letters are mine and Ruth's, reproduced here for your convenience.  Carl Piedmont has attended a board meeting since I wrote my letter, and Kenny's made another public comment.



7 of the 31 public comments Kenny Rotner has made at school board in the last two years



Vote Rotner


To the editor: I am writing to encourage folks to vote for Dr. Kenny Rotner for Oyster River School Board on Tuesday. Dr. Rotner started Durham Family Health in 1986. I think he’s been living in that house right between the middle school and the high school ever since.

His daughter Emma did K-12 in the district, and Kenny was involved all along. His wife is Moharimet nurse Tracy Schroeder. Kenny’s patients included many students and their families. Through these experiences, Kenny has gained a uniquely broad yet intimate perspective on our schools and community. He is gravely aware of the stresses the increasing tax burden causes among us. It’s hard to imagine anything you could change about Kenny to make a better qualified candidate.

A quick search reveals 30 school board meetings at which Kenny Rotner made a public comment in the last two years. Thirty! It’s obvious he cares. His views, generally in line with the current board, are there on video or in the minutes for all to examine. KennyRotner.wordpress.com has links to many of them.


District voters choose two, so I would urge them to also re-elect Tom Newkirk, who’s done a great job as vice-chair. The third choice, Carl Piedmont, is an unknown quantity. I think the Candidates Forum is the only school board related event he’s ever attended. He was obviously unprepared. He missed the earlier student forum. I’m glad that Mr. Piedmont wants to get involved, but he could have at least attended a board meeting before asking voters for a seat at the table.

Anyone who lived through Henry Brackett’s disastrous chairmanship of the school board that ended last March might be surprised to see he’s running for Lee Selectman this time. You may recall Henry’s board being found guilty of violating the Right To Know laws in two separate court cases, most spectacularly from Henry’s illegal, secret board meetings in the Durham Police Station. I’m urging Lee folks to save on lawyer bills by electing Scott Bugbee.

Dean Rubine

Lee



Vote Rotner


To the editor; I would like to encourage you to vote for Kenny Rotner, MD for one of the at large seats on the Oyster River Cooperative School Board.

Many of you have seen Dr. Rotner walking his golden retriever about town. You may have encountered him as a patient, as I did when he started the Durham Family Health medical practice. Or perhaps you have seen him at an Otters Swim meet, or some other school event. And you have heard his thoughtful and respectful remarks during our ORCSD school board meetings. I have always been impressed with his intelligence, his calm demeanor, and his dedication to our public schools. That is why I am endorsing him for school board.

I think Kenny will be a great board member, and will help to maintain the thoughtful, intelligent, and respectful tone that we have seen developing over the last year. Please vote for Kenny Rotner for the at-large seat on our school board.

You can also learn more about Kenny from his website at http://kennyrotner.wordpress.com
Ruth Sample

Lee

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ed Charle Answered Creationism Question Last Year

Board Member Ed Charle's campaign website from March 2012 is still up.   There's a page with an interview from before last year's election.   One question and answer was:
Do you think Creationism or Intelligent Design should be taught in public school?
Evolution forms the backbone of so much of our scientific theory.    Creationism may be taught in religion classes.  As to the bill that requires the religious beliefs of evolutionary theorists be taught, that’s not a topic for a science class.
So this question is not unprecedented in the district.  No one accused the questioner of doing anything wrong by asking.   Can we move on?

Guild Releases Questionnaire, Opinions Fly In Fosters

The teachers' guild released their annual questionnaire of the candidates.   My personal opinion is that Tom Newkirk and Kenny Rotner come off as intimately familiar with the issues of the district, while Carl Piedmont's more generic, as he's really a newcomer.

Foster had a rash of editorials on the creationism thing, including Robert Barth's and Carl Piedmont's letters I posted yesterday, and two letters which have not already been posted here:



Divergent beliefs


To the editor: Recently, a Robert L. Barth wrote a letter apparently scared at the prospect of someone like Carl Piedmont being elected to the Oyster River Cooperative School Board who might hold beliefs that deny rational thought. I am concerned about Mr. Barth’s desire to uphold the principles of modern science while at the same time promoting what can only be described as ignorance and intolerance.

I personally believe that it is healthy for my children to be exposed to all manner of thinking. I would hope that if they encountered ideas that denied rational thinking, were at odds with the facts and ran against much of modern science, that they would have the independence of mind to reject those ideas and adopt an alternative instead. Promoting ignorance by limiting discourse has never been the foundation for the creation of a civil society nor has it done much to advance the development of science.

For me, the issue is not the ideas themselves, but how they are presented. If teaching creationism necessarily would turn our professional teachers into religious zealots who, intolerant of other ideas and willing to close their minds to the reality around them, refuse to teach anything else, then I would be concerned. However, I for one have faith in our teachers and administrators to the point where I believe that a free and fair exchange of ideas will do more to prepare our children than harm them for an adult world comprised of diverse groups of people with widely divergent beliefs.
Neil Niman

Durham

Good grief   [already seen on OyC'mon]
 Sylvie Butler, Lee

Bob Barth wrote a new letter, not in Foster's, that I posted earlier.

Bob Barth responds to Tom B.

[This letter from Bob Barth arrived yesterday -- sorry for not posting it sooner. - Dean]

Please allow me to respond to the letter of 3/4/13 ORCR by Tom Bebbington directed to me re my letter of inquiry as to Mr. Piedmont’s beliefs re creationism and modern science.

The following is a letter to Foster's I have submitted by way of apology to Mr. Piedmont and his family and further explanation:

I wish to thank Carl Piedmont for his explanation that he believes in modern science and by inference in evolution over creationism.
I thought my questioning a candidate on some of his beliefs before voting was not an unreasonable thing to do. Feedback I have received, however, tells me I have vehemently defamed Mr. Piedmont and that I have misrepresented his character and personally attacked his family. Such was certainly not my intention and to any who feel I have offended I sincerely apologize, most particularly to Mr. Piedmont and his family.
That said, please allow me to clarify my initial concern:
Mr. Piedmont’s mention of Trinity International University disturbed not only me but others in the community if it was in any way an endorsement of the institution. The following are statements from its web site:
“Trinity International University holds to the doctrinal position of the Evangelical Free Church of America.” “We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.”
As one who has read both testaments from cover to cover I find this a rather scary and restrictive guideline in an institution of higher learning, and totally at odds with the teaching of modern science unless they simply ignore their “doctrinal position” (which hopefully they do). No, I would not vote for School Board anyone who espoused these doctrinal positions and I am fully satisfied that Mr. Piedmont renounces them and believes in rational thought and modern science.
I wish Mr Piedmont and his family only the best.
Robert L. Barth

Mr. Bebbington infers that TIU is not fundamentalist. The above-quoted doctrinal position from their own website could not be more fundamentalist.

My letter was meant to elicit positional information from a candidate for public office. I accused no one. I thought it possible that a parent sending one of his children to a given school might be in agreement with its “doctrinal position” and that could have a significant influence on how I vote. I am satisfied with Mr. Piedmont’s response to my inquiry that he believes in modern science and all that infers. Mr Piedmont volunteered the mention of TIU in his letter. I did not dig it out, but I did have some recollection of the school prior to checking it out. I do not understand how TIU reconciles their fundamentalist doctrinal position with the teaching of rational thought and science but that’s their problem.

Mr. Bebbinton subsequently takes issue with my statement that “I would defend without reservation any individual’s right to believe what he/she chooses, but that doesn’t mean I will respect or tolerate those beliefs.” He goes on: “and so, Mr. Barth, here is a question I hope you might address- a “red flag”, if you will. I would like to be informed as to your beliefs with respect to neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo- anti-Confederates, racist skinheads, the “Patriot” movement, and other hate groups. Because, Mr. Barth, when you say you can’t “tolerate” the beliefs of others, as someone who has experienced anti-religious bigotry first-hand that is the kind of company that leaps to mind.”

Perhaps I misunderstand, but Mr. Bebbington seems to be making my case for me. I find the above mentioned groups and those who profess their ideologies despicable and I will not tolerate their beliefs. I would fight them tooth and nail. However, and though perhaps an irony, I believe it a key to our Democracy that one’s right to believe anything they wish, no matter how despicable must be defended. Yes, we are all selectively intolerant, and we should be especially when it comes to the hateful ideation of others. And we should always be questioning and willing to be questioned.

Reasoned discussion is constructive. Again, I apologize to anyone I may have offended. Such was certainly not my intent. My intent herein is to pour water on the fire, not fan the flames. I would hope that going forward every questioning of an individual is not interpreted as a personal attack.

Robert Barth, Lee