Letters to the editor — The Courier-Gazette
To the taxpayers of RSU 13
About half of our school board wants to hire Lew Collins as our interim superintendent. Yes, the one who quit his job. By state law, we need to have an interim superintendent in place when he leaves on Feb. 15. The school board chairwoman, Tess Kilgour, has not even advertised the position yet. She's known about the resignation since early December. We believe this is so the rest of the school board will feel pressured to vote for Lew Collins since there won't be any other choice. They are going to be voting on this at the next board meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 5:30 p.m. at McLain School. Please share your opinion with your local school board representative, and show up at the board meeting.
We think most of us have felt outrage at the resignation and $100,000. severance package of Lew Collins, superintendent of RSU 13. Currently, the district is careening towards total destruction. Mr. Collins and Tess Kilgour, the school board chair, have done much to foment dissension among the citizens of RSU 13. Ms. Kilgour is heading a petition for Rockland to leave the school district. When the cost of that move is determined, I think it will be apparent what a colossal waste of time it is. Somehow, about half the board feels that Lew Collins is leaving because the other half of the board and administrators have 'forced' him out. Make no mistake: Lew Collins has quit his job. There is no way to make him leave before his contract is up in June. We think it is more likely that Mr. Collins realized that the board was not going to renew his contract, so he resigned because that looks better for him on his resume. The money was given on the advice of our attorney.
In our opinion, the problem isn't that the full school board has not supported Mr. Collins. The problem is that Mr. Collins has not supported the parents, administrators, teachers and taxpayers of this district.
He publicly said that the main problem at South School was parents not getting their kids to school. The only point we can see to making such information public is to demean the parents. If some parents aren't getting their kids to school, find out why and help them. Then he cut a teacher at South School, even though the school has the largest class sizes and worst test scores in our district. By cutting a teacher, he made the class sizes even larger. Mr. Collins acknowledged the low income level in the district, but then he started the elementary schools at 9 a.m., creating a child care crisis for the same low income parents.
Similarly, Mr. Collins put our business manager, Scott Vaitones, on administrative leave without following proper procedure. It is likely that Mr. Vaitones has good grounds for suing the district, no matter how his costly "hearing" turns out. Mr. Collins is trying to lay blame for all of our financial problems at the feet of Mr. Vaitones, who has a stellar reputation as a business manager. SAD 40 was very sorry to see him go when he came to our district. We would like to remind RSU 13 citizens that a business manager counts the money. He is not in charge of spending it. In fact, that duty belongs to our superintendent, Lew Collins. In his first year at RSU 13, he put the special ed director on paid leave. So there is a history of him having us pay people to not do their jobs. The new special ed director is being paid around $20,000 a year more than the previous one.
Furthermore, Mr. Collins accused our teachers of abusing their sick days. According to statistics by the Seacoast Education Association, our teachers use less than half the sick days allotted to them. Why was this even put out to the public? If there are individuals who are abusing sick days, then it should be dealt with on an individual basis. This accusation shows a lack of respect and support for our teachers as a group.
In the 2013-2014 budget, Mr. Collins cut three excellent teachers from Oceanside High School. He kept the cut even after the public came out strongly in favor of keeping the teachers. Mr. Collins said that we couldn't afford those teachers; in fact, he said we needed to close schools to save money. The next day, he stated that we needed an addition to Oceanside East so that the ninth-graders at Oceanside West could join the school. The proposed addition would cost $5 to 7 million.
At a very recent Policy Committee meeting, Mr. Collins complained about administrators talking directly to school board members. They are supposed to talk to him only and then he alone speaks to the school board. Unbelievably, school board members are not supposed to talk to teachers or the public, either. This is our policy and it needs to be changed immediately.
Hiring an interim superintendent could be a positive turning point for our district. We could get someone who is skilled at communication, mediation and negotiation. That person is not Lew Collins. We urge the school board to choose wisely when they vote on this matter.
We know many people are frustrated and think everyone on the school board and administration should leave. But if some school board members and administrators hadn't spoken out, the public would be even more in the dark about what is going on in our public school system.
In closing, we would like to thank our administrators and teachers for keeping the chaos created by Lew Collins out of the classroom, and continuing to do your jobs in a positive manner.
Do you think Lew Collins should be rehired or have the date of his resignation changed? Please let your voice be heard. We hope to see a lot of people at the next school board meeting.
Cynthia McGuirl, Thomaston
Adam Ackor, Rockland
Dena Davis, Thomaston
Kathy Dunne, Rockland
Rayden Emery, Rockland
Nancy Griffin, Thomaston
Tracy Leavitt, St. George
Kate Marchessault, Thomaston
Noreen Mullaney, Thomaston
James Murdock, Thomaston
Susan Schleicher, St. George
Amanda Shortall, Thomaston
Matthew and Torey Whitman, Thomaston
Kudos to Warren Ambulance
This is a letter that is long overdue. For that I apologize. Early in the morning of Sept. 26, as I rode my motorcycle to work, I was struck by a deer. I was thrown to the pavement and seriously injured. I found myself unable to move and lying in the middle of the road. Concerned that I would not be seen in the darkness and run over, I managed with great effort to use my cell phone to call 911.
The operator was excellent and dispatched the Warren Ambulance service. In a very few minutes the first responders arrived. One placed himself in front of me, second just below and I was safe. But I was not well. Shortly, the ambulance arrived. Very carefully, I was evaluated, I was stabilized and transported the hospital then rushed to Maine Medical Center. I believe that the rapid response and initial stabilization is why I can write this thank you to all who were there.
I do not get involved in politics and I am aware that the Warren Ambulance service is being assessed. I have no dog in that fight but I do know that there is a group of dedicated volunteers who have spent hundreds of hours on education and training. And they are willing to get up a 3:30 a.m. to save my life then go to their day job.
I hope that as the process in Warren goes on that the sacrifice that these people make is not lost. Thank you.
Why are the boys are failing
On the Jan. 26 "Meet the Press," Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and a panelist on that same Sunday’s PBS’s "McLaughlin Group" (I believe it was Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune) expressed their worries about the performance of the boys, and that the girls were more competitive and out performing the boys including filling up the majority seats in law school and in other professional schools.
So why are the boys falling behind? There are probably several good reasons for this. Two of the reasons include the following. First our elementary and secondary educational institutions, except for those with athletic abilities, are failing the boys because it is expedient to relegate the boys to the corner, send them to special education classes to get them out of sight, or treat them as if they are not as important. Secondly, almost on an hourly basis the advertising industry and television programs are bomb blasting the television air waves with silly ads and mindless programs depicting men as fumbling, bumbling, and befuddled buffoons. Unfortunately it is popular and politically acceptable for the media to portray males as inept. This constant berating by the media does nothing to instill self esteem in our young men.
Will the present mind-set of the schools and the advertising industry change? Mostly likely not because it is both popular and profitable. If anything, because of changing demographics and shifting political and economic power the situation will only get worse. The only glimmer of hope for improvement is if elected leaders such as Rand Paul and journalist like Clarence Page continue to speak out on this issue.
In summary, I pay $5,400 a year in direct school taxes. For this reason I would like to see the school boards spend some of my hard earned money on addressing the problem as to why the boys are failing. If school boards can spend a $100,000 to buy off failed superintendents then they can certainly find the money to spend on something worthwhile!
Trekkapalooza a success for 9th year
On behalf of Trekkers, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to everyone who participated in our most recent fundraising event, Trekkapalooza 2014. In true Trekkers’ style, a community of volunteers and dedicated supporters helped contribute to the success of this year’s event.
Special thanks go to the Strand Theatre and their staff for the wonderful venue. Thanks to the amazing musical talents of the six bands who competed: Hologram, The Educators, The Partials, Hafsol, Drive By Todd, and Random Ideas. Thanks to Peter Jenks for supplying the pizza; to our judges: Alison Machaiek, Cole Chase, Dwight Blue, Kalie McGuirl and Michael King; and to all the volunteers and planning committee members for making everything run so smoothly.
We are also especially grateful to all our local sponsors, and encourage everyone to support these wonderful area enterprises: Bangor Savings Bank, Bar Harbor Bank and Trust, Camden Cone, Carroll Plumbing, Eastern Tire & Auto Service, Harbor Road Veterinary Hospital, In Good Company, Jeff’s Marine, Lonza, Monhegan Boat Line, PenBay Solutions, and Waterworks Restaurant.
And, of course, we want to thank everyone who came to enjoy the event itself. We are grateful to everyone who helped us determine this year’s Bus Band by enjoying some great local music, sharing some fun skits and raising money to support local students in the process.
Our congratulations go to the members of Hologram, a group of students from Appleton, who were crowned Trekkers Bus Band of 2014. We are already looking forward to next year’s event, when the community can come together again to enjoy the competition as Hologram defends their crown during Trekkaplooza 2015.
As a nationally Certified Geriatric Care Manager, I am always concerned, at this time of year, with the burden placed on our senior citizens and their families regarding their tax obligations as they relate to hired help. Following are the most common complaints that I hear from my clients:
1) They didn’t know that household employees, like “domestic workers, health aides, housekeepers, maids, private nurses, etc.” are usually not considered independent contractors by the IRS. The person claiming to be an independent contractor may not understand the law.
2) They might be required to pay and withhold Social Security and Medicare payments, pay unemployment insurance, and withhold income taxes.
3) Homeowners insurance doesn’t usually cover employees and they may need to purchase worker’s compensation coverage for them.
4) They didn’t understand the importance of references, background checks, supervision and training.
5) They didn’t know that aides are not trained or licensed to dispense medications.
6) They didn’t realize that employees needed to complete time sheets and document what they did.
7) They didn’t know they had to complete an Immigration Form 1-9.
There is a wonderful publication that I offer clients in these situations called the “Household Employer’s Tax Guide”. It can be downloaded at irs.gov/pub926. When this seems too daunting and knowing that “ignorance is no excuse for the law”, I suggest that the elderly and their families use a reputable agency that can provide them with the protections they need to manage safely at home. Not all agencies act as employers or are properly licensed, so it’s important to ask for verification. For those who decide to continue to hire help directly, I strongly recommend that they consult with an attorney or tax accountant. As many seniors have warned me, “let’s not be penny wise and pound foolish”.
Joanne Miller, LSW, CMC, CSA
Administrator, ASK…for Home Care
Support Clean Election candidates
I would like to respond to the letter by Carolyn Foster of Friendship by emphasizing some of the excellent points she makes. Above all, she appeals to concerned citizens in every municipality to participate in elections in Maine this year, and not to wait until November.
In 1996 Maine voters passed a citizen initiative which led to the first-in-the-nation Clean Election system. From the first election in 2000 up to now, a large majority of our representatives in the Maine Senate and Legislature have taken the opportunity Clean Elections affords. The results have been extraordinary with dedicated representatives coming forward from both political parties as well as independents. Younger people and more women found it possible to choose public service. Very importantly, these representatives are free to legislate on behalf of their constituents. Interest groups have to make their case before them on the merits of their cause and not the favors that campaign money bestows.
Let us take Carolyn’s appeal to begin now to participate in the election process. Right now, legislative candidates are coming forward for our support. Republican and Democratic party caucuses will be held soon and independent candidates will come forward as well. Let us support Clean Election candidates.
The gubernatorial race is a different matter. The Clean Election Fund has been overwhelmed with the influx of independent expenditures (e.g., SuperPacs). We can’t stand by as this happens. We won’t stop it this year, but money in politics needs to be brought out in the open. And we the people can do that. We can join with the public advocacy group Maine Citizens for Clean Elections in understanding the role of big money in election campaigns, and we can work in our communities to reverse this trend. We need to do it to restore and strengthen Democracy, the government of, by, and for the people. Go to mainecleanelections.org.
Finding the perfect...?
Notice the question mark after the "finding the perfect." The question is who in this case. Now the question is, what am I talking about? The answer in year 2016, be it male or female, who will step into the White House as President of the United States of America. CNN is already jumping into the picture per-say and getting all the so-called pros to give us a picture of who they think will be in the running.
At the beginning of the list so far is two individuals who have in their background, which have more questions than there are answers, and these two are noted as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Former First Lady Hillary Clinton.
For us who live in the great United States of America are running into a major problem and that is who do we choose to put into office in the year 2016.
The problem here is the news media, like so many others, are trying to get someone, when put into the office of the President of the United States, who is perfect. This will never happen no matter how hard we look. The reason is there is not a human being living on this planet who is perfect because we all have issues that make us imperfect in this world.
Robert J. Robinson