Among the myriad camps situated on the lakes of western Maine, there is one called the Seeds of Peace International Camp. When I was working in the area, it was an annual tradition to cover the opening summer session. Sure, the kids did the usual summer camp activities. But they hailed from hotspots around the world, and the camp hoped to train youth not only to be future leaders but to meet their “enemy” face to face in order to foster discussion and eliminate prejudice and hatred.
I’m starting to think we should ask the camp if they'd like to take in New London’s administrators and elected officials for their opening session. It starts on June 25 and runs through July 18. Hey, it even corresponds with the Board of Education’s month off.
Sure, things here aren’t quite on the level of India-Pakistan or Israeli-Palestinian tensions. But it’s clear that a lot of mistrust and anger has been brewing in the past several months, and it’s recently come to a head in the management of both the city and schools.
On the side, the Superintendent Nicholas Fischer angered several Board of Education members by in the district. The request was made in part due to a concluding that the New London board has at times been hostile and unprofessional toward Fischer and other school administrators.
This request led to a , the state education commissioner, who oversaw a meeting that seemed almost like a marriage counseling session. Board members shared their complaints, which focused mainly on their concerns over receiving information in a timely manner.
The availability of information was also at the center of the City Council’s frustration at their last week. Council President Michael Passero and Councilors John Maynard and Adam Sprecace directed quite a few fiery remarks toward Mayor Daryl Finizio, accusing him of inconsistency and dishonesty during the budget process.
Finizio and did a little venting of his own. He said the budget situation is largely a result of unsustainable practices in past years to try to keep taxes low, such as overestimates on revenues and under-budgeting for overtime. He also said he has been vexed by allegations that the budget situation is not as serious as the administration has said it is. Then late on Friday, Finizio fired off a Facebook post accusing oft-critical opinion columnist David Collins of of skewing facts and acting as an agitator.
This is far from the first time the various entities in the city and school governments have been annoyed by one another. Push and pull between the superintendent and Board of Education, and between the mayor and City Council, is to be expected. But hopefully this latest airing of grievances has been a little cathartic, and everyone will be ready to start fresh soon. Or at least once the budget is finally completed, as the process is clearly taking its toll on all involved.
So maybe Seeds of Peace isn’t quite the right venue, since these tensions aren’t really as serious as an entrenched Holy Land battle or the enmity between two nuclear powers. But one user commented with a suggestion that carries the same spirit as the camp.
“Surely, for the sake of both brinkmanship and putting out fires, the mayor and council president can start by agreeing to meet weekly over lunch,” he said. “At least that would give residents the notion that despite differences, both men are working toward a solution for NL's ills. It would not hurt if the mayor and president each met with the superintendent and BOE president on a regular informal basis, too.”
We’ve got plenty of restaurants in this city. How about it?