Friday, January 21, 2011

The Way I REALLY Feel

Wednesday night was the town hall meeting in our little town.  While I would like to say it was very Gilmore Girl like, it wasn't.  There weren't any funny parts, or silly parts, or parts that make you dream you wished you lived in this sleepy little town.

No - this meeting was raw.  And frustrating.  And you could just feel the wall that was put up between the town's leaders, and the townspeople.  While the meeting was a long 3 1/2 hours, and too long to delve into in a blog post, I can tell you that by the end of the meeting, we all felt a little deflated.

What we have discovered by our leaders in our small town, is that they can do whatever they want with the rules.  They can bend them or break them, and unless they are sued, they don't care.  I am sure many of you have heard of Roberts Rules of Order.  You can click on the words and read all about it - I will save you from having to hear me explain it.

The bottom line is - our town's attorney, and our town Selectman (in smallville that is the name of the mayor) decided that they didn't need to follow the Roberts Rules of Order.  And when they were called on it?  They ignored it.

Many people had legitimate questions that were not answered.  Our school building is our number one attraction in our town.  The education that the kids receive here is what brings people to our part of the world.  Our kids are top students and the teachers are top notch.

But......but.  The building is 70 years old.  It is a piecemeal building that has parts that were built in 1940, 1956, 1963, 1973, 1988, 1994.  Instead of fixing the old parts of the building, they built new parts.  There are many things wrong with the building, and I could go on forever.

But that is not why I wrote this blog post.  No, I wrote it because I am saddened to see how the town officials really feel about their townspeople.  How little respect they have for the people that live in this town, and our opinions.  What it came down to on Wednesday night, was that the town's leaders were going to do whatever they wanted, regardless of petitions, Roberts Rules of Order, or anything else we had to throw at them.

When we moved to our town nearly 3 years ago, we picked where we live over a neighboring town because of the beautiful land and beautiful neighborhoods and close distance to Mat's job.  It is literally a one traffic light town with less than 3000 residents.  It was perfect.  We were looking at two neighboring towns as well.  We went out to dinner -  while we were house hunting 3 years ago - with Mat's soon to be boss and his wife.  We were talking about the towns we were looking at to settle in, and Mat's boss turned us away from one of the towns because their school was in such disrepair and the town/townspeople have been trying for years to get it repaired, without success.

So - that is why we didn't chose that town.  From that night on, it was eliminated, because clearly that town didn't care enough about its school to make it a priority for its students, and that wasn't for us.  Education was the number one priority on our shopping list when looking for a town, because Arlington was to becoming a Kindergartener that year.

We settled into the town, and it wasn't until 2009 - late - that we found out that the building was due for a remodel.  My neighbor, and new friend, Athena, decided we would go to listen to the proposal and see what it was all about.

That is when we learned that the school was so very old, and in desperate need of repair.  We learned all we could about the building and what the committee wanted to present to the town.

But - when that plan went to the town in early, 2010, it was immediately tabled because someone decided that it was too expensive (and that the fire department needed a new firetruck more.  I kid you not).  We didn't even get the chance to vote on it. 

This did not make us happy, so when a new building committee was formed, Athena and I (and other mom's at this time) decided that we would be sitting in on the meetings from the beginning.  Asking questions, giving input, and just learning all we could about the building.

This story could last for hours - but the short version is - they took a beautiful plan  - that was going to make our school last another 20 years, and turned it into a maintenance plan that just put a bandaid on the building.  Again.

After 8 months of meetings, trips to the town (by Athena), writing a petition to have the original plan considered (by Athena), and trying our best to educate the town that this new plan is not fiscally responsible, we were at the town meeting.

So.  You are caught up.  A lot of hard work on a lot of people's parts, and the town's leaders still did not follow the rules because that would mean they didn't get what they wanted.  Which was this bandaid fix for our building.

It is really sad.  All of the children are losing out with this new plan.  Instead of having a school we can be proud of - that will draw in people to live in our town - we are yet just covering up the worst parts and moving on.

The best part?  The neighboring town that we were told to stay clear of because of their school and battles with the town?  This past fall, they got a brand new school.  And yet, the town we picked, the town we have grown to love because of the wonderful people who live here, has a school that will turn people away.  People who would be great adds to our community.

I need to tell you - that Athena has been a rock star in all of this.  She has been Finley's biggest supporter from day one, and she has backed me up every step of the way.  She started this project with the school with helping me get what Finley needs to be successful, and it has blossomed into fighting for all the kids in that school.  Which is really what it is all about.  She can never say that she didn't do everything she could and saw it to the very end.  Because she did.  And for all the other parents, and citizens that stood right there with her, and backed up our cause to the end, thank you.  You know who you are (Amanda, Susan, Tammy, Michelle, Mona, Chuck, Jim, David, etc)  It is hard to feel defeated when you have such a fabulous group of people who saw it through to the end.

The fight is not over.  It will never be over until our school becomes a priority for our town's leaders.  We will hold strong until there is nothing else to be done.

Athena sent me something today, and I wanted to share it with all of you:

"A strong person knows how to keep their life in order. Even with tears in their eyes, they still manage to say "I'm ok" with a smile.  God is good. Change is coming. God saw your sadness and said hard times are over. "

Athena - right back at ya.

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