By Tracey Levesque
Auburn School Committee Member
With the New Year ahead of us, it’s time to make our annual list of resolutions. And in case your list was a little short, I have a few ideas for you to consider with the hope that as a citizen of Auburn you will become engaged in the educational process of Auburn’s children.
I have been very outspoken with my criticism of the previous school committee’s decisions and actions, and I am in no way wearing rose-colored glasses as I write this. My own personal resolution as a new school board member is to seek out citizens and listen to what they have to say about their wants, frustrations and desires for the schools that we educate our future in.
We as citizens must realize that the past is the past and with a new school committee, city council and mayor, we must move forward in unison and remember that we were elected to represent the desires of the citizens of Auburn. The citizens of Auburn have a wonderful opportunity to energize our city’s business climate, quality of life and educational opportunities for years to come.
Resolution No. 1: “Think twice before acting once.”
This is especially true when looking at the future of Auburn’s public schools, and where they are to be built and when. Mike McCormick from McCormick Facilities Management presented hard data to the public and school committee before the holidays, explaining the current physical condition of our schools and offering different options for replacing these facilities over the next 20 years.
The term “Mega Campus” unfairly became the new name associated with this plan. So many people rushed to conclusions about closing all of our schools and building a college campus of sorts that I was certain that there were bulldozers and thousands of construction workers at an undisclosed location already breaking ground. That was not the case, and if more citizens would have taken some time to review the plans and the implementation schedule, then I am sure the public outcry would have been far less.
If you were unable to attend or view the meeting online, then I encourage citizens to go to the Auburn School Department website and view all of the documents. Take time to process, then ask yourself, “Why are we educating our future in rundown, overcrowded and ill-equipped schools?” and “Is there a way to update our facilities in a cost-effective manner that produces the best results possible for our investment?”
At the end of your research, you still might be against the plan, but you just might have discovered some alternatives that could be acted upon.
Resolution No. 2: “Though shall not speed in school zones.”
When they were built, our schools were in low-traffic zones, and proper traffic control was in place, such as lights, cross walks etc. Things have most certainly changed. Traffic has increased, and their patterns have changed. Is it safe? Drive by a few in the morning and afternoon and you will have a solid answer.
Is it really a good idea to build a school with no established sidewalks for the walkers? Would you really want your child crossing four lanes of traffic at Fairview Elementary School when it is clear the public does not respect the speed limit, lights or crossing guard? The state believes the intersection of Falcon Drive and Court Street is safe and does not require a light for Auburn Middle School. Is it okay for the state to dictate what is best in terms of safety for our children when it is ever so transparent that it is needed?
Have you dared to drive through or around the Edward Little High School access roads and parking lots? Don’t.
Resolution No. 3: “A stitch in time saves nine.”
We, as citizens, must take responsibility for the situation that we have allowed to be created in our own schools. When budgets were cut, the first thing that went was facilities maintenance. Money is not being secured for repairs or remodeling projects and—just like it would in your own home—things break. And when they break, chances are it costs much more than it would have to simply keep up with the maintenance to begin with.
If you want to teach your children a lesson in responsibility, or lack thereof, take them to Edward Little and explain to them that their school is falling apart because we have ignored problems for years. We teach our children to be held accountable for their actions and take some responsibility, right? Then we as citizens should do the same.
We have decided (especially if you do vote) for years that the buildings we put our future in is not worth our taxpayer money to properly maintain them. Remodeling and putting Band-Aids over issues is not the same as upgrades and proactive maintenance.
Resolution No. 4: “I will take the time to volunteer at our schools, even if I do not have children.”
Now, I am not pleading with every citizen to join the PTO. Rather, go in the schools and be hands-on with your child (or your neighbor’s child) and their peers. It is a wonderful experience to see a child grow in their classroom, to have a solid relationship with their teacher and, yes, to learn how to operate an iPad and see all those apps.
Chances are, you will see what it is truly like to be a teacher (I know I have) and won’t be so quick to judge our educators based on what you think their work schedules are. Wrangling a classroom of five-year-olds is no easy task, yet I see it done weekly. While hilarious at times, it is an extremely difficult and an important job. Volunteering at the schools also allows you to see the needs of a teacher, classroom, wing, department and school.
Our children, our great city and our citizens of Auburn have every right to demand a superior education from our school system and have it taught in high-quality buildings. Come to the school committee meeting, contact your school board member and share your thoughts and ideas.
Superintendent Katy Grondin has made every effort to involve the public in discussion about our schools. We need a clear direction for our schools, and Master Facilities has started that process. The next phase is about to start. Will you make it a point to sit on that committee? Will you attend the public meetings that are offered?
It’s a New Year for all. Let’s make the most of it and get involved, work together and make a solid plan for our future generations. If each citizen chose just one of these resolutions, then I do believe Auburn would be benefiting so many students and would bring our greater community even closer.