Sunday, October 6, 2013

Yikes! Brunswick School Department has a yen for yuans!

We open with a simple question: what do you get when you combine a lust for unlimited school funding with an outsized ego about the merit of the local government education system?  Keep reading to find out.

We really should give up on the “you just can’t make this stuff up” opening for some of our posts.  And give up as well on thanking local officials for providing a target rich environment for our editorial plinking.  They’re both becoming a bit shop-worn, and as you should know by now, amount to comments from Captain Obvious.

That said, today we come to you from the perspective of ‘The Peoples’ Republic of Brunswick.’  Admittedly, between Cape Brunswick, Lake Basebegone, The Town of Perfect, and the Richest Little Town in America, we’re in the midst of a community identity crisis.  We’re hoping to get ‘municipal multiple personality disorder’ recognized as a diagnosis worthy of disability funding, but we’re not sure who to approach for consideration.  So we’ll just move on to the news of the moment.

This week’s Forecaster has an article that leaves us a bit breathless.  Shortly after reading it, we found ourselves hungry for more articles of the same sort, though we can’t explain why.

In short, the news item makes it clear that Brunswick School Department officials are desperate to find new sources of revenue, no matter where they might come from.  A few years back, Superintendent Perzanoski wanted to put ‘spare change’ jars around town.  Many of us found the very idea insulting, since we pay thousands in property taxes to fund our schools.

In the linked article, we find that you guessed it – a consultant – has come up with the idea of recruiting students in the Peoples’ Republic of China (PROC), and charging them more than three times what it costs to educate one of our own children.  What a novel idea!

So we’re sending a School Department official to China to market the proposal.  To make it more palatable to locals, the ‘sister city’ idea is being touted.  Looks like the Trinidad, Cuba sister city relationship has withered.  At least for the schools, which have not netted a single dollar from that lofty ‘we are the world’ relationship.

And in case you forgot, dollars are what this is about.  “The children?”  Are you kidding?

We expect that the first thing Assistant Superintendent Greg Bartlett will do when he gets to the PROC is to contact the local BDC.  Otherwise known as the Beijing Development Collective, he’s hoping he can convince them to make a completely forgivable loan to the Brunswick School Department.  Six, seven million….pick a good number.  And they can hire John “Johnny Protocols” Richardson as a consultant to convince their peasantry that doing so is legitimate and for the ‘common good.’

We suspect Bartlett considered taking along a current or past member of the Brunswick Town Council because of their expertise in arranging such sweetheart deals, but was dissuaded by the possibility that even the Chinese have some egg rolls they won’t swallow.

"It's just that you agree to take steps to try to communicate with each other," Bartlett said on Monday. "There are no guarantees or liability on either side ... . It's a goodwill ambassadorial agreement with each other."

Yup; this is what we think we’re paying property taxes for, and we trust you feel the same way.  We expect our School Department to focus on diplomacy and ambassadorial ‘agreements,’ instead of educating our kids.  Distractions; that’s the name of the game.

Be advised, however, that you shouldn’t worry your pretty little head about this initiative.  The consultant has told us that the outcome will pay a handsome return on our investment.  And he won’t do so bad himself.

Bartlett said the tuition for a single student to attend Brunswick High School next year would be $30,000, which would more than cover the cost of the trip and an additional $5,000 consultation fee the School Board paid last this year (sic) to sign the sister school agreement.

The $30,000 tuition – more than three times the amount charged Maine students who don't live in Brunswick – was suggested by Fox, Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski said. The consultant will receive 10 percent of every tuition as part of the agreement.

Great!  Besides all the whining we hear about the challenges and inequities involved in educating the children of a socio-economically ‘diverse’ town like ours, we’re going to start teaching Chinese children imported from their homeland for our own purposes?  What will this bring in the way of regulatory and staff nightmares?  And food service and counseling issues?  Will we need to set up a boarding school?  And deal with other ‘unforeseen expenses?’

How many staff will we need to add?  Oh wait…that’s the point, right?

Our town is overflowing with good business sense and those who  selflessly offer it to us.  First the BDC, and now the School Department.  Consultants everywhere.  How did Scott Howard miss out on this opportunity?  Did he get ‘out-Foxed?’

Where will we find the land to build our very own high rise center of economic and ambassadorial excellence?  We’re fast becoming the envy of every other state, and we need to erect a symbol of our community pride for all the world to see.

We suggest the first tower be named “Self-Absorption,” in keeping with the defining virtue embodied in this passage:

Despite the board's last-minute maneuver to approve the trip, board Chairman Jim Grant said it was an easy decision for him to support.

"I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is to show how good we are competing against private schools and charter schools," Grant said. "I hope to show that we are an educational leader throughout the world. ... It's a price Brunswick should be willing to pay for this kind of cultural exchange and educational experience."

Not bad for someone who, we understand, doesn’t even own property in town.  So when he says he wants to put HIS money where his mouth is, what he really means is he wants to put YOUR money where his mouth is.

And he’s one-upping Sally Sellit’s view of things; she simply claims people move here because of our schools.  He trumps that all to hell by calling us ‘an educational leader throughout the world.’

Must be because he’s the School Board Chair.  Megalomania anyone?  Self-esteem gone amuck?

All from someone, who we’ve heard, doesn’t even make a point of residing here in town.  If Brunswick ‘should be willing to pay (the price) for this kind of cultural exchange and educational experience,’ shouldn’t School Board Chair Jim Grant be ‘willing to pay’ the price of owning property and living here in town with the rest of us?

On the other hand, we’re a town that finds inspiration in luminaries such as these:


and in comparison to Grant, Professor Plunger-Head seems almost quaint.

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