Praise for anti-bullying editorial

Being a retired journalist from a large newspaper chain (Gannett), I know that editorials are never signed, since they are meant to be the expression of the newspaper as a whole rather than just one individual, as it would be in a column. Generally, I think that is a good idea, but still I wished your editorial about bullying in the 4/24 edition had been signed, since it was the best thing that I have ever read on that subject, and I think it ought to be reprinted in every newspaper in America.

I work occasionally as a substitute teacher at the Belfast High School, and I really like the job. The students for the most part are well-mannered and intelligent, and it is a pleasure to work with them. The school has a most excellent “resource officer,” otherwise known as a “cop,” on the property during the school day, and I would certainly trust my life to him, as would most of the students, I think.

Also, I think the school does an excellent job of keeping bullying under control. I have seen very little evidence of it, and Belfast is fortunate in having such a high school environment. Let’s hope it stays that way.

But back to the original statement: Your editorial was a first-class piece of work.

Stephen Allen


RSU 20 breakup will hurt students

I am a Belfast resident currently teaching in RSU 20 (previously SAD 34). I care about the students, schools and the community, a community that includes Searsport and Stockton Springs. Three years ago we came together as RSU 20, and have grown in many ways since then. The idea of Belfast's withdrawing from RSU 20 may actually hurt the community, rather than benefit it. Here's why:

1) Standards based education, used by Searsport District Middle/High Schools, has become a model studied by many Maine colleges to shape their teacher training programs. This model has helped reduce the number of students in special education. The state of Maine has mandated that schools have standards based education by 2018. Why, when we already have a middle/high school using standards based education, would Belfast want to separate from them? It would behoove Belfast to learn from what Searsport has done.

2) Over 21 percent of RSU 20 students are in special education, with that percentage the same across the region. As an RSU, programs from both former districts are available to all students. Students who have had trouble at SDHS now attend BAHS with success, while students who didn't thrive at BAHS are finding success at SDHS. BCOPE, the alternative high school in Belfast, is open to all RSU 20 students. If you are a parent or relative of a child in special education, you may not be able to access the services your child needs if Belfast withdraws form RSU 20!

3) There's a vision for an RSU 20 autism program which would draw from both sides of the river. If Belfast withdraws, this program may not materialize.

4) The middle school Pathways behavior day treatment program has been moved from Belfast to Searsport District Middle School. What will happen if Belfast withdraws form RSU 20?

5) There has been excellent professional collaboration among elementary level teachers and administrators. The professional development community is strong and growing. Professional development is offered to the entire RSU, avoiding duplication of offerings and expense.

6) Since the Frankfort Elementary School has been closed, Searsport District Middle School/High School enrollment will decrease. This many seriously affect programs at these Searsport schools which, in good faith, joined RSU 20. Do you want to see this happen?

7) It took time to put the two school districts together, a lot of time. It will take a lot of time and money to separate the RSU. With so many critical issues in education: improving graduation rates, professional development of educators, managing technology in the classroom, social issues like bullying and violence, is this is hot-button issue we should be spending time and money on right now?

8) The money. There have been claims that Belfast will save money by withdrawing form RSU 20. But is that really true? Have uncontrolled costs been figured out and projected into the future? If Belfast withdraws from RSU 20, there will be costs to dismantle the technology program (almost $400,000), to hire a separate superintendent, maintenance director, special education director, etc. Right now, Belfast is spending money on the process of withdrawal investigation!

Please examine the issues. There's been a lot in the news supporting Belfast's withdrawal from RSU 20. Will that help or hurt our students? Our community doesn't end at Belfast's borders. We believe withdrawal is a mistake. Please vote no on Belfast's withdrawal from RSU 20.

Linda Garson Smith


Tanker superhighway to nowhere

Many of us who live and own property on or near Penobscot Bay are horrified by the proposed dredging of the bay for the sole purpose of creating a superhighway for tankers right down the middle of one of the last beautiful small bays in America.

The $12 million for this unnecessary devastation was hidden in a statewide transportation bill voted on last fall, on the assumption that the people of Searsport would throw out all their own voted-in ordinances and allow a huge LPG tank to be built in their beautiful village. They did not.

Yet this tanker superhighway to nowhere is still being called "extremely important" to the port's continued economic viability by John Henshaw, the executive director of the Maine Port Authority. Important for what purpose?

What about the obliteration of our famous and traditional industry of lobster fishing by removing 892,000 cubic yards of silt and sediment in the world’s most productive lobster nursery? According to The Lobster Conservancy, there is a growing consensus among scientists that Penobscot Bay, Maine, is one of the richest lobster grounds in the world, “…the results of favorable environmental conditions for egg and larval survival and growth, which in turn lead to high settlement.”

What about the impact this proposed dredging will also have on our current and growing industries of tourism, recreational boating and now our fledgling boat-building and eco-tourism industries when this beautiful waterway becomes a tanker superhighway to nowhere?

Whose interests would be served by the proposed dredging? Don’t all industries deserve the consideration and support of the Army Corps of Engineers? Why would they consider only the interests of increasingly obsolete, caustic industries that pollute and destroy our irreplaceable natural resources for the quick buck, while providing very few jobs and enriching only those at the top?

Is it all about job creation? Shipping is highly automated and provides few jobs. Yet Penobscot Bay already has large job growth in non-polluting high-tech industries from companies such as MBNA, that was purchased by Bank of America. As well as AthenaHealth, voted the top company to work for nationwide by its employees, which has plans to grow very big here and hire hundreds more, providing well-paying jobs.

Not one of those 21st-century high-tech jobs came here because of the access to 20th-century-style industrialized shipping. Just the opposite. These growing, high-tech non-polluting businesses of the future could have moved anywhere, but they chose the Penobscot Bay area only because of the beauty of its natural environment and our glorious non-industrialized bay. Why not protect these living-wage jobs first and foremost?

There is only one Penobscot Bay. Shall we kill the goose that lays the golden eggs of lobsters, tourism, recreational boating and high-tech jobs simply because a few are hungry for a little gooseflesh and just enough feathers to soften their own beds?

We will certainly put up a rigorous fight. Not because we want to, but because we must.

Susan Guthrie


'Wide-Range' music festival

In addition to Belfast's popular Free Range Music Festival, the weekend brought the opening of a "wide-range" music festival at the Colonial Theater.

On Friday night, Larry and I saw the 1968 Hollywood Bowl concert by The Doors with Jim Morrison singing such favorites as "Hello, I Love You" and "Light My Fire." Sunday afternoon we were transported to the opposite end of the musical range to Italy and the Arena di Verona's magnificent staging of Verdi's operate, "Aida." Monday night we were taken to London for the 25th anniversary of music everyone loves with Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera" at Royal Albert Hall. This beautifully staged and sung performance was enhanced by the on-stage appearance of Lloyd Webber and his personal "angel of music," Sarah Brightman, who performed reprises of some of the show's songs along with four previous Phantoms.

The productions will be shown again May 4, 7, 21 and 30. New technologies and newly digitized equipment at the Colonial make possible the opportunities to see these filmed live performances in our local theater. if your taste in music is selective, select one; if it is wide-range like mine, see them all, but don't miss out on these special performances this month at the Colonial Theater.

Betty Becker-Theye


Swanville’s social engineer

Social engineers plan for a future where everybody has everything. The most famous were Dodd and Frank, who said the selfish bankers had to stop “redlining certain areas” and allow everybody to have a mortgage, even if they couldn’t afford one. Well, bankers are smart and knew they couldn’t afford the losses, so they sold the bad loans to Fannie Mae. Guess what? Fannie Mae is us, so we got a recession because the government decided to control the mortgage business.

Swanville’s social engineer, the Code Enforcement Officer Ordinance, is a copycat of Dodd-Frank in principle. Actually, it’s the same mistake, but applied to a different business, which is the rental business. The Ordinance does this by establishing that all rentals shall have the same living conditions, regardless of the amount of rent paid. It is ridiculous to assume that the rental business or any business can survive under that level of government control. The first of two results will be that rentals for low-income families will disappear. What a great accomplishment that is for a caring government.

The second will be that rental owners will be challenging the law in court. Imagine the gall of a government that would require a rental owner to submit to paying a fee of $40 so their inspector can check out the toaster, the washing machine and TV and then approve of the wall coverings and make sure there are no asbestos fibers hanging around. From there, he would check for particle board in poorly ventilated sleeping areas and look up your chimney to check for creosote. Then he will check for any debris in the yard that may be a nuisance to the neighbors. Finally, he will insist on seeing your state water-quality test results and your radon test. Plain and simple, this is the government taking over the rental business.

See you in court.

David Huck


Grateful for Moose Point

Spring has many harbingers. One special one to this area is the re-opening of Moose Point State Park. However, the park is never really closed to visitors. Even during the fall and winter, when a chained gate bars the entry of vehicles, it is quite easy to walk around the gate and hike park trails, trails that have been left in superb shape by park personnel before their departure, without paying any park fees. And many do. Even snowfalls are taken in stride, since the entrance road is kept plowed. That being so, I would like to suggest that all of us who used the park over the fall and winter leave a special donation in the coin box, over and above the normal park fees, our first visit of the season, in appreciation for all the park staff does during the spring and summer so we can enjoy the park throughout the year.

Leonard Kalinowski


Bill is the wrong solution

Have you heard about the bill in front of the Maine Legislature that would allow dental hygienists to administer anesthesia, pull teeth, and prescribe medication? I heard about it on the radio during my morning commute. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

When I arrived at work that morning, I did a little quick research. I don’t know about yours, but my dentist is accepting new patients. I’m always seeing ads in the newspaper for dentists who are accepting new patients. There seem to be some mixed messages about whether we're in a dental shortage or not in the state of Maine. With a quick Google search I found out that over 90 percent of dental offices in Maine are accepting new patients.

In 2010 Maine voters approved a $5 million dental care bond. The UNE dental school will open this coming fall. Wasn't that our solution to the problem of not enough dentists? Why would we create another level of care when we've already spent money to train Maine dentists to practice here?

It seems to me that law-makers are being asked to approve another — and very different — solution to a problem that we aren’t even sure we have. This doesn’t make sense to me. I hope Maine lawmakers have the good sense to say “no” to this proposal.

Kim Fleming