Tuesday, February 24, 2009


How could the events detailed in this film have occured 30 years ago?

That's what I was thinking by the end of the biopic "Milk," which we screened this weekend, one of the most moving and inspiring movies I have seen in a long time. But then, of course, this was my life: Harvey Milk was first elected as the nation's first "out" gay official (after several failed attempts)in 1977, the year I came out at age 16. The protests he lead against Anita Bryant's national attempts to deny gay people our civil rights; and against the infamous Prop 6, or Briggs Amendment, in California which threatened to have all gay school teachers fired (!)-- these were the initial events of my own activism. This was a time when gay culture was very much a bar culture; gay life was very much about sex; this was very much pre-AIDS. Gay pride marches were not solely celebrations of our unique lives, but rather angry protests against our oppression.

It's a different world now, although having come of age in that one I sometimes have difficulty believing how different it is. With gay people on TV and in movies; on the covers of national magazines; and also increasingly part of our public political life--such as Christine Quinn, a lesbian who is the chair of the New York City Council--our fight has moved toward achieving the right to marry. Yet as we suffer the responses to that fight, we see how much homophobia is still alive in parts of our culture. Where are the out gay federal legislators? Judges? Mayors? Governors? We're not there yet, Harvey: but we sure have come a long way. Thanks to you for your inspiring, fearless leadership.

And for those of you who have not yet seen "Milk," including Sean Penn's amazing, Academy Award-winning performance--get thee to your local theater.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ironies and Tragedies

It’s ironic at best--and tragic for our students at worst--that those fighting school consolidation under the banner of “local control” are looking to the state “for a better deal”(or a legislative repeal) to provide our students with access to better education.

School consolidation is not going away. Coordinating and sharing teaching resources, and spreading administrative costs across larger districts, are proven, effective methods for sustaining small rural schools and improving the level of education we are able to provide for our students. 80% of Maine’s school population is now consolidated.

The close vote on the island, despite months of one-sided, negative reports riddled with unsupported facts, shows there is no mandate here for fighting consolidation. Instead, we could assert some real local control—the kind that provides a better education for our students—by creating a positive, pro-active plan which leverages the benefits of regionalization and is worthy of support.

This effort might start with creating efficiencies in our existing school union: synchronizing schedules to enable the sharing of teaching resources, professional, and curricula development; consolidating contracts to eliminate the costs of multiple negotiations; consolidating purchasing to decrease expenses; collaborating to seek independent grant funding to support important educational initiatives; and creating school cultures which attract peninsula students to take advantage of Deer Isle-Stonington’s particular strengths (marine trades, the arts). These kinds of cooperative initiatives, savings, and educational improvements are necessary and should not require legislative mandate.

State and local funds are limited: funding will be awarded to those with the best, most effective performance, management, and governance; and withdrawn from those who don’t keep up. In turn, we will be asked to cut educational resources our students need; when instead we could embrace administrative change to ensure our kids don’t get left behind other parts of Maine or the country. The sooner we really shift our focus locally—recognizing it’s the children who matter, and not the school committee or where the superintendent is—and implement a good plan for administrative change, the more fiscally and educationally viable our schools will be for our students’, and our community’s, futures.