By Community Coalition of the Five Towns

There is much at stake in next Tuesday’s election for seats on the Lawrence Board of Education, and each of you–the voters in our community–will play a crucial role in the outcome. Your decision will define our community for years to come.

For the past few weeks, we have listened to the rhetoric, we have seen the newspaper advertising, and we have heard the whispers circulating behind this campaign and its candidates. Next Tuesday, voters will take center stage to exercise their democratic obligation and right to vote.

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, “The most important public office is that of private citizen.” Why? It’s simple–each person in our community is ultimately responsible to select the best people to represent them on our school board and at other levels of government. Choose wisely.

What’s at stake? The most important thing, of course, is to maintain and enhance the quality of education for our children. Which candidates will best protect and enhance our children’s opportunities and services? Which candidates will best address and improve services for special-needs children and their families?

There are financial concerns. It looks like our current school board did a fine job of keeping our property taxes stable. How? At what cost? Ask yourself: Why are taxes suddenly going up this year when public school enrollment is declining? Are there deeper problems that are not being addressed?

Did our current school board really do its best to cut wasteful spending, to drive down expenses, to curtail outrageous attorneys’ fees, and to end the duplication of services that always drive up taxes? Once again, you must decide. Our school board currently makes public so few budget details that it is nearly impossible to know for sure.

Then, of course, there are new bids for the Number Six School for you to consider. No one wants our school board to repeat its past mistakes or errors in judgment. We want our school board to ensure that the Number Six School’s 6.7 acres remain beneficial to our families and children. Whoever buys it should guarantee that its use is compatible with the residential neighborhood and that its popular ball fields are preserved for community use. Which candidates will best ensure this?

What about openness and transparency? School trustees were elected to be our community’s representatives. Isn’t it only fair that we know what they are thinking before they make important decisions? Any decisions that affect our children, our taxes, or our quality of life should never be made in clandestine executive sessions or behind closed doors. Far too frequently, they are, and the result is decisions that are not in the best interest of the community.

Most board decisions should be made in open public forums where we can watch, listen, participate, and offer recommendations. That’s why it is called “representative government.” The people we elect as trustees should always represent our community’s best interests. If they don’t, then your decision next Tuesday is crystal clear–we must elect school board trustees who pledge that they will.

Last–but not least–voters must decide which candidates will best unite our community. This year, voters must decide between building unity and continuing our current school board’s clear pattern of divisiveness.

It is clearly divisive for our school board to recruit two last-minute candidates to intentionally split our community’s vote. A lack of transparency led to a questionable school bidding process, which led to a problematic contract, which led to a hurdle-plagued referendum, which has led to the divisive election this community is now saddled with. The causes and connections are obvious.

Greater communication between our community and our elected school board will help unite our community and produce better results. Openness and transparency aren’t just nice words. They are essential ingredients to ensure that the board is operating in the community’s best interest.

You must decide which candidates will give you a greater voice in how your children are educated, how your tax money is spent, and how you participate in important decisions. This is how democracy works. Next Tuesday, please make sure democracy works for our entire community. v


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