Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Aftermath

Sorry to keep talking about this, but I've become obsessed. Hey, it's winter, and there are worse obsessions.

At the polls yesterday, seven out of the nine towns in our proposed consolidated school district voted the plan down, most of them by overwhelming margins. As of this morning's Bangor Daily News, eight of 18 such proposals got voted down the same day.

Our little town voted 90-15 against. (Obviously, not an enthusiastic turn-out.) Blue Hill's vote was 353-46 against.(Voters probably were drawn out by a ballot proposal to add two selectman positions, also rejected.) Bucksport and surrounding towns voted in favor of their new district, but that's because it's almost the same as the old one, although with different legalities.

Turns out I was wrong about what happens next. As I understand it now, the citizen's petition to repeal the consolidation law first gets considered by the Legislature in this term. If they decide not to repeal it, the petition goes out for a statewide referendum in November.

Meanwhile, the towns that approved new districts have to set them up by the end of June. The way the law stands now, they do not have the option of withdrawing. We apparently continue the way we have been except that we get less special education subsidy (the only kind we get, because our shore front makes us look rich). And we'll have to cut somewhere else to make up those funds, because Special Ed can't be cut (and shouldn't be). If the repeal fails this winter and in November, I guess we'll probably vote ourselves a new district.

Rob reminded me this morning that the state's tally of "cost savings" from consolidation includes "not losing subsidy for noncompliance." When I tally up my successes for 2008, I plan to credit myself for "not burning the house down." That'll give me a morale boost.

Er...knock on wood.

Monday, January 26, 2009

ALA and Potential Lunacy

I went to pick up my neighbor at the hospital this morning, so didn't get to watch all of the webcast for the American Library Association Awards. (An aside: My neighbor had acute, dire, torturous, monstrous pancreatitis, and drove himself to the emergency room in Ellsworth Thursday night because it was 8:30 at night and he didn't want to bother anyone. Thus the rural state of mind. He's fine now, and probably would do the same thing again given the chance, which we hope he won't be.)

Anyway, I got home and had to rip the Internet to bits before I found out who won what. Overall, I'm pretty pleased--definitely would have voted for The Graveyard Book for the Newbery Medal, and was happy that The Underneath and Savvy made the honors list. I haven't read any of the Prinz books, to my shame, but will solve that problem as soon as may be.

The best news of all is that my 2k8 classmate Elizabeth Bunce won the William C. Morris Award for debut young adult novels. I just used two chapters of A Curse Dark as Gold as an example of fairy tale retelling in my elementary school writers workshop, and the way the kids reacted to it would have warmed Elizabeth's heart.

I haven't yet gotten my hands on Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, but from what I'd read about it I was surprised it didn't at least get a Newbery honor. Fortunately, Anderson herself got a lifetime achievement award, richly deserved. I may have a special soft spot for Chains because it was one of the signed books I left on top of the payment machine in the parking garage in September.

In other news, our little town votes tomorrow whether to join eight others in a consolidated school district. I'm planning to vote "no" --which is surprising, since usually I'm in favor of streamlining. In this case, the original law was terrible because it robbed towns of control over their schools, so it was amended to look like a pig with the head of an aardvark. We'd give up our superintendent but he'd certainly have to be replaced by two or three assistant superintendents, save money in some places but spend much more in others. It's a pointless exercise.

The chief idiocy is that towns that vote themselves into new districts won't have the option of backing out later. If we vote "no," we can reconsider. And since there's a referendum question on the ballot in June that would veto the whole consolidation law, it seems wise to keep our options open. And lunacy to do anything else.

Anyway, congrats to the ALA winners. And may sanity prevail.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What a Day!

Obama's arrived at the Capitol.

I keep tearing up.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Stuff

It's snowing again, after two or three days of cold so mean I began to think of it as a person. Fortunately there was and is no wind to make the cold truly unbearable or (so far, knock on wood) to blow any snowy trees down on the power lines.

One of the wonderful things about camping out in the addition/guest room is the wall of windows. I kept all but the middle window shuttered during the deep freeze, but now everything's open and snowy and lovely.

Rob, however, is cleaning off the driveway with the snowscoop. He doesn't think it's lovely at all. The temperature's gone up, so the snow's heavier than the light, fluffy stuff we had last week. I feel extremely guilty about my incapacitated knee, he'll be pleased to hear.

Last night we went to the Blue Hill Town Hall for an excellent production of "On Golden Pond," put on by New Surry Theatre and starring several of our neighbors. Here's a link to The Ellsworth American web site with photos of the show. The kid playing Billy Ray Jr (with the headband) is Nolan Ellsworth, who's been in my writers group at the school for three years. Or is it four? Anyway, he's in the eighth grade, so this is his last year. I think I wrote about him before without naming him--he's the one who wrote from the perspective of a cartoon character who wondered about the intended use of the anvils that kept falling on him. He's got an amazing sense of humor, he's a good writer and now it turns out he's a good actor, too.

Our neighbor Judy Wick played Edith Thayer, and Nolan's dad, Jon, played Bill Ray Sr. We'd just seen the play performed by equity actors last fall at Penobscot Theatre Company in Bangor (second year in a row poor old NST has had its thunder stolen like that--not PTC's fault, of course) but this local production more than held its own. The set alone was a marvel, and it was designed and painted by Annie Poole, who also plays Chelsea.

I get jealous when people are so good at more than one thing. I try to hide it, though.

Cheering me up is the fact that Literate Lives thinks The Unnameables is...well, I guess, literate. And The Horn Book featured my book in its newsletter!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


It's very cold, and will get colder. Tonight, the wind chill will be -20 F. I know, residents of the Plains States scoff at such windchills. But residents of the Plains States do not have to go out at 7 p.m. to discuss a possible (and possibly idiotic) school district consolidation.

Our very earnest and good-intentioned governor proposed months and months ago that education budgets would benefit if we merged many districts into just a few. Right now, Brooklin shares School Union 76 with three other towns. Brooklin and Sedgwick each have their own school boards, while Deer Isle and Stonington share a board. The new district would have ten towns, if I understand it right. A committee with members from all ten towns has been working for months to figure out how to make a consolidation work.

After the consolidation, as I understand it, one mega-board will oversee hiring and budgets and transportation and such, although each town can have a "school committee" in addition to that. Having sat through my share of school board meetings in my time, I cannot imagine how long that mega-board's meetings will last with ten schools to administer. My butt hurts just thinking about it.

The governor hopes we will all save administrative costs by hiring just one superintendent for each ginormous district. I'm willing to bet that the superintendent will require a higher paycheck for a larger district, and will have to hire a bunch of assistant superintendents in order to get through the workload, thus spending exactly the same amount of money if not more. But I'm struggling to keep an open mind.

I love our little Brooklin school--I feel particularly strongly about this today, having just met with my school writers group and found them utterly delightful and eager to learn. I don't want anything to screw it up. It's vastly uneconomical to run because there are so few students. I'm not sure I can trust a mega-board to make good budget decisions regarding Brooklin's school, and I fear all will descend into chaos and recriminations.

If we vote against this, we lose a portion of our state funding. Since Brooklin hardly gets any state funding at all (it's based on property valuations, and we come across as rich because of all our shore frontage), I'm not sure that's much of a threat.

We vote on this later in the month, so tonight is our chance to get the facts about how it's all going to work. I am bound and determined to go to the hearing, even if my nose freezes off.

In bookish news, my name pronunciation recording is up on Also, The Unnameables is an Anokaberry!

And now I'm going to finish reading The Willoughbys. I keep telling myself that this is work but it sure feels like pleasure.

Friday, January 9, 2009


And I was doing so well, too. Sorry...somehow the week passed me by.

I was galvanized into blogging by a link from Fuse #8 to The Baby Website, which reports that parents aren't reading traditional fairytales to their kids because they're too scary. (See this post to appreciate the full glory of this news.) I was particularly amused to read that "Snow White seems to have fallen by the wayside because the Wicked Witch was deemed too frightening - but a handful won't read it because they feel the dwarf reference is not PC."

When I was small, I had a version of "Snow White" that referred to the Wicked Witch as "a toothless old hag." One day at the grocery store, I saw this little old lady, all bent over with a nose that nearly met her chin, and--honest--a huge chin mole with a hair sprouting out of it. She was a nice old lady, and smiled at me and my mother. "Oh look, Mommy," I chirped. "It's the toothless old hag."

I don't remember being the slightest bit scared.

What I did this week: Recorded the pronunciation of my name for (My recording isn't up there yet--but it's a hoot listening to the others so definitely go there.) Read the new P.D. James mystery, The Private Patient, agog with the fact that the author is now 88 years old and as sharp as ever. Faced up to lagging donations for the Brooklin Youth Corps, which means we'll have to scramble to fund next summer's activities. Faced up to the fact that Maine public television is going digital Sunday (ahead of everyone else, if anyone else ends up doing it at all) and we have the converter box but don't get a good enough signal and have no plans to go out in the snow and put up a monster antenna. Except for the evening news and our Survivor addiction, this essentially means no more television for us. Possibly a good thing, except for the Lehrer News Hour which is our life blood.

Oh, and I scheduled total knee replacement surgery. February 23. Yup, I've given up. Time to go bionic.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Where We Live

I don't seem to have gotten the hang of embedding video. But this is very cool.