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Letter from Chicopee Herald 6/22

The newspaper is overflowing with graduation jubilations. This is the time of year we celebrate the milestones reached by Chicopee's students. Kindergarten, 8th grade, High School and College Commencement ceremonies are symbols that education is something to be cherished. I hope the Chicopee School Committee remembers Pomp and Circumstance as the date for the School Superintendent interviews quickly approaches. With mixed emotions, I sit on the sidelines wondering about the educational future of this city. If the first search round is any indication of what's to come, this city has much to fear.

The rumor on the street is that the vote for a Superintendent of Schools will be delayed until after the elections. It is mind boggling that this notion has germinated and spread through the spring. One can only hope that there isn't even a grain of truth in this ghastly rumor. School Superintendent is not a political position to be filled at the whim of the politicians in power. This is a job appointment that should be based on merit. The Chicopee students, teachers, parents, and taxpayers deserve a resolution to this debacle. Hopefully, the actions of the School Committee will put to rest these unfounded claims that look to mar the process.

Education or the lack thereof is the eye of the storm throughout the United States. The issue has been debated and governed yet our students are still lagging behind the rest of the world. There is the "Greatest Generation", Baby Boomers, Gen X. Will our young people come to be known as the Lost Generation? As a country, we have not always been perfect but we have always striven to be better, to reach higher. So why then has the hiring of a School Superintendent been so difficult in Chicopee? It seems clear that this city needs an educational leader who will raise the bar for all students.

Have we come so far from the words of Jefferson? "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The crafters of the Declaration of Independence set a high standard. They intrinsically understood that anyone given the chance can and will succeed. Our Founding Fathers also understood the danger when the voice of the people is lost and government is allowed to run unchallenged. Chicopee is lost in a quagmire that, at this point, only our elected officials can end.

The appointment of School Superintendent must be based on merit and experience. The public wants to hear more than political stumping as the finalists enter center stage on June 28. We deserve a discussion of all the finalists. During the last round, seven committee members refused to discuss two of the finalists. In fact, these finalists were removed from consideration in what appeared to be a strategy to force a vote. That's how we got into this mess.

As children, we are taught that we cannot always have our own way. As parents, we teach our children the importance of compromise and making the tough decision for the greater good. It is time for the greater good. The School Committee must look beyond themselves. The line in the sand must be erased. Reality is that running a school district is more than paper pushing and economics. Look in the newspapers, magazines or listen while you're in line at the market. Education is the buzz word of the decade. The public is not satisfied with mediocrity. The public is yearning to get back to a place in time where education was valued. So will this School Committee turn its back on education and again argue that the only thing needed to run a school district is political ties and budgeting experience? Or, will this School Committee do the right thing and hire a School Superintendent who understands that all are created equal and all children can and will be educated?

Lisa Bienvenue