Superintendent Has Falmouth Singing the Blues

I love to sing. I sing in public, I sing in the bathroom while I’m brushing my teeth (that can be messy), I sing while I’m cooking, and even while I’m working. At the office, people know when I’m coming down the hall, as my sounds precede me. As a result of that happy propensity, and an ill-advised governmental policy, it’s unlikely that I’ll be traveling to Winnipeg any time soon.

The Executive Policy Committee in Winnipeg, the capital city of Manitoba and that province’s largest municipality, recently approved a bylaw outlawing singing on city buses. Outlaw crooners can even be subject to a $100 fine if caught humming a few bars on the bus.

As silly as this idea sounds, it clearly had the support of some governmental decision-makers who were either unaware of the absurdity of the proposal when applied outside of the boardroom, or fully aware of how foolish it was and just did it anyway. Either way, it was a bad decision. Sometimes, government just does that.

As much as I love to sing, I also love to read. I’ve been an avid reader since the age of 5. I can fondly remember Marsha Zafiriou, the librarian at East Falmouth Elementary School, affectionately dubbed “Mrs. Z” by the bibliophiles who would descend into this comfortable corner of Davisville’s educational edifice, encouraging me to challenge myself with ever more interesting and exciting choices to take home and absorb. My love of linguistics, my affection for information, and my esteem for encouraging others to share their thoughts, was cultivated in those early days by a librarian who cared—and who was available to spend time with a young and eager book lover.

Alas, as with the Executive Policy Committee in Winnipeg eliminating the gift of music on public buses, the recent decision by school superintendent Bonny Gifford to eliminate the gift of reading by cutting the librarian position at one of our public schools was just as foolish and just plain bad. Her announcement that the library teacher at Lawrence School would be eliminated, while other new positions are being created, left me—and many Falmouthites—singing the blues. It’s a good thing I wasn’t on a bus in Winnipeg when I read the news.

As a governmental budget professional, I am well aware of the challenges of sometimes scant public dollars available to fulfill the many missions and demands of a public entity, but leaving a library without a librarian is akin to leaving those music-less buses in Winnipeg without a driver. An outpouring of sentiment since the decision was announced buttresses the notion that this decision was conceived in the same sort of Winnipegian governmental echo chamber where the decision-makers say “it’s a good idea” enough times that it reverberates. I’m sorry, but it’s just not so.

Even Mrs. Z agrees. In a recent letter to the editor, the now retired librarian noted that without a dedicated library teacher, the school would be, “totally without the unique skill set of that profession and the space itself becomes a warehouse of taxpayer-funded resources without a trained person to promote and facilitate their use.” I couldn’t have said it better myself—but of course I couldn’t—because my love of language was nurtured by Mrs. Z herself. Future young Falmouthites may be denied that opportunity.

Many other respected and committed members of the community have chimed in to lament this out-of-tune idea. School committee member Judy Fenwick even took the rare step to leave her seat on the committee during a recent school committee meeting to speak during the public comment period and plead for the restoration of this critical member of the Lawrence School learning team. Scores of citizens, through e-mails, personal pleas, and letters to the editor, have noted a similar sentiment.

It’s not too late. The school year doesn’t start until September. Here’s hoping that the superintendent changes her tune.
 

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