Saturday June 15, 2013

Poor conduct, bad manners and questionable motives

Editor of the Reformer:

It is with disbelief and great sadness that I’ve followed the unfolding of Rockingham Free Public Library’s current saga.

As a former librarian at this wonderful library, my experience there was one of great camaraderie, collaboration and mutual respect. The staff (all of whom are currently still there) worked together as a team, fully supporting our director, Celina Houlne, the most hard-working, dedicated and honest boss one could wish for. We were committed to our jobs, our workplace, the library’s mission, our terrific patrons, our many supporters and the larger community.

Coverage over the last few months has created confusion; most likely a reflection of shifting issues and obfuscation of facts. It seems impossible and unnecessary that a difficult situation -- including an ever challenging renovation fraught with road blocks -- becomes worse with every news report, but, the current situation speaks for itself.

The Rockingham Library has become a source of conflict and controversy -- a community institution that is traditionally a place of respectful discourse and a refuge from partisanship. Clearly, this is not what the Board of Trustees was elected to do. The results of poor conduct, bad manners and questionable motives are rippling throughout the community.

Heartbreaking it is.

Hopefully, there may still be time, but only if the board has the courage to take a long hard look at the damage that has been done and find creative ways for the library to begin serving its mission again as quickly as possible.

Wendy O’Connell,

Dummerston, June 13

It’s time to find out who’s
to blame

Editor of the Reformer:

The monster chewing up the Rockingham Free Public Library is the usual intrigue. Nearly all of the actions and opinions reported are based upon gossip and a grand distraction. The real question is: What is the mistake that was made, and who really made that mistake? All of the additional costs and inconvenience that is occurring, and all of the political turmoil, including public anxiety and responses, arise from the fact that the renovation contractor, Baybutt Construction, did not pay for the performance bond that they were required, by the contract, to have. The performance bond is more or less a form of insurance to protect the person or organization paying for the work to be performed. If a legally sound and proper performance bond had been obtained in a timely manner, all costs and inconvenience would have been paid for under the terms of the bond. In short, the town and library would have been protected. That kind of protection is routine for municipalities hiring building contractors.

Therefore, the ongoing focus on how long the library is going to be closed, or attempting to provide services for readers at some other location, or focus on the alleged managerial deficiencies of Celina Houlne, are all destructive distractions, which, if unfolding according to someone’s plan, smells of common stinking politics. Celina Houlne may lack a particular skill, or she may discharge her supervisory duties in a manner that displeases someone on the Library Board of Trustees, but whatever her imperfection may be, it most definitely is not the cause of the current disaster. The cause of this disaster is that some individual, or some committee or board, failed to assure that the performance bond was paid for and existed before construction began.

Here is a great opportunity for the Reformer and all area newspapers. Whoever knows or employs a real journalist, send that person out, or wherever, to determine who had that responsibility. Who had the duty to assure that the performance bond was in place? Whoever failed to assure the existence of the performance bond -- individual or group -- or whoever allowed the construction to begin without the performance bond, that is the person or group who made the mistake that caused this mess. If a real newspaper publishes this information, then the residents of Rockingham will know who and what caused this painful disaster. We could all then place the allegations of Ms. Houlne’s managerial imperfections in their proper place -- small town gossip that has nothing to do with the political mess that is concealing and protecting whoever made this very costly mistake. Was the contract with the trustees of the library or with the town? Who needed to be sure that the performance bond was proper and paid for?

John M. Medeiros,

Putney, June 14

Education is
more important than tests

Editor of the Reformer:

My son is about to complete the third grade at Oak Grove School.

This year he took the state test for the first time, and he was well-prepared and not in a panic due to the excellent preparation by his teacher. Much time was spent in the classroom on learning skills -- his math, reading and writing improved greatly over the course of the year. At the same time, lessons on mushrooms, cooking and systems of the body were engaging and motivating, and encouraged my son to improve his reading skills in order to learn more about the subjects, and his writing in order to share his learning.

His teacher went above and beyond to find him a silent reading book he would be interested in, but also gave him the freedom to reread his favorite books, knowing that rereading a text improves fluency and that without fluency one can have only limited comprehension and analytic ability This year’s combination of skills development, trust in his teacher and a shared passion for learning made it a productive and engaging one.

As a high school teacher for 27 years, I know that skills are very important, but I also believe that if a passion for learning is ignored or de-empathized, it can be extremely difficult to resurrect. My fear is that in the name of doing well on standardized tests, the high interest work will decrease and the skills work increase to such a degree that he and others will lose their interest in learning. But with administrative and parental support, we can successfully have both. An excellent elementary education should be a balance of learning basic skills and developing a love of learning, and when the latter begins to be sacrificed in the name of the former, we are all losing out.

Debra Heller,

Brattleboro, June 13

McLaughry’s rhetoric is
half-baked
and misleading

Editor of the Reformer:

In his June 13 column, John McClaughry once again backed up his "facts" about global warming with statements by a suspect group of so-called experts ("Gut check on ‘climate change’"). Dr. Roy Spencer is a proponent of intelligent design. He signed, along with Tony Perkins (who once paid $80,000 to use a KKK mailing list for a political campaign), "An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming," which states that "Earth and its ecosystems -- created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful provide -- are robust, resilient, self-regulating and self-correcting."

Dr. John Christy, also cited by McClaughry, earned a Master of Divinity degree and was a missionary before he became a physicist. While Christy does not believe global warming is as catastrophic as some say, he did acknowledge in an NPR interview that "it is scientifically inconceivable that after changing forests into cities, turning millions of acres into irrigated farmland, putting massive quantities of soot and dust into the air, and putting extra greenhouse gases into the air, that the natural course of climate has not changed in some way." And CERN’s experiments on the effects of solar activity on global warming, contrary to McClaughry’s claims, are not complete and are inconclusive. They have thus far only examined a piece of the global warming puzzle, despite the fact that they have been embraced by conservatives, as well as by the Institute For Creation Research, a creationist organization whose website states "For over four decades, the Institute for Creation Research has equipped believers with evidence of the Bible’s accuracy and authority through scientific research, educational programs, and media presentations, all conducted within a thoroughly biblical framework."

Louis Erlanger,

Brattleboro, June 14