By Lisa Sugarman
I like to keep a low profile. A little bit of an oxymoron, I know, given that I write an opinion column. But I really do keep most of my feelings to myself. It’s safer that way. Plus, it’s the number one survival rule for living in a peninsula town. If you don’t want something coming back and biting you on the a**, keep your mouth shut. So aside from telling my 13 year-old daughter that cartilage piercings are a horrendous idea, I’m just not the prosthelytizing type. It’s not my style.
But I’m compelled, certainly after the events of last week that affected us all, to ask that we take a healthy pause surrounding this business with our School Committee that’s been consuming so much of our attention lately.
Look, there are certain things that I’ve always believed are just too sacred, too personal to put out there for general consumption. These are the opinions I keep to myself. I call them the Big Three. They’re like my own home-grown version of Bird, McHale and Parish. Only mine are Religion, Politics, and Jewelry. I try to never offer opinions about them unless I’m asked, and when I do I’m usually pretty censored.
Only every so often do I make a rare exception. And it takes an epic event to move me enough to lay it all out there. So consider this one of my every-so-oftens. Today I’m talking. And I’m jumping right to the head of the line and talking Town Politics.
Let’s just get something straight right off the line, tho, I have no loyalties, no alliances, no favorites, no agenda, no back story, and certainly no aspirations. What I have is nothing more than an opinion. That, and an enormous amount of respect for everyone in our system who has dedicated themselves to giving our kids every advantage available to them to be successful in their life. And isn’t that what it’s all supposed to be about?
Truth be told, I have absolutely no interest in calling anyone out for anything specific. I think that’s just counterproductive, not to mention a ridiculous waste of time, energy, and good newsprint.
Instead, I’m going to be Switzerland. I’m staying neutral in the face of all the crazy. Because it is crazy. And considering the Swiss did it so well, I’m following their lead.
I’m not a politician, I’m not even particularly all that smart, but I think I have a reasonable amount of EQ—enough that I instinctively know that most of what’s gone on within our School Committee these last couple of months has gone way too far. It’s honestly worse than the worst episode of Dance Moms I’ve ever seen. It’s like I can’t bring myself to watch it anymore and yet, at the same time, I can’t seem to look away.
The sad thing is that it almost doesn’t matter what’s happened up to this point. It doesn’t matter who’s said what or who has the last word. Although, frankly, I’d love it to be mine. (Between you and me, I’ve always had this fantasy of being able to solve all the world’s problems.) Through it all, a few people have made courageous, inspiring decisions, while others have deserved a time out more than either of my own kids ever have. Which is why, at this point, I think it should only be about one thing, and that’s moving forward.
So I’m giving my opinion simply because what I think people really need right now is a voice of reason. Or, at the very least, a reasonable voice. (And maybe a light dope slap to the side of the head.)
I’m a rabid believer of owning it. And the lack of owning it I’ve been seeing lately could be the crux of our problem. In fact, I think, it’s the root of most peoples’ problems. Because when you really look close, most people just don’t have the capacity (or the cojones) to take responsibility for their actions. I’m sure we can all agree that nothing good comes from finger pointing and tit-for-tatting. Wasted time. It’s only when people start owning their actions that most problems will generally resolve themselves.
So the fingers have all been pointed and the tits have all been tatted. If you said it or did it, stand by it. And let’s please move on. I think after this week we can all agree that we’ve all got much bigger fish to fry.
If there are capable people in our system who can elevate us to what we all hope to be—which is the common goal, is it not?—then I think it’s time we let them do what we brought them here to do. Or, rather, brought him here to do.
Yup, I just said that. I said him. And I’m owning it. Because I’m also a big believer that people cycle in and out of our lives at very specific times and for very specific reasons. We call that Karma. And when Karma speaks, you damn well better listen.
We’ve clearly veered off our course lately, but what does your GPS do when you choose to go left when it says go right? It recalculates the route and gets you there, even in spite of the fact that you didn’t listen the first time. So don’t you think it’s time we all listened to our GPS before we drive ourselves through the barrier at the end of the dead-end cliff.
Clearly we can’t go back to where we’ve been, nor would we want to. But we can take with us what we’ve learned, the good, the bad, and the pathetic, and set a new course. Because if we navigate through life the way we’re supposed to, then we should be learning something as we go.
I’m a Header just like you, with an extremely vested interest in what goes on in the town I’ve lived in and loved my entire life. Sitting here typing, thinking about everything this little town means to me and now to my girls, I’ve got bonafide tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Like all true Headers, I bought all my penny candy at Tent’s Corner and climbed the yellow cargo ropes in Mr. Piccard’s Bell School gym class. I busted my chin open on the steps at St. Stephen’s Nursery School and got my stiches to close it at the Mary Alley. I’ve dock dived off every dock in the harbor and spent endless summers sidestepping seagull s–t on Children’s Island. I’ve traveled through the Marblehead School System from beginning to end, graduating from both Tower School and Marblehead High. I’ve raised my children here, sat on PTO boards, been a room parent a dozen times over and, most recently, spent the last 9+ years working in our school system. So, like you, I want to see my idyllic little harbor town rise from the ashes.
Why am I giving you my life’s story? For no other reason than to buy myself some respectable street cred. I need you to understand that I’m not a casual observer to what’s gone on here. I’m vested. Like you.
We need to think of this situation like we’re renovating one of our great historical landmarks that signifies who we are. We need to think of our School Committee like they’re Abbot Hall, rich in history and character but needing a little rehab to restore it to its former great self. And I think we all know that sometimes we just need to take it down to the studs to expose the flaws and see what we’re really dealing with. Then we rebuild.
So here we are, down to the studs. Wires and framing exposed and everything’s out in the open. There’s nothing left to do but rebuild with the common goal of renewal. And personally, I think we’ve already found the right contractor for the job. Now let’s just let him get busy and do the work.
(Okay, so maybe not exactly Switzerland.)
Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItisWhatitisColumn OR read her blog at https://itiswhatitiscolumn.wordpress.com.