E. Theriault: Redistricting is necessary in Lewiston

Regarding your story “Lewiston parents ask for neighborhood schools” (Feb. 5), it seems that there is a misperception as to how are schools are currently districted.

McMahon school is to receive students from the downtown area and parents are in an uproar. Their main arguments are preserving neighborhood schools, and parent involvement in that these kids are being “bussed” out of their neighborhood to attend McMahon and their parents won’t be able to participate in their education because they are being moved to a school that is not within walking distance.

Currently, the kids who will be moved attend Montello school. They take a bus to school, and when their parents have meetings or other dealings with the school they have to find some mode of transportation to get there.

Changing schools is a hard transition for any child, but change in our schools is necessary now. Montello school is overwhelmed. Redistricting is necessary to make sure all elementary school children in Lewiston are getting what they need out of their education.

I have to wonder if the neighborhood school argument is just a cover for bigotry and classism from the McMahon parents, as McMahon is only receiving new students and none of their children will need to change schools.

Poverty is not catchy, and children are not responsible for the choices of their parents. I hope our school committee will remember this when it comes time to vote.

Erica Theriault, Lewiston

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 's picture

What scares...

...and irritates me the most are the parents ignorantly claiming that McMahon parents are racist. There is a Somali population at our school as well as an Asian population and even of other African decent. It may not be a large one, but it’s there. As a parent who just happens to be a “person of color” (still don’t recall receiving an invite to THAT meeting where our ethnicity was clumped together,) I find it interesting that it’s the CAUCASIAN parents that love to scream racist when it benefits them. My daughter has never been discriminated against by anyone at McMahon, (aside from her teacher having to be repeatedly reminded the correct pronunciation of her name, which is of Greek decent.) My mother who is OBVIOUSLY not of Caucasian decent has never been ostracized by the other parents’ or slighted in even the most infinitesimal way when she picks up my children and quite frankly; the McMahon parents have been kind as can be to her.

We’ve established that changes need to be made and that there are problems with our system and all the schools are failing. We’ve all agreed that no matter what we do, finding and implementing ANY solution is going to be difficult and let’s face it, a bitter pill to swallow. Ms. Jodi Wolverton has been an amazing advocate for McMahon and every parent I’ve spoken with at our school feels darn lucky to have her on our side. All this pandering and positioning needs to stop; the racist/elitist card needs to be put down and we need to take an objective approach and do what we can to come to a consensus. My family of 5 is far from rich or upper class. I work 2 jobs and my wife works 2 jobs and we barely make ends meet. We chose our home in our neighborhood because of the school district and have done everything we can to remain in it. We value our children’s education and that is why we work so hard; we hope that because of our hard work, they won’t have to work so hard when they have their children and can take the time to enjoy them.

McMahon is being put on a pedestal, academically speaking, and as a McMahon parent; I’m not satisfied with that. We may be the best in the city, but honestly, I don’t see why we being the best of the worst is something to be proud of. It is great to know that we’ve discovered something that has kept our head above the water and helped us stand out, but we need to expand on that to meet and beat state standards and compete nationally. We need to look at what it is that makes our school so special and see if we can apply it to the rest of the district. If that means redistricting, then maybe that’s what we need to do. If it comes to that, it would be nice if ALL schools are able to have parents that are included in the process and it’s not done all cloak and dagger like; kind of like this current plan. The way the plan sits now, is bunk. (For lack of a more appropriate word in this medium.) I think at this time we need to take a step back and revaluate the situation and let it breathe a bit. We have come up with various “Alternate Proposals” and what we’ve ended up with is a Frankenstein plan that no one can truly make heads nor tails of. The one thing that does seem to stand out; we are hedging our bets on money that may or may not become available to build a new school which would result in potentially even more redistricting down the road. I was raised to live within my means and by spending money we don’t have and planning on money that may or may not come, is certainly not living within our means. If we keep up this kind of childish and Cavalier attitude in regards to our fiscal future and keep passing bond after bond to pay for everything; our grandkids won’t have a public school worth going to and their great grandchildren’s grandchildren will still be paying for our fiscal mistakes and since they won’t be able to read, they won’t have the slightest clue as to why.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Poverty may not be catchy but

Poverty may not be catchy but vocabulary and language are. Wait'll the original McMahon students start bringing home all those 'catchy new words' they will have learned in the school yard from the 'new' kids.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

“Poverty is not catchy, and

“Poverty is not catchy, and children are not responsible for the choices of their parents.”

Yes, but parents who chronically make bad choices indoctrinate their kids to make bad choices with leadership by example. That said, I would support any parent who does not want to place their kids in an environment that has a higher population of individuals exercising the skill of bad choices.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Well stated.

Well stated.

Jim Cyr's picture

Ms. Theriault, If "redistricting

is necessary to make sure all elementary school children in Lewiston are getting what they need out of their education", then we have a much bigger problem. Do you mean that not all the schools are teaching the same "3 R's" ? Just goes to show our problem with the current system ! Parents are being robbed of "Free Choices". Competition is the best system.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

“..make sure all elementary

“..make sure all elementary school children in Lewiston are getting what they need out of their education"

This is a bit difficult when what that child needs is new parent(s) to succeed in education. A parent who does not value education is likely to have an influence on their children, and not a good on either.


Sonia Taylor

My wife Sonia Taylor (School Board Member Ward 5) sold her home in a very nice neighborhood to live and minister to children in the roughest part of our city. She has given her whole adult life to helping the poorest children in our community and could not disagree with you more. The same 4th grade education can be found in any 4th grade class anywhere in the city by any 4th grade teacher. My wife also hopes that families will turn out and vote against those who are not listening to their constituents. This is America and the people should have a say in it!

Jodi Wolverton's picture

Unfortunate way to handle differing opinions

It is unfortunate that Ms. Theriault isn't mature enough to handle the varying opinions on this controversial redistricting proposal without resorting to very mean- spirited name calling. There are case studies and the like to support both sides of this argument so varying opinions should be expected and be able to be handled with maturity. Ms. Theriault is completely missing the point when McMahon parents say "keep neighborhoods together"...what is being referred to with that comment is that the superintendent's proposal is recommending that two busses will be going down certain streets and the odd numbered houses will go to one school and the even numbered schools will go to another school. For example, kids who live across the street from each other on Birch Street will not be going to the same school. So one part of the argument is to keep those neighborhoods together, which is what they have right now. In addition, there is a desire to keep McMahon a neighborhood school and representative of the neighborhoods that surround it. That is what most school districts have...neighborhood schools with children attending them who live in areas that surround that school. Since most, if not all, of Maine school districts (those large enough to have multiple elementary schools) embraces the neighborhood school philosophy, this is simply about some McMahon and Geiger parent's desire to embrace that same philosophy. Let's try not to misrepresent the other side, Ms. Theriault, and try to really understand each other's concerns because BOTH sides have valid concerns.

 's picture

McMahon parents...

...are lucky to have an advocate like you on our side. Conservatively, I don't think we'd have half the parental involvement at our school if it wasn't for your hard work and tenacity. I can't thank you enough; my schedule makes it difficult to be as involved as I wish I could be and things like the re-districiting facebook page and regular PTO e-mails are a huge help. I actually feel like I'm in the loop because of your hard work.


Thank You.

Thank you for your letter and I will share it with my wife (Sonia Taylor) who is a school board member. She will like what you have to say.


Not so simple

Of course the school district a home is located in has a large impact on home buying decisions, but any home buyer knows that schools can and do redistrict when necessary. Do you not think that Montello is doing everything it possibly can to accomodate its ELL population? It's just not enough, and we cannot let children lag behind because of some parents hysterical fears about poverty and diversity. I think the purpose of this redistricting proposal is to bring all three of the affected schools up, and make them all "desirable" schools to attend.


Actually McMahon is one of

Actually McMahon is one of the higher ranked schools in Lewiston. While all Lewiston schools are failing and something needs to be done people are afraid of change. If this doesn't happen and something doesn't give our children are going to be the biggest losers. I don't know what people are afraid of as all I see with this change is a shifting of 223 students to more evenly diversify our schools. It really isn't going to change who the students are going to school with. It is just going to shift the per centages around. Upper, middle and lower classes will STILL be represented in all schools affected with the plan. And just an FYI some students have been bussed from downtown to McMahon for years because McMahon is the one school with a day treatment program.


Thank You!!!!!

Thank you for your letter and I will share it with my wife (Sonia Taylor) who is a school board member. She will like what you have to say.

Zack Lenhert's picture

A large factor when deciding

A large factor when deciding where to locate your family is the school district. I bought a house with the understanding I was in a desirable school district, which I am being "redistricted" out of and into a less desirable district.

There are other ways to asssist ESL students besides sending them to a different school.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Redistricting could very well

Redistricting could very well affect your property value.


Thank YOU!!!

Thank you for your letter and I will share it with my wife (Sonia Taylor) who is a school board member. She will like what you have to say.


Thank You

Thank you for your thoughts! Your thinking is so true.


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