AUBURN – Entering Edward Little High School seems a bit scary these days with a 15-foot alligator standing sentry at the main entrance.

Take note of the remote control in one hand pointed at a sculpture of the school’s namesake, Edward Little, the scales made of money and the business suit. It isn’t Godzilla hanging out on the front lawn.

It’s art with a message meant for Maine schools, teachers, students, parents and concerned communities. Simply put: Those who control the money control the schools.

“It’s not directed at anyone in particular,” said Josh Libby, 16, a sophomore at Edward Little who helped design and construct the sculpture. “It’s a problem for everyone across the state, across the country and across the world.”

Libby and his classmates in art teacher Terri Wentzel’s 3D Design class brainstormed about the piece several weeks ago as the School Department started looking closely at upcoming budget crunches. Wentzel said that class members such as Libby wanted to make a statement on how budget cuts ultimately hurt students.

School Committee member Thomas Kendall said the committee is working hard to preserve as many programs and positions as possible now, but understands that any cuts can be painful. He said federal stimulus money will help the school department maintain close to its present level of services, but pointed out that Edward Little needs a significant number of updates and improvements.

At this point, the School Committee is looking to engage the public in the debate over funding.

“Community awareness is a huge benefit to the school system,” Kendall said. “We would like to hear back more. The community has to tell us what to do. They have to become more involved.

Wentzel said the paper mache sculpture represents students’ feelings that decisions being made about the school are completely out of their control. The project stemmed from a unit students completed about 1930s era artist Malvin Albright, a Chicago-based sculptor whose work “The Tragedy of Man” inspired students to think about the bigger message they wanted to convey.

“We went through the process of what are we trying to say and how best to say it,” Wentzel said.

She added that the sculpture is not directed at any individual or government body, but rather the shrinking funds coming down from federal and state budgets. The class chose an alligator because of the reptile’s natural instinct to come out of the water for self-preservation and not simple aggression. Like an alligator, school departments are being forced to make decisions about programs based on money.

“The money isn’t there. They (school committee members) have to cut and make tough choices because they have to. It’s like an alligator jumping out of the water to grab a bite to eat because it has to in order to survive.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.