AUBURN — When you get right down to it, the recent flap over planning for a new Edward Little High School can be boiled down to one line.

“What we have here,” Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said Thursday, “is a failure to communicate.”

It’s a line from “Cool Hand Luke,” but it fits.

On Wednesday, some School Committee members expressed unease over what they regarded as a special committee that had been set up in secret.

A day later, the issue had pretty much fizzled. In fact, when the board met with members of the newly formed committee, they couldn’t have been more cordial.

“I’m so excited about the enthusiasm around this table,” Superintendent Katy Grondin said.

School Committee Chairman Tom Kendall referred to the earlier ugliness as “merely bumps. They are nothing to be concerned about.”

And that was the end of the matter.

The Thursday night meeting was for the most part an introduction between School Committee members and several men and women from the community. Those men and women have been selected to help with the process of deciding what should be done with Edward Little High School as it falls further into decrepitude.

“I think now we all need to work together,” School Committee member Francois Bussiere said. “Edward Little needs our help.”

The new committee is a diverse one. It includes bankers, engineers, parents, business owners, a lawyer and several others. They were selected for their individual areas of expertise but also because they have special ties to the Auburn school system — many graduated from Edward Little. Others have children or grandchildren in the local system.

“You have been identified,” Kendall told them, “as people who can contribute to this process.”

The process actually started more than three years ago. Edward Little was put on academic probation due to conditions at the school and the mission to improve things has been ongoing.

“I think the work that has already been done is important work,” City Councilor Mary Fontaine said. “I think we should start with that.”

Lest anyone forget what the task at hand is all about, the two groups, along with some school staff and a pair of students, took a tour of the building.

For some, it was their first walk-through. For others, it was the second or third or fourth. They took an hour touring the building, noting once more the grungy and buckling walls, the tiny, windowless offices, the hanging electrical cords and the bathrooms that look like they belong in a prison.

“It really hasn’t changed a lot since I was here,” said School Committee member Larry Pelletier, who attended Edward Little in the 1960s.

Everyone at the meeting agreed that the children and school staff are suffering because of the condition of the school. They acknowledged that the problem of coming up with a solution would require time and effort.

It was a stark contrast to the fireworks of a day before. Some School Committee members had been miffed over what they felt was secretive planning on the part of the mayor, who was said to have formed a Planning Committee without discussing it with the board.

Not so, LaBonte said. On Thursday, he produced a long list of emails revealing several conversations he’s had with city and school officials.

For his part, City Manager Clinton Deschene sent a “Process Timeline” to School Committee members and city councilors, detailing the chain of events leading up to this week’s meetings. The thrust of it: With a project that will cost millions of dollars to complete, everyone involved has to get on the same page before they can move forward.

“I feel the process to build understanding to achieve community support of a project of this magnitude takes time, patience and planning,” Deschene wrote in the memo. “After reading (Thursday’s) Sun Journal article, I am concerned that this process is starting off on the wrong foot.”

Neither LaBonte nor Deschene attended the Thursday night meeting, opting to let the two committees get to know each other on their own. The City Council and School Committee are expected to meet in the near future as the business of fixing or rebuilding Edward Little gets back on track.

“I really think it’s important,” School Committee member Bonnie Hayes said, “that we move on with what we have started.”

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