It got to the point where I cringed every time I heard the man’s name. 

All day and into the night, people wrote or called or tapped on my shoulder to say things about the beleaguered school superintendent, Todd Finn.  

“A wonderful man,” one would declare. “A saint, really. A heroic figure utterly dedicated to the education of our children. So selfless. So wise. A pity he’s being hornswaggled by the school committee.” 

Ten peaceful minutes would pass before the next tap. 

“Todd Finn!” that voice would spit. “A worm. A wretch. A duplicitous weasel with secret agendas and possible ties to the devil himself!” 

The next caller or writer or shoulder-tapper would weigh in with lavish praise for Finn and the glory of his work. And then more critics would appear, and the whole cycle would continue until I took to hiding in dumpsters. 

“Appreciate your comments,” I would tell each of these people. “I’ll be sure to pass them along to our education reporter.” 

“… and another thing about Mr. Finn,” they would say, dismissing outright my diplomatic attempts to wriggle out of the conversation. “Let me tell you a story about this heroic man. Not to worry, it shouldn’t take any more than three hours.” 

And then came whispers of conspiracy. “Pssst,” those voices would say. “You didn’t hear this from me, but it might do you some good to check on Mr. Finn’s background. Do it now, sonny boy, and win yourself some awards. The future of our educational system depends on your willingness and ability to run a Google search.” 

“Thank you for your comments,” I would say to that. “I’ll be sure to pass this on to our education reporter. Which isn’t me, by the way. Education reporter, that is. I ain’t him.” 

All day and all night, emails, text messages, phone calls and invitations to meet in dark parking garages where cloaks and dark glasses were presumably required. 

I had conversations with Finn himself, who would describe his troubles with the school committee, his voice broken by apparent stress and indignation.  

You know what I did with all of that? I passed it on to the education reporter, whom, I should probably point out, isn’t me. 

But the calls kept coming. And the emails. And the whispers of scandal. There were a few insane moments, nightmarish to me in retrospect, where I almost wished I WAS the education reporter. I mean, if education is your beat, a churning controversy over an enigmatic central figure is probably pretty lurid and exciting, a nice break from test scores, budget workshops and mil rates, whatever those are. 

I mean, here was a guy, brand spanking new to the job, who was worthy of either a halo or devil horns, depending who you happened to be talking to. According to my advanced mathematical computations, the split over Finn was just about even. Half thought he was gen-u-ine gift from above and half believed he was Lewiston’s version of Josef Stalin. 

Which version is closer to the truth? Beats me. I’m not the education reporter, you know, and I didn’t delve into it very deeply, apart from a generic Google search that revealed nothing that looked like a smoking gun. 

And while there were plenty of people who shot me winks and nods and promises to relate the REAL STORY someday, the real story has yet to come my way. Maybe it’s moot now that Mr. Finn has apparently offered up his walking papers and, presumably, hit the road. Maybe, with Finn’s resignation, the urgency of all that noise just leaked away like oil from a busted crankcase. 

Yet now, with a disgusting sense of irony, I find myself curious about the whole sordid affair. Who IS Todd Finn, and how did such a mild-mannered career educator evoke such strong opinions in people within the school system and the community at large? What is it about his character that warranted whispered discussion and meetings in dark parking garages? 

Beats me, bub. Personally, I quite liked the man. I found him engaging and intelligent and his wife was very nice to me on those occasions when I had to bug the family after hours. Finn, a former U.S. Army paratrooper, teacher and basketball coach, seemed like the kind of you guy you could have a beer with. Could joke with. Could trust to be reasonable in his approach to how Lewiston schools ought to be run. 

But what do I know, really? I didn’t work with him or have any need to analyze his professional conduct very much. I don’t have kids in the schools, so the decisions he made probably don’t affect me. 

All I know is that something about the fellow educed strong feelings of all kinds, and from a weird range of people. He was revered by some, reviled by others and now it appears he’s about to be gone, a year into his tenure and now a mere footnote in the annals of the Lewiston school system. 

I know this, also: While I was mulling the Mystery of Todd Finn and his stormy Lewiston experience, the school committee chairwoman announced that she, too, would beat feet as the leader of the group. And so now, here we are, a city with a school system that, like many others, has to figure out how to bring its kids back into the classrooms amid all of this COVID-19 business. A school system that has to make a MAJOR DECISION about whether to keep using their school resource officers or to go with the tide of unrest and let some of them go. A school system that has to help guide our children through what might be the most confusing and frightening period of their lives. And they’ve got to do it without a superintendent or seasoned chairperson because . . . reasons, I guess. 

I keep thinking I want to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about Todd Finn and all of that messiness, but do I really? Chances are good that pure politics are the heart of it, and nothing I see on the streets is as ugly as that.

When he’s not busy not being an education reporter, Mark LaFlamme works the crime beat for the Sun Journal.


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