Published in the Town Tribune on Oct 12, 2023
On Saturday, October 7th the voters of Sherman decisively voted “no” to the version of the school building project presented to them by the Sherman School Building Committee (SSBC).
For almost two years I have served on the SSBC as the representative of the Board of Selectman. During that time, we have openly and actively encouraged our members to challenge each other, voice dissenting opinions, and embrace push-back and challenges from the community and town entities all in the interest of bringing the best possible options to the voters of Sherman. SSBC members brought a myriad of professional expertise and countless volunteer hours to work for the community they love and believe in. I could not be prouder of my fellow members of the SSBC and have been honored to be able to work with them. Sherman must now decide how to move forward with a solution to our critical school facility issue. I would encourage all of you, particularly if you were a “no” vote, to reach out to the SSBC at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know your thoughts on how to deal with this issue in a manner that best serves Sherman.
Two recent occurrences in the lead-up to the referendum deserve some mention. The first is an anonymous email that was circulated to people who had not solicited it, from a list or lists the sender was likely not supposed to have. This email contained conspiracy theories about the school building project, vicious personal attacks on certain SSBC members, and even a swipe at special needs students. It was cowardly and divisive and did nothing to serve the needs or represent the values of our town. The author did lament the change that inevitably comes to a town like ours and, after 25 years of living here, I find myself grumbling about certain changes at times too. But change is inevitable. It is how we, as a community, choose to address that change that ultimately determines if it is a positive change or not.
The second instance involves a “Vote No” ad placed in the Town Tribune the last issue before the referendum. Most notably, this ad was from four former members of the Sherman Board of Education, and this surprised me because, despite their concerns, only one of the authors of this ad had engaged the SSBC in any meaningful way over the last two years, across hundreds of hours of public meetings and four community forums. Furthermore, at the root of its argument the ad cited a very alarming collapse of our real estate market and a complete “paradigm shift” in the world of education in Sherman’s near future as its core reasons to vote “no” to improving our school in the proposed fashion. Yet, these very reasons that necessitated this last-minute, the self-funded, full-page ad had never been called to the attention of the SSBC where they could have been discussed, addressed, and collaborated on. I genuinely do respect these four individuals for their many, many years of volunteer service to Sherman but am surprised and disappointed that they chose this most recent tact to influence the future of their town. Sherman is still faced with an immediate need to address our school facility. Moving forward this need will not be best served by cowardly, unsolicited, and anonymous emails and last-minute ads that don’t allow for the exchange of ideas or collaboration. Sherman can do better. We must.
Collaboration is, however, exactly what 1 have experienced over my first term on the Board of Selectman. I have greatly enjoyed working with our First Selectman Don Lowe. His 12 years of experience on the Board of Selectman are evident in his proficiency of service to the town. While Don and I have agreed on most issues we have had some hearty debate over a few things and have always come to a solution that has been in the town’s best interest. The ballot in November will, of course, show that I am running “against” fellow selectman Bob Ostrosky. While that is technically true, I am actually running to get back on the board with Bob. 1 have very much enjoyed working with Bob. His ten years as a selectman are plain to see in every facet of how he conducts himself on the board. Bob has both challenged me and encouraged me as I have learned the job of selectman. I feel we, as a Board of Selectman, have really found a one-off, collaborative balance of varied skill sets and points of view that serve Sherman extraordinarily well. 1 hope the voters will put me back on the same team with Don Lowe and Bob Ostrosky in November. Finally, I would like to thank Ruth Bums and Liz LaVia for their kindness, patience, and professionalism in bringing me up to speed over the last two years. They are both truly wonderful and absolute assets for the town.