Saturday, March 02, 2013
Pomegranates, heroin, multi-national corporations and toxic food from China labeled "certified organic" by USDA: Where is my Odwalla PomeGrande?!?!?!?
Friday, March 01, 2013
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Whereas the Portland School Committee has ratified the City of Portland's Public Health Division's inclusion of reproductive services at King Middle School,
Whereas parents have a particular interest in the health of their children during middle school ages,
Whereas confidentiality is a statutory requirement for many of the additional services being provided,
Whereas the inclusion of such services raises community concerns and further calls for clarity,
Whereas sexual activity under the age of 14 is considered gross sexual assault in the State of Maine (MSRA Title 17-A, Chapter 11, Section 253), and
Whereas the City of Portland's Public Health Division has previously lacked clear guidelines on the reporting of crimes as mandated by law,
Therefore be it resolved that the Portland School Committee, as a condition to its memorandum of understanding with the City of Portland's Public Health Division, hereby assigns the Health Division to:
1. Develop a comprehensive listing of all the additional reproductive health services that may be offered at King Middle School,
2. Establish clear guidelines and distinctions as to what services will be offered to students of varying ages, including a comprehensive listing of the circumstances under which a student under the age of 14 might be provided reproductive health services and the purpose of those services,
3. Direct its staff to report all sex crimes as mandated by law, and to develop informational material about the various sex crimes in the State of Maine that are applicable to middle school-aged children,
4. Develop informational material to educate parents, children and the community about the scope of new services being offered, the circumstances and conditions under which services will be offered to certain ages, and state laws regarding sex by minors, as outlined above,
Furthermore be it resolved that the Portland School Committee requires the assignments noted to be fulfilled prior to the delivery of additional reproductive health services at King Middle School,
And furthermore be it finally resolved that it is the intention of the Portland Public Schools to work collaboratively with the city's Public Health Division to facilitate the implementation of the directives of this resolve.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Whereas parents have a particular interest in the health of their children during middle school ages,
Whereas confidentiality is a statutory requirement for many of the additional services being provided,
Whereas the inclusion of such services raises community concerns and further calls for clarity,
Whereas some parents may question approving their child to access King Middle School's health center, without a better understanding of the additional services,
Whereas students receiving current services such as physical exams, immunizations, dental services, treatment of illness or injury, etc., etc. should continue to receive such services regardless of lack of parental confidence in the new services being offered, and
Whereas the Portland Public Schools will not be an agent to the aiding and abetting of violations of statute, including gross sexual assault (MSRA Title 17-A, Chapter 11, Section 253, MSRA Title 17-A, Part 1, Chapter 3, Section 57-3-A),
Therefore be it resolved that the Portland School Committee hereby clarifies and declares the following:
1. Additional reproductive health services not previously offered at King Middle School shall not be available to students under age fourteen, except with the approval of the School Committee.
2. During the first year that the Health Division provides additional services at King Middle School, parents there may choose to "opt-out" from consenting their child to use the additional services while simultaneously consenting that child's access to comprehensive services previously offered.
3. Parental enrollment and consent forms for all student health centers in Portland Public Schools shall explain the nature of all services provided which require confidentiality under state or federal laws.
Furthermore be it resolved that the Portland School Committee ratifies this resolution as an addendum to the Portland Public Schools' memorandum of understanding with the City of Portland's Public Health Division, and assigns its staff to develop informational material to educate parents, children and the community about the new services,
and finally be it resolved that it is the intention of the Portland Public Schools to work collaboratively with the city's Public Health Division to facilitate the implementation of the directives of this resolve.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Comprehensive Elementary Plan – An Argument for Baxter
In developing a comprehensive elementary school plan for the Portland Public Schools, building a new school on the Baxter School site is the soundest decision the School Committee can make for multiple reasons. Information that the Elementary Facilities (3x3) Committee has received about present and future housing developments and sales, population demographics, environmental impact, and ability of students to walk to school, all point to the Baxter School site as the best site for a new school.
Firstly, in regards to housing and population, it is clear that Lyseth, Riverton, Reiche and Presumpscot are the elementary schools that are projected to acquire the largest number of students resulting from present and future housing developments and housing sales, while the Nathan Clifford area will acquire only a very few. Indeed, Lyseth and Presumpscot already host large numbers of students, and are considered “overcrowded”, relying on the use of unpopular modular classrooms. Building a school on the Baxter site puts the school closer to where the population of elementary students are, helping to alleviate overcrowding, and allowing the district to eliminate its modular classrooms. Here is the data that supports this position:
Projected number of students resulting from future housing development (including projects completed or under construction, approved, pending and/or proposed):
Projected number of students resulting from sale of housing units:
Total number of projected students from housing developments and sales combined:
In terms of environmental impact, it is clear from the work done on the Elementary Facilities (3x3) Committee that a new school would be energy-efficient to the highest standards and LEEDS certified. While Nathan Clifford proponents have argued for a state waiver of the energy efficiency standards for a renovation of the Nathan Clifford School, if it could be proved that energy would be saved and/or carbon emissions reduced by other means, such as students walking to school, this argument falls short on several accounts. Firstly, it is very hard to predict the exact amount of energy saved for example, by students walking to school instead of being transported. Will the same number of students be walking to school twenty years from now as today? Do they walk to school year round or just during warmer seasons? What if future student populations don't walk at the same percentages as today? If energy savings from students walking instead of riding could be predicted, it would only offset the lost energy savings of not having an energy efficient school of the highest standard, to a certain point in time, after which, an energy efficient school would continue to be efficient but a school that is not as “efficient” can only be “offset” by energy savings elsewhere for so long. However, the argument also falls short due to the fact that a school at Baxter is within walking distance of a greater number of students than at Nathan Clifford, making it a more appealing site—more students can walk to an energy-efficient building, cumulatively contributing to greater overall energy savings and carbon emission reductions, without one having to “offset” another.
For these reasons mentioned—the current and projected future populations of students throughout the city, the ability to reduce overcrowding at Presumpscot and Lyseth and simultaneously address the continued growth in those areas of the city, the opportunity to eliminate modular classrooms, the ability of greater numbers of students to walk to school, the construction of a highly energy-efficient and environmentally responsible school facility, and the consistency with previous planning to position Baxter as an “anchor” school in our overall elementary school plan—I will be supporting the Baxter site as the most sensible option for a new school.
Scheduled Timeline of Upgrading Schools and Sources of Funding
In reviewing the 2002 Comprehensive Elementary Schools plan, it should be acknowledged that the schedule and sources of funding for the various projects need to be changed to reflect current information. When looking at the various rankings over the years of the elementary schools at play, there are some assumptions that could be safe to make:
Various assessments of the condition of city elementary schools, ranked in order of most in need for improvement:
'99 '01-'02 '04-'05 '07
Clifford Clifford Clifford West
Longfellow Lyseth Reiche Clifford
Reiche Hall Longfellow Longfellow
West Presumpscot West Lyseth
Presumpscot Reiche Lyseth Hall
Lyseth Longfellow Hall Reiche
Hall West Presumpscot Presumpscot
Firstly, the School Committee should be prepared for any or all of either Reiche, West or Longfellow schools to make the state's funding list in the next cycle. Secondly, it is likely safe to assume that Presumpscot, having consistently ranked higher in condition than other schools, is probably the least likely to obtain state funding in the foreseeable future. Likewise, there might be question as to whether Hall will ever get state funding either. In terms of sources of funding, planning should be in place to accommodate the possibilities of Reiche, West and/or Longfellow schools receiving state funds, and the Committee should also proceed to plan for Presumpscot and Hall to be locally funded (unless Presumpscot is funded by the state as a site for West). Lyseth also could perhaps receive funding in the future, but not likely before other schools in the district. Therefore, the Committee would have to weigh how long it would have to wait before either Lyseth or Hall gets state funding, and if the wait would be worth it, or whether to proceed with those projects locally-funded and plan accordingly.
West School, K-8 (Longfellow and Lincoln), and Presumpscot
The issue of how to integrate the West School programs into the district should be placed on hold until two issues are resolved. Firstly, given the condition of West School and the likelihood of it receiving state funding in the next cycle, West should remain as it is until a determination can be made of the source of funding for its upgrading. Also, while the School Committee voted in support conceptually of a K-8 school, it has not yet firmed up this support with any concrete plans. If the Committee does choose to open a K-8 school, it should seriously consider Lincoln Middle School as the location for it. Demographically speaking, this would allow for the closure of Longfellow Elementary School, and would open up Longfellow for consideration as a site selection for a new West School. Likewise, if West were to receive state funding, the Presumpscot School should also be considered as an option for site selection of a new West School, as a new school at Baxter would increase the ability of the School Committee to redistrict Presumpscot students accordingly as well.
In terms of programming, a K-8 Lincoln School could enable the Committee to make educational reforms to address the growing concerns parents are expressing about the middle school program at Lincoln. It would be wise for the Elementary Facilities (3x3) Committee, to at least include K-8 Lincoln, closure of Longfellow Elementary School, renovation of Longfellow as the new West, and renovation as Presumpscot as the new West, as options within an overall comprehensive elementary schools plan. This would allow the School Committee and the community at-large to be aware of these possibilities, and to be able to hold participatory public forums over the next four or five years to determine the feasibility of these options within the plan. It should be noted and strongly pointed out, that a K-8 school enables a facility closure within the city in a manner not as easily achievable otherwise. However, the K-8 decision should be made on sound educational backing and with strategic planning for certain defined objectives and outcomes.
Nathan Clifford and Baxter as “Hotel” Schools
It is important to note that Nathan Clifford may not even be fully closed for possibly as long as a decade, due to the fact that as we renovate some of our aging schools, we will have a need for facilities elsewhere to “house” students whose usual school is being renovated. If the School Committee for example, begins to plan for a state-funded Reiche renovation and a locally-funded Presumpscot renovation, it will need to use both the Nathan Clifford and new Baxter schools as “hotels” for the students who would otherwise be going to Reiche or Presumpscot. It could very well be, that the year a school on Baxter opens, renovation would be beginning on Reiche, Longfellow, and/or Presumpscot, and that some redistricting and shifting will have to occur to house students in Nathan Clifford and Baxter in the interim, while schools are being renovated (if renovation of these schools is the determined course of action—which according to the architects' assessment, Reiche and Presumpscot are more likely to be deemed as “able to renovate”).
Likewise, if West or Longfellow, or even Longfellow or Presumpscot as the new West, are renovated in the future, a new school at Baxter will help to absorb some shifting and redistricting of students, as a “hotel” school for those renovations as well.
Bundling of Projects
Of course, the School Committee will have to continue to review and revise any plans developed currently, to reflect changing factors, but in the meantime, the Elementary Facilities (3x3) Committee could offer some proposed bundling of projects which could guide the community's future work on its elementary school upgrading, and could be based on reasonable expectations of the order in which Portland elementary schools would be likely to receive state funding. Here are but some possible examples:
Reiche (state funded) / Presumpscot (locally funded)
West at Longfellow (state funded) or West at Presumpscot (state funded) / Hall (locally funded) or
West or Longfellow (state funded) / Hall (locally funded) and then later the other of West or Longfellow (state funded)
Lyseth (state or locally funded)
The Elementary Facilities (3x3) Committee should also formalize into its recommendation, what has been the understanding for at least the entire six years I have served on the School Committee—that Riverton, Lyseth, Baxter, Reiche and the East End are to be considered the city's “anchor” schools.
Process to Date
At this point, I think it is of utmost important for the School Committee to reconsider its vote on the recommendation of the Elementary Facilities (3x3) Committee, excepting all references to West School (recognizing that the School Committee needs to bring resolution to its K-8 intentions before we can really ascertain the feasibility of closing West School, or that the EFC needs to detail the impact on the overall city of closing West School ), so that the architects can proceed with planning for a new school. This should happen soon so that we are not caught in a strange dynamic where the City Council and School Committee are sending mixed messages to the community.
The Elementary Facilities (3x3) Committee needs to finish it work in developing a comprehensive elementary facilities plan to guide the district forward, but contains within it the flexibility to accommodate the various factors, such as sources of funding and School Committee determinations of educational programming, that will have impact on the timeline, schedule and facilities within the plan.
Although the EFC (3x3) has been reluctant to flesh out in greater detail the various components of a larger, comprehensive plan (preferring to defer to the School Committee for decisions on particulars), this is the charge that it was ordered by the Council to fulfill. The lack of an overall plan was the main reason that the School Committee cited for rejecting the EFC's recommendation. For this reason, it is incumbent for the EFC to complete as charge, as I have argued all along that it should.
Given what I know, it seems apparent that a new school at Baxter gives the School Committee the most flexibility and greatest menu of options for overall longterm planning of its elementary schools upgrading, and does so with the least environmental impact and greatest potential for strengthening the Portland community as a whole. As an at-large School Committee member, I find the Baxter site to be the best option available. I urge my colleagues to work with me to move our comprehensive plans forward, recognizing that revisions, reviews and changes are likely in future years, but also recognizing that a school at Baxter gives us the greatest number of options to work with and the flexibility to revise our plans accordingly, for the benefit of the entire city.
I know that putting out notions such as the closures of schools—Nathan Clifford, West, Longfellow, and Presumpscot for example—will cause angst and reaction by members of the various school communities. I know also, that these discussions have been evaded and held off by the School Committee and City Council for many years now, because it is never politically beneficial to talk about closing schools and stirring unrest in communities. It is important however, that these possibilities now be put on the table of longterm comprehensive planning, and that all planning include the flexibility to allow for longterm consideration of the various options available relating to school closures—so that the community can be engaged, participate, and provide input regarding such changes.
Regardless of any assumed or perceived political backlash from the discussion of school closures, I offer that they must be discussed by our elected official regardless, if the Portland Schools are to achieve sustainability into the future. I will continue to keep an open mind, review all information, and consider all options, as long as I remain a member of the School Committee.
Respsectfully submitted to the public,
Benjamin J. Meiklejohn,
At-Large Portland School Committee Member
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
APOLOGIES FOR THE FONT COLOR - COPIED FROM WORD DOCUMENT AND CANNOT SEEM TO GET ALL THE LETTERS WHITE - I SUPPOSE YOU CAN COPY AND PASTE OR HIGHLIGHT TO READ...
Some critics in this very challenging time like to espouse that "there is no leadership" on the School Committee, to which I offer this plan outlined below, that I have drafted for consideration by our Finance Committee on Wednesday afternoon. The several policy changes are designed to immediately improve our budget management procedures to give the Finance Committee more control of the budget, and to get everybody more information about it. Furthermore, I propose that we take steps immediately to begin realizing efficiencies, including finishing the work started by the Joint Consolidation Task Force three years ago. I have devised this plan based on my years of experience on the School Committee, having gone through six budget cycles, and the deficiencies in process that I have noticed over the years. I hope that this information serves as a context to give the public confidence that somebody is taking leadership on the Committee, to yield proactive results. In lieu of this plan, I offer to the everyday person, what would you do to improve budget management?
Draft Plan to Improve Budgetary Planning and Achieve Efficiencies
Part One: Infrastructural Changes in Policy and Procedure
File: BDE Subcommittees, Task Forces, Advisory Groups
Made up of School Committee members, the Finance Committee meets throughout the year to recommend changes to the budget, and during the formation of the budget to review the superintendent's budget, gather input from staff and public, and develop the
School Committee budget for submission to the School Committee, which then approves a budget for submission to the City Council.
File: BEDD Rules of Order
The School Committee meeting shall be conducted in accordance with the laws of the State of Maine. The final authority on matters of parliamentary procedure shall be Roberts Rules of Order Revised, except when laws or school policy outline a different procedure that supersedes Roberts Rules.
File: DBC Budget Deadlines and Schedules
E. ..... The superintendent shall be responsible for submitting a recommended school budget to the School Committee, which will refer it to the Finance Committee. Once submitted, the recommended budget may be changed only with the approval of the Finance Committee, which will forward to the School Committee a final recommended budget for approval.
G: The Finance Committee shall communicate the various considerations during budget development with the city's Finance Committee, and seek guidance from the city's Finance Committee on an appropriate total sum of expenditures to submit to the City Council. The Finance Committee shall also seek to work collectively with the city's committee to ensure that required deadlines are sufficiently met.
File: DBI Budget Implementation
Any projected over-expenditures will be immediately reported to the Finance Committee, so that it may plan accordingly in requesting prior approval from the School Committee in a manner that preserves the budget's bottom line.
File: DI Fiscal Accounting and Reporting
The Director of Business Services shall keep and maintain all business documents, books, records, and accounts, including those required by the Maine Department of Education; shall supervise the preparation of all financial reports required of the school department; and shall submit data on financial matters requested by the School Committee, Finance Committee, city government including the City Council and its Finance Committee, Maine Department of Education, and/or the federal government.
File: DIC Financial Reports and Statements
C. The Director of Business Services shall submit to the Finance
SubCommittee a complete and detailed monthly financial report showing total budget appropriations, disbursements, encumbrances, and unencumbered balances of the several accounts, any projected over-expenditures requiring prior approval pursuant to policy DBI, and all transfers of appropriations implemented pursuant to policy DBJ.
E. It shall be the responsibility of the Director of Business Services to notify the superintendent and the Finance Committee Chair when:
DIF: Budget Amendment
The Director of Business Services shall report to the Finance Committee all changes in the budget for which an amendment can be made to reflect known budgetary realities.
The Finance Committee shall recommend amendments to the school budget, reflective of over-expenditures, transfers and reductions, so as to maintain a budget that most accurately represents known projected and actual expenses and revenues.
Any motions considered by the School Committee that increase or decrease expenditures or revenues on specific budget lines, shall include language acknowledging a budgetary amendment.
The Finance Committee shall work to ensure that all budgetary amendments are implemented in accordance with city, state and federal laws.
Part Two: Realizing Efficiencies—First Steps
A. The School Committee and City Council complete the work initiated several years ago by the Joint Consolidation Task Force.
School Committee (and City Council) adopt the mission set forth by the Task Force,
A joint workshop be held with school and city attorneys presenting the legal processes and requirements related to mergers of personnel departments such as maintenance and financial departments,
School Committee pass a resolution urging the Council to approve a School Committee representative on the Metro board and/or Council approves School Committee representative, and
Policy Committee be directed to explore and develop further transportation efficiencies
B. School Committee votes to support the plan approved by the city's Finance Committee, and discussed at the last joint finance committee.
C. School Committee votes to request facilitator and other resources from Maine Department of Education to aid in consolidation efforts between city and schools.
D. City and School Finance Committees begin discussions on non-educational social services provided by the schools and/or other duplication of services.
E. School Finance Committee schedules business meetings concurrent with Joint School and City Finance Committee meetings, so that agreed findings from joint discussions can result in immediate forwarding of considerations to the School Committee, as necessary.
Monday, July 30, 2007
I want to be very clear. I have not let the incident (arrest) that occurred in April have any effect on my ability to perform as a School Committee member, or the Portland Public Schools in general. I have been very ademant that this issue is a personal one that has no place in the business of our schools.
Since I still continue to be criticized in regards to this arrest, I think it's time to talk about it, if not to bring clarity to the public, then at least to get it off my chest. The Press Herald continues to criticize me for a quote I offered in April to the extent that my arrest does not set a bad example for schoolchildren. I would like to expound a bit further on this concept.
The Herald seems to believe that an arrest is an automatic indictment of guilt, and therefore that my arrest in and of itself, necessarily demonstrates the commitment of a crime. Arrests do happen, but not always are they deserved and appropriate. This is why we have a justice system in America, and the right to be tried by a fair and impartial judge or jury--which the Press Herald most certainly is not.
An arrest should never be looked upon as an "example" one way or another for schoolchildren. A conviction however, may more adequately be the measure of such "settings" of any examples. Instead of an indication of what kind of "example" is being set for school children, this incident is really more of a learning opportunity for school children to learn about the justice system, the innocent until proven guilty rubric of our courts, individual rights, and our constitution.
I have pleaded not guilty in my charge of Operating with a Suspended License, and have evidence to prove that the State was wrong in arresting me and charging me for this crime. I do not believe that I committed any crime, nor do I believe that the specifications of the statute were met when I was charged and arrested for Operating After Suspension.
If I am going to be convicted in the court of public opinion before my trial by a biased corporate mainstream media outlet, then I am going to defend myself publicly also.
Here is the evidence:
The state allegedly suspended my license one and a half years after a charge for operating a motor vehicle (a friend's car) without an inspection sticker.
The statute is very specific as to what constitutes a suspended license--not only does the license have to be suspended in the state's computer system, but one of an additional set of criteria must be met:
1. Offense; penalty.[2003, c. 452, Pt. Q, §84 (rp); Pt. X, §2 (aff).]
1-A. Offense; penalty. A person commits operating while license suspended or revoked if that person:
A. Operates a motor vehicle on a public way or in a parking area when that person's license has been suspended or revoked, and that person:
(1) Has received written notice of a suspension or revocation from the Secretary of State or a court;
(2) Has been orally informed of the suspension or revocation by a law enforcement officer or a court;
(3) Has actual knowledge of the suspension or revocation;
(4) Has been sent written notice in accordance with section 2482 or former Title 29, section 2241, subsection 4; or
(5) Has failed to answer or to appear in court pursuant to a notice or order specified in section 2605 or 2608;
[2003, c. 452, Pt. Q, §85 (new); Pt. X, §2 (aff).]
In regards to these criteria, none of them were met. Although it would be nice to assume that the Department of Motor Vehicles is on top of everything, I have discovered that this is not so, and that their computer system was inoperative and non-functional for a number of purposes for a period of over one whole year, including the ability to enact suspensions and send notices. This is consistent with my experience, for I neither recieved written notice of a suspension or oral notice from a police officer, had no knowledge of any suspension, nor did the State send a written notice of said suspension or of an order to appear in court. I fully plan to present evidence to prove such at my trial.
In the meantime, the Press Herald should bug off from this matter, and let me do the work to prove my innocence without the sensationalist media attempting to prove my guilt before my trial. When found "not guilty", I expect and demand a full apology from the Herald in acknowledging that simply getting arrested for a crime that was not committed, is not in itself, the "setting" of a "bad example."
The accusation that my arrest for a driving infraction is somehow at the core of the schools' budgetary problems, and that this has any effect at all upon the schools having spent millions of dollars over the budgeted amount, is just plain rididulous and absurd.
I did not intend to share any details of this pending court matter with the public, but I cannot sit idly by and let these accusations be made that events of a personal nature in my life are the cause of budgetary turmoil in the Portland schools.
I have acted in good faith, and performed my roles and responsibilities as a School Committee member to the best of my ability and effectively, regardless of and with no adverse impact from my arrest in April.
The Porland Press Herald has reached an all-time low, and should not be trusted. Seek your information elsewhere... if you're looking for accuracy.