Dear Political Diary,

The Trib's reporter Steve Kuchera interviewed late yesterday and I was curious to see what he'd written up in this morning's paper. I was pleased to see that  I'd been quoted extensively at the end of the story. For those few that read it all the way through my opinion will jump out at them. I want to close a high school.

I drove my son's van down to Hemlock Garage near the CAB. The battery wasn't charging properly. Tom, my mechanic, had seen me on the news the night before and complimented me for being right about closing a high school. I hadn't expected Tom to throw a charge into me too.

I needed to pick up my own car to get to a meeting so I walked home thinking that the twenty block walk would do me good. The medical tests were still on my mind. My son was still asleep. Although a high school senior he has arranged an course schedule as though he was a college kid. His first class doesn't start till 10:35.

Since I wouldn't be home to wake him up I set two alarm clocks the night before and called Claudia to suggest she give him a wake up call too.  I got her secretary instead and told her what was up. Marcia thought the call was a hoot and laughingly agreed to do the honors at the appointed hour. She reported later that he was already up when she called and that he told her I was a goofball for having her call. Yeah, well, I got him up. 

The Family Social Service Collaborative meets on the second Thursday of the month. It is composed of three main governmental players, city, county, school district, and a dozen non-government agencies. Its mission is to foster cooperation between unrelated government agencies and non-profits. I've been on the Collaborative for five years. We set a tentative budget with the spectre of the state's financial problems looming over us. The meeting lasted till noon and its agenda was worthy of a diary entry by itself - but not today. 

Back home I sorted through the mail, Christmas cards, advertisements and letters. A letter from the clinic reported that my blood was "adequate." Later that night Claudia did some calculations and told me her cholesterol was better than mine. Well, La tee dah! Pardon me while I go celebrate with some chocolates. Some dark chocolates.

Two East students had also written me. They implored me not to close their School. I've gotten sloppy about replying to student mail. I get several dozen letters from students each year. Their social studies teachers assign them to write to elected officials.  I was very good at replying for the first four years that I was on the Board but my replies are more inconsistent now. I simply will not write people a perfunctory letter acknowledging receipt of their mail. If I don't have time for a real reply I won't send one. These particular letters deserved a reply and I roughed one out that will become a template  for other letters that are sure to follow.

Our public television station called and asked if I could appear on tomorrow night's Almanac North to talk about the District's budget cutting. I dearly wanted to attend and promote the idea of closing a high school but Claudia's Christmas Party was scheduled. I recommended that they invite a retired school board member from the first fight to close a high school. I told them that if either Tim Grover or George Balach faced off against our current Board members it would provide some "fireworks." Its time to close a high school because our finances are going to get worse. Negotiations is a case in point.

The recent Board hasn't been much of a match for the DFT since the 1997 election. In fact, the DFT especially values the board members elected that year. This loyalty to the class of 97 is so strong that it explains Frank Wanner's vitriolic letter to the editor against Mary Cameron and me during this election. I'm not certain that the Board will stand up to the teachers in the face of a strike. Even our supposedly tough Governor caved in and gave striking state AFSCME workers a one percent increase. They got a 3.5 % increase for each of the next two years. 

If we give our employees 3.5% next year it will put us a further $2.25 million behind the eight ball. I'm honor bound not to reveal what percentage increase the school board authorized our negotiators to offer the teachers but it sure ain't 3.5%. I called Ron Brochu, the Trib's new education reporter, to tell him how much it would cost us if we followed Jesse's lead. Heck, even if we close a high school it will only give us another $1.2 million to put on the table.

At five I tuned into Brad Bennett's FIGHTLINE. I hadn't phoned in the previous Tuesday because of school board meetings but I was sure that after the recent news he'd dump all over the School Board. At least he had a guest with some brains on with him, George Balach. George was merciless but at least he knew what he was talking about. We have too many buildings and too few kids. I hope Almanac North calls him.