May 18, 2013

Letters to the editor: Guardians work for children, not money

Regarding Scott Dolan's article on May 9 titled "Complaints fuel bid to reform children's representation in Maine disputes":

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Those urging reform of Maine’s guardian ad litem system must realize that one parent will invariably be less happy than the other at the guardian’s custody recommendation, a guardian says.

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I am a guardian ad litem. I resent the implication that this is all about money.

Every guardian I know has lost money on many cases. We are usually able to get an initial retainer, but when that's gone, it's very hard to get paid further. Guardians remain on these cases out of a sense of loyalty and protectiveness for the children.

We are also required to take a free case yearly. At any given time, I am working as a guardian for no pay. The same parents who are paying guardians are likely also paying lawyers at a far greater hourly fee.

I am also a mediator for family cases and have worked with many guardians over 20 years. Like any profession, there are people who are bad at their jobs. Ninety-nine percent of them have been conscientious, caring, careful, hardworking professionals who spend their nights agonizing over their cases and weekends making home visits and doing investigations.

Most of my cases settle out of court, saving families the emotional and financial costs of litigation and helping to clear court dockets.

I fail to see why Jerome Collins of Maine Guardian ad Litem Alert has had any voice in this. He was not a legal party to his son's family case, and from what I understand, the parents settled the case.

The very nature of what guardians are asked to do is going to generally leave one parent dissatisfied. Cases requiring guardians are highly contentious, and people come out swinging. The guardian is an easy target.

Try letting the courts deal with the volume of cases and with judges making decisions about families without being able to investigate them.

Doris Luther

Hollis

Changes to state charter law would give kids more options

Believing that public education is essential to democracy, I have worked in and with public schools for more than three decades toward the goal of making them vibrant learning communities for both children and adults.

But my own children taught me that try as we might, conventional public schools do not serve all learners well. Neither of my children graduated from a public high school.

With few exceptions, Maine districts are small and offer little program diversity. Families whose children don't thrive in their local schools need options. That is why I support charter schools in Maine.

Our state law avoids many of the pitfalls that we've seen in other states.

The rigorous approval process has been thoughtfully executed by the Charter School Commission; the admission process ensures that schools not discriminate against students whose needs may make steep demands on faculty and budgets; and the accountability requirements ensure that charter schools are held to the same standards as conventional public schools.

Four strategies would improve the law:

Fund charter schools as local education agencies with tuition equivalent to the per-pupil cost in the school's region, rather than requiring charters to invoice districts.

Create incentives for districts to develop more program diversity to better serve the range of students in their communities.

Disallow for-profit schools. Schools have to raise additional funds to cover the full costs of educating their students; making a profit means cutting corners.

Full-time virtual schools should not be promoted for K-12 learners. Research has shown that a hybrid approach can be beneficial when thoughtfully integrated with school curricula to expand learning options.

Public education remains vital to our democratic society. Let's make sure there are public options that work for every Maine child.

Debra Smith

board chair, Fiddlehead School of Arts & Sciences

New Gloucester

UMaine Hockey coach's fate comes as shock to loyal fan

I just had to write and express my feelings about the firing of coach Tim Whitehead of the Maine Hockey team. I couldn't believe it -- or rather, I didn't want to believe it!

I'm just a fan -- but a loyal one.

I've followed the Maine hockey teams through Shawn Walsh's years and all through Tim's years.

I was on vacation in Myrtle Beach, S.C., when the article about his firing ("Fired UMaine coach failed to meet goals," April 10) was published in your paper.

So, I didn't find out about it until his cousin's letter ("Ex-coach successful by any standard," April 27) was published in your "Voice of the People" column.

I don't know how much more anyone could expect of a coach.

He did so much to better the teams each year, even bringing them to the NCAAs in the past.

With a hard beginning this year, they improved to become one of the best teams by the end of the season, with a lot of promise for next year.

I had the privilege of meeting Coach Whitehead at the Alfond in the summer of 2002, when my grandson was at a hockey camp there. He was very gracious, and I enjoyed getting to meet him.

Two years later, I wrote him a note to congratulate him on the team's success, and he even took the time to answer me. (By the way, I've always kept that note.)

I'll always be a Maine Hockey fan -- but I sure will miss Tim at the helm! Good luck, Coach!

Loraine Buotte

Westbrook

City will regret fast decision on Congress Square proposal

RockBridge Capital is on a fast track to purchase Congress Square Park from the city of Portland to build a private event center.

The plan that was supposed to be presented last September was finally shown April 24.

Discussion will end May 29, when the City Council's Housing and Community Development Committee will review and probably vote on the latest design.

One month is not enough time for the public to review a long-simmering plan. There are a lot of unanswered questions. The city will be the loser if this deal passes with little review.

RockBridge Capital looks like a fast-talking suitor in a whirlwind courtship, showing pretty pictures, promising a good future, all the while pushing for a quickie marriage to Congress Square Park.

Congress Square Park deserves better. City residents will repent at leisure if this park is sold in haste.

Pat O'Donnell

Portland

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