Your July 8 editorial on the “leadership shuffle” at the University of Southern Maine covered all the issues that this regrettably handled transaction raised.

By deciding to give Selma Botman — the person he just removed as USM president — a newly created job at the very same salary, $203,000, the new University of Maine System chancellor has gotten off to a very poor start indeed. (And if the university system trustees OK’d that deal, so much the worse.)

If a mere staff advisory job is so important it merits a $200,000-a-year salary (which, as you pointed out, is public money), then surely it’s important enough that a very serious effort be made to find the most qualified person to fill it.

But, as your editorial pointed out, there was no national search, nor was the job even advertised; as you suggested, the process smacks of the awarding of a golden parachute to Ms. Botman.

The sense that Chancellor James Page and Ms. Botman (and maybe also the university system trustees) are out of touch with the average Maine person’s financial situation is absolutely palpable.

It’s too bad the new chancellor didn’t think to ask someone, say, his secretary, something like: “How do you think this deal would play in East Millinocket?”

James Douglas Cowie


I read the articles about the musical chairs being played at the University of Southern Maine. I’m amazed at the apparent lack of thought that went into a major organizational change, from the “selfless gesture” of Selma Botman to choosing the retired president of a University of Maine System campus — who will also collect a pension from the state — to head USM.

The university system chancellor said he would approve senior staffing requests, then the requests would enter the “normal search process.” Is this how they chose the new president? No advertising, no application and review process?

Is Ms. Botman the best and brightest candidate to enhance USM’s international draw? And at what salary? Should USM pay more than $200,000 for this position?

Look at the problems at USM. Graduation rate 35 percent; enrollment decline of 18 percent over the last 10 years. Together, the data seem to paint a picture of a dying university. Most universities are experiencing enrollment growth. So who do we select to help? A university president who can boast of a 59 percent graduation rate. Is this the best solution?

How about looking at what most organizations would do in a similar situation? Develop a set of goals and expectations; advertise nationally; solicit applications from highly qualified individuals; even hire an executive search firm.

Then carry out a rigorous selection process. Who knows? There may even be candidates from universities with substantially higher graduation rates.

As far as international draw, universities have been doing this successfully for decades. Why not find an individual who has demonstrated success in this area? Also determine an appropriate salary range for the position. By the way, how does USM (in a tight budget era) come up with more than $200,000 out of thin air?

In my opinion, the only way that USM will succeed is to stop playing games of institutional inbreeding.

Allan Brockman


Public schools’ critics know little of teachers’ travails

Bravo, E.L. Clopton, for the July 15 editorial about the role of parents (Another View, “Teachers can’t help problem kids until parents get involved”)!

Everyone who hasn’t been homeschooled or attended private schools has had the public school experience. Many people think that because they went to school and saw teachers (good, bad, indifferent or excellent) a few hours a day, they know what education is all about.

But what do former school attendees know about the number of hours and dollars it takes to become a certified teacher? What do they know about the financial and emotional abuses teachers faced before the advent of teacher unions?

I entered the profession in 1955 and was offered the “magnanimous” wage of $3,700 a year! My first supervising principal was a tyrant and of no help in improving my performance.

Teacher unions have been blamed for the poor performance of many students. Nonsense. Of course there are, in any organization, bad apples. No question that it is difficult to fire a tenured teacher.

But who granted the tenure in the first place? Probably an incompetent administrator, frequently a person with good public relations in the community (e.g., a sports coach).

It would be enlightening for members of the public and elected officials to read the monthly publication of my union, which addresses the problems in the system; promotes evaluation beyond just test scores; reports the successes and failures of programs; and describes the financial contributions teachers make to the classroom experience (such as buying supplies not provided by their districts), etc.

To get back to the Clopton editorial, where parents cooperate and provide what children need to be prepared to absorb what school can offer, excellence can flourish.

Bob Tripler

Cape Elizabeth

Wind law denies townships input on local development

Citizens in Lexington and Concord townships have taken a stand. In 2008, without our input, our rural communities were haphazardly rezoned as “industrial,” but for one industry only — the wind industry.

Spain’s Iberdrola Renewables has set its sights on the mountain summits of these townships.

If we were citizens in an organized town, we would have the ability to draft an ordinance to ensure that our health, quality of life and property values would be protected from massive grid-scale wind facilities. But the Wind Energy Act effectively removed from rural residents our right to have input in the future of our communities.

Without recourse, we decided to make our voices heard regarding those important “quality of life” issues that will so greatly impact us.

A large majority of our residents signed petitions stating our opposition to industrial wind development within our borders. These “votes” in hand, we submitted letters to Iberdrola and landowner Plum Creek, asking them to respect our majority vote and abandon their planned project.

Iberdrola didn’t respond. Plum Creek said our “views” would be heard during the permitting process. But they’ve already “heard” our views, which were signed in ink and submitted to the governor — and they’ve decided to discount our votes.

Our fates are in the hands of the Department of Environmental Protection, which has approved every wind development permit application to cross its desk.

Citizens in unorganized territories must not be disenfranchised simply because we live in rural Maine. Our votes and voices must carry equal weight as those of citizens in organized towns.

We’ve spoken clearly. Our state government must defend the will of the people. A foreign corporation must not have greater rights than American citizens. Iberdrola should respect the resolve of the people and abandon its wind development plans for Lexington and Concord townships.

Karen Bessey Pease

Lexington Township

Words used to describe Dill reflect poorly on newspaper

At this writing I am undecided re: my choice to represent Maine in the Senate.

I do think this paper’s use July 22 of the words “peeved” (ill-tempered, contrary, fractious) and “sour” (bad-tempered, morose, disagreeable — among other synonyms) describing Cynthia Dill’s well-placed disappointment and anger at the Democratic Party — whose support of Dill is conspicuous by its almost absence — is mean (petty, unkind, ignoble).

Don’t I know very well that “peeved” and “sour” would not be applied by this paper (to which I look forward daily) to Angus King, Chellie Pingree or paper owner Donald Sussman.

Ms. Dill deserves an apology and fair coverage.

Loretta MacKinnon


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