In response to Elizabeth Flaherty’s letter to the editor (“Group gives private schools unfair athletic advantage,” Jan. 12), I would like to invite her to visit our school.

As she walked into Catherine McAuley’s gym, she would notice on the walls not only state championship banners but also banners for sportsmanship. McAuley has always been a class act. But back in the not-too-distant past, McAuley was, generally, the doormat of the SMAA. During that period there were no calls to restrict the school’s participation in extracurricular activities.

Although a small school, McAuley, by virtue of the classifications set forth by the Maine Principals Association, qualifies to compete in Class B. McAuley has petitioned to compete in Class A in many sports, as can all schools.

Yes, we recruit. We recruit girls who want more from themselves and more from the school that they attend. We appeal to parents who want a strong college preparatory curriculum and a safe environment in which their daughters can grow.

At McAuley, students do not feel they have to conceal their intelligence. They do not try to be invisible so as to avoid judgment. McAuley is an environment in which young ladies from a variety of economic and ethnic backgrounds interact. It is a community in which they learn they are not isolated, disconnected beings.

For Mrs. Flaherty to baselessly denigrate the academic program of our school is an insult to the entire faculty and student body.

Again, I invite Mrs. Flaherty to visit our school, and I encourage her to observe any one of my classes. If she possesses the attributes that I consistently observe among our students — a willingness to think, a sense of self-discipline and a work ethic — then there is the possibility that she just might learn something.

Joe Wagner

social studies teacher, Catherine McAuley High School, and Lyman resident

Green Independents call on city to oppose tar sands oil

On Wednesday evening, Portland city councilors have the opportunity to join Casco and stand up for both public health and the environment by opposing the purchase of tar sands oil by the city of Portland.

The many environmental impacts of tar sands oil include heavy water and energy use at both the points of refinement and extraction. At a time of increasing water and energy scarcity, it is foolish to move forward on mass tar sands oil production.

Enbridge, the corporation that will likely seek to reverse the Portland-to-Montreal pipeline and bring tar sands oil through southern Maine’s water sources, has a long history of spills, including record fines and penalties in July 2012 for a 2010 tar sands oil spill into the Kalamazoo River watershed.

The company has had 804 spills in the decade, and nearly 6.8 million gallons of oil spilled. We cannot rely on any company, especially a company with such a terrible record on environmental safety, to transport such a destructive substance through our region.

The Athabasca tar sands, which are large deposits of tar sands oil in northeast Alberta, are the second largest carbon sink in the world. Pumping that amount of carbon into the atmosphere would be, as Bill McKibben has said, “game over for the climate.” We must rapidly transition to clean sources of energy, a goal the Maine Green Independent Party has had for decades.

I would note Councilor David Marshall’s leadership on this issue, including his introduction of this resolution protecting Maine’s environment, as well as Mayor Michael Brennan’s unwavering support.

I call on our City Council to unanimously reject tar sands oil. Portland can and must play its part in the efforts to protect our natural resources and the larger struggle against climate change.

Tom MacMillan

chair, Portland Green Independent Committee


Convicts will offend again if allowed back into society

While I agree with most of the comments of Jay Kilbourn (“Letters to the editor: To put end to gun violence, use multipronged strategy,” Jan. 11), I’m not sure I agree with having someone ride “shotgun” on every fire truck. Takes me back to the old stagecoach days, and it didn’t work very well then either. Defense is not a preventative.

In the case of the tragic shooting in upstate New York on Christmas Eve day, that awful act would never have happened if the state had not paroled a murderer — a murderer of his own grandmother!

Punishment is meant to deter crime, but if we deter punishment, crime will continue to rise. It is time to put money and manpower into guarding our prisoners, not letting them out and paying people to defend us in public.

Don Davis


Gun control critic’s letter presents misinformation

The gun advocate who contradicted the inaccuracies of gun-control advocates (“Letters to the editor: Gun rights facing threat; critics cite dubious data,” Jan. 14) was no less inaccurate himself.

The most glaring was his contention that the U.S. military developed the .223-caliber round to wound our enemies rather than kill them.

The 5.56 mm round, roughly comparable to the civilian .223-caliber, was developed to chamber in the M-16A1 assault rifle, with the original intention to field a lighter, more compact weapon for jungle fighting and allow the infantryman to carry more ammunition into battle. Neither in my training nor my combat experience was the absurd notion ever conveyed to simply wound rather than kill an enemy.

I also suspect that the writer tossed hunting and gun safety laws into the mix with regulations on sales and ownership in order to arrive at a five-digit number of regulations like 20,000.

If there is any substance to this, it might suit all our purposes to revisit gun regulation in order to trim it to a few common-sense maxims. Few or no restrictions on hunting pieces while banning military assault weapons and large-capacity magazines works for me.

My father’s arsenal consisted of a bolt-action deer rifle, a shotgun for bird hunting, and his old service automatic pistol from the Second World War. I doubt if he had more than 30 rounds about the house at any one time. I really don’t believe anyone should require anything more.

John M. Flagler