Monday, March 12, 2012

Tom, Ed, Al and Maria are not beholden to FORE

NOTE: Dean Rubine asked that this be posted to the blog.  It is gladly reprinted below in its entirety.  Thank you Dean for the contribution.

There’s been some talk that Tom Newkirk, Ed Charle, Al Howland, and Maria Barth are the candidates from FORE, or have some special relationship to FORE, or in some other way are a continuation of past boards that were dominated by FORE members.   I want to state in no uncertain terms that they are not – they are independent from FORE and have stated many times that they will tru ly listen to all factions within the community.  Each of them has expressed the desire to reduce the burden on taxpayers while maintaining excellent education.  I know Dr. Charle has expressed support for a plan to give the superintendent wide latitude to reduce or hold the budget flat.

I first met Dr. Ed Charle after he put in his name in to run.   When I asked him, he had only the vaguest idea of what FORE was, and didn't really have much of an idea of the recent history of the school board at all.   It’s ludicrous to think that somehow he’s in cahoots with FORE, or owes them anything, or whatever other silly notions are being bandied about. .  Dr. Charle is a fresh face, with no stake in the battles of the past.  He is committed to looking at school board issues objectively from all angles.

The same goes for Maria Barth.   She’s my neighbor, and I talked to her shortly after she decided to run.  She didn't know who or what a FORE was.  I asked her why she wanted to run.  She said she’d recently become aware of some of the questionable doings of the current board, and said, “Someone ought to do something about this.”  She said whenever she told her mother “someone ought to do something” her mother would reply “if you really mean it, that someone should be you.”  This simple idea has led Maria to a life of public service, including 11 years as chairman of the Kittery school board.  Luckily for us, she's running for our board this time.   She too has no stake in the battles of the past, and will bring a fresh, experienced perspective to our issues.   I know that she has initiated meetings with members of the community from all sides of the debate.  I am certain she brings no agenda to the table beyond doing what is best for the schools and the community.

I’ve met Al Howland and Tom Newkirk a couple of times, but I’ve never asked them, so I can’t comment in detail about their relationship with FORE.  I checked the FORE website, and neither of them are members.   I’ve heard both talk passionately about listening to all of the community, of healing the community, of bringing us together, and so on.   I am confident that they are not lackeys for FORE or any other group.

As I hope people know by now, I call all four candidates the T.E.A.M. – Tom, Ed, Al, and Maria.   I repeat it over and over because in the voting booth I want voters to be able to recall their names, or at least their first initials to match against the choices.   I’m assuming many voters are like I was last year – I was oblivious the entire year, and on Election Day I spent a few minutes on the Internet figuring out who and what to vote for.    Anything that helps voters remember who's who is good.

Many members of the community, including members of FORE, are justifiably concerned with the poor judgment shown by the incumbents, whether it be the divisive tweets, the lawbreaking, or any of the myriad of actions that have given rise to so much angst this past year.   It’s only natural that members of FORE, who have been quite vocal when they perceive injustice, would support the candidates running against the incumbents.  It helps that those candidates happen to be a great group, and I am really hopeful they can get the district back on track.   Many people support the T.E.A.M., so I don’t think anything in particular should be read into the fact that some members of FORE also support them.

Let me also say that I myself have nothing to with FORE, other than occasionally reading a post.   I’m not a member.   My wife is not a member.   I’ve been trying to remember if I've ever commented on a FORE post – I can’t recall any in particular, but maybe once or twice.  I've commented far more frequently here on   I am my own person, and I have my own issues with the board.   My main concern is Mr. Kach’s tweets - I think they are vile and divisive, and unworthy of a representative of our district.  I am hopeful that Tuesday (that may be today, readers) the voters will agree.   Similarly, Chairman Brackett’s failure to condemning the tweets is a serious failure of leadership, right up there with his serial lawbreaking when he engaged a secret lawyer who sent secret bills to his house, and he held secret meetings and secret votes to do a secret buyout, the public’s right to know be damned.   This is not my idle speculation, but the decisions of two New Hampshire judges in two separate cases.  Election Day is the day we get to replace them with the T.E.A.M. – vote for Tom, Ed, Al and Maria.

So, rather than a whisper campaign about this candidate being part of that group, let’s make the election about the very serious issues facing the board.   Whether you like the current board or not, I think we can all agree that last year has been difficult.  Mr. Kach and Mr. Brackett have had their chance, and now everybody’s mad and nobody trusts each other.  I think the best hope for the district is to put all that behind us and move ahead with fresh faces.

Whatever the outcome of the election, I for one am looking forward to never again typing another word about Jim Kach’s tweets or the board’s lawsuits.   One way or another, the community will decide on Election Day, and I will respect that decision.   Until then, there’s still time for voters to read more of my musings on the school board and the election at    Thanks for reading this far everybody, and don’t forget to VOTE.

Very truly yours,
Dean Rubine, Lee


  1. Thanks for posting this, and for your incredibly fast turnaround doing it. I didn't expect to see it till Wednesday. Thanks again.


  2. Wow. He says thanks (twice) and then insults the integrity of his hosts by implying they would suppress his letter until after the election. Stay classy, Dean.

  3. Dean:

    Thanks for your comments. I am (at least somewhat) reassured by what you have written.

    Having said that, I sincerely hope that whoever wins election to the Board tomorrow will take seriously their obligation to listen and respond to ALL their constituents, and not be unduly beholden to one group or another.

    --Tom Bebbington

  4. Just some gentle ribbing between rivals. Kinda like being called "Cheech". Perhaps the administrator can add a smiley.

    Tom & Seth, I really was impressed by how fast you put it up. Thanks again.

    And Tom, I agree with you 100% about the winners listening and not being beholden. And I really am done with these tweets and lawsuits after tomorrow.

    - Dean

  5. I wish I could view this last-gasp attempt at cloak-and-dagger with the optimism of the other comments above. Several months of speaking with forked tongue can not be cleansed with a last-minute assurance that these candidates (endorsed by FORE) are not mouthpieces for that group, overtly or not. I don't buy the "Briar Rabbit" routine from Dean.

  6. Dean -- We're not rivals.

    Perhaps I'm being too serious, but promoting that mentality exacerbates the very problem that has been dividing this community since 2008 -- which, in my mind, makes you part of the problem. The whole T.E.A.M. cheerleader act and pride in your ignorance of recent school board history has really rubbed me the wrong way. I'm glad some of the individuals on your T.E.A.M. are running and I voted for them this morning ... others I was not impressed by so they didn't get my vote. I assessed them as individuals based on how well I think they will serve. When you lump them together in a quorum-sized, take-it-or-leave-it package, it just smacks of politics.

    Our community, schools, and students don't need more politics.

  7. Calvin, whatever you do, please don't throw me in the briar patch. I'm not part of FORE. There's no cloak and dagger. I just checked, and as far as I can tell they haven't even endorsed any candidates. As you might have noticed, I have.

    Brian, I'm glad we're not rivals. I didn't mean anything deeper than I support different candidates than do Seth and Tom (at least I think I do). Thanks for voting.

    I don't really see how elections can not be politics. But I do agree that party politics aren't that relevant or helpful to school board, and I've avoided any of that.

    It's a bit late now, but if you think I've made a mistake about history, or that I need to know about something I don't, please feel free to post it here or on my blog. I'm not trying to be ignorant -- I just don't understand why some stupid thing that David T. or John C. or JoAnn P. did years ago has any bearing on what Tom or Ed or Al or Maria might do, except perhaps as a cautionary tale.

    There were four races, so my slate was quorum-sized. Obviously the voters get to evaluate each individually, as you've done. I'm sorry TEAM rubbed you the wrong way.

    In any case, politics ends today, and governing starts. Whoever wins, I'm closing the book on the tweets & lawsuits and you won't hear anything more about them from me. I'll be around to help out if needed, and to occasionally throw my two cents in if I can contribute constructively.

    I can't wait to find out the results. I think it's going to be close.

    - Dean

  8. Dean,
    You write in your blog that you want to do Bracket and Kach "a big favor and keep them out of jail by electing Maria Barth and Dr. Ed Charlé".

    However, I believe that it was the Board was enjoined and not those individuals. Surely then Barth, Charle, or any future board member is as likely to end up in jail IF the board is found in violation of RTK? I'm worried by the implications are of this. With a permanent injunction, future boards are going to be spending a lot of time looking over their legal shoulder. I hope this does not create a timid board, overly cowed by the mere threat of legal action.

    - Rob McEwan, Madbury

    1. Rob:

      A cynical person might say that was the plan all along...that FORE wanted to intimidate any future Board with the threat of litigation, in order to cow them into doing things their way. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but your concern is a valid one.

      Jim Kach took a lot of flak for his "hire a better lawyer" comment (see, for example, Taylor and Portalupi's letters to the editor published in Fosters) but he was right. Let's not forget that the Board was doing what they did under the advice of counsel, which obviously turned out badly for them.

      I happen to agree with FORE that we all have a right to expect that our elected officials follow the law. The first thing the new Board ought to do is...hire a new (and better) lawyer, and follow his or her advice. Hopefully then they won't have to worry about lawsuits, and can do the job they were elected to do.

      --Tom Bebbington

  9. I guess only David Taylor knows if his suits are a secret plan to control the board. If so, it's a bad plan. It's not just David Taylor who can file the next suit - anyone can. Rob is totally right - this new board had better scrupulously obey the law or face serious consequences.

    Normally RTK has no teeth. The injunction brings the RTK law on par with every other law. People routinely go about their business knowing there are consequences to violating the law, and plenty of them aren't timid. But Rob is right to worry.

    There are legal ways of doing all the things boards need to do. The rules are like an umbrella -- as long as you follow them, you're protected. Even with the injunction, I'm sure any judge would seriously hesitate before he incarcerated a school board member for a small or unintentional infraction while doing board business. I think the second judge just got pissed because the board had promised the court they would obey, and then didn't.

    I personally thought the board had good intentions when they drew lots to select community members for the superintendent search committee - how else would Ann Wright's pick have any chance? To me, it was clear that the majority of the board should just get their way. That's what happened when the board decided which board members would be on the committee. I didn't like how it turned out, but it was done according to the rules so there was nothing anybody could do.

    I'm hoping the injunction's not going to be an issue. The new board understands they need to obey the law so they will. There are decisions they have to make that affect a lot of people, and every hard decision pisses somebody off, so I don't know what they could do to avoid suits even if that was their goal. I'm sure they'll just do what they think is best for the district, and there'll be RTK requests and even lawsuits, but I don't think anybody's going to jail over school board.

    - Dean Rubine