Letters To The Editor: May 9, 2024

by Cape Cod Chronicle Readers

Address Education Spending First


Driving through Brewster lately it’s hard to avoid not thinking about “Spend Smart Spend Less.” I have spent considerable time thinking about public spending in Brewster over the last several years and I am not quite sure what that slogan is alluding to. A quick look at Open.gov available through the town website will bring the town budget into view. Where are we spending the bulk of the taxpayers’ dollars? In 2022 Brewster budgeted $20.1 million for its elementary, middle and high school expenses. That comprised just under 44 percent of the entire operating budget. The proposed fiscal 2025 budget provides $27 million for school related expenses, up 34 percent from 2022, absorbing 46.5 percent of the budget and requiring yet another override. Next year it will be considerably higher. This is occurring while our elementary, middle and high school student populations continue to dramatically decline. The Brewster elementary school student population has declined to the point that we have two half-filled school buildings. Our neighbor Orleans will not be able to tap the MSBA for support to build a replacement elementary school because their student population is too small. Harwich faced the same problem in 2013 when the MSBA declined their first proposal to build a new high school. In Brewster 60 percent of the voters approved of the plan to build a 905 student $180 million high school renovation which will house only 575 district students this year. This student population will continue to decline.

I am extremely proud of the job that Brewster town management has done to conservatively manage our financial condition. Taxpayers need to make tough decisions about how we are going to educate our children and replace our underutilized and aging infrastructure. This task I fear is beyond the capabilities of our local and regional school committees as currently comprised. We face a tough task controlling future budgets with a smaller and smaller percentage of discretionary expenses. I am sure that “Spend Smart and Spend Less” implies no criticism of our great town administration or the select board, but it will not be a realistic option until we deal with our education spending dilemma.

Frank Bridges


Re-examine School Cell Phone Policies


Have you noticed lately the amount of media attention being given to the deleterious effects of social media on young people and students? In Congress, there is a bill, “Kids off Social Media Act,” that has a good chance of becoming law. In Ontario, Canada, four of the largest school boards are suing Tik Tok, Meta (Facebook) and SnapChat for “disrupting students’ education.”

A good book on the subject is “The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness” by Jonathan Haidt. Haidt recommends that smartphones be banned in middle and elementary schools (flip phones only) and high schools have smartphones in locked pouches during the school day.

Some studies overseas have demonstrated that cell phone bans have an especially positive impact on girls with decreased bullying and improved academic performance. Closer to home in Manchester, Conn., the lack of cellphones has led to increased attention, less disruption and has brought back the genius of conversation in the lunchroom.

Our local school administrators should take a close look at implementing a no smartphone policy in school. Less disciplinary problems, improved social and emotional health and less need for school psychological and adjustment interventions may be the result.

Mark Kelleher

West Harwich

Support For Brewster Candidate


I am writing to voice my enthusiasm for the candidacy of Laurel Labdon for the select board in Brewster. I congratulate her on her willingness to continue to devote her time and energies to listen to all of the town’s residents and help to shape fiscally responsible solutions. To state the obvious, we are at a time of competing and critical needs, i.e., affordable housing, school choice and consolidation, senior services and the impact of climate change on our woodlands and beaches, all of these at a time when we have already seen soaring debt and taxes.

Laurel brings a fresh voice to our town government and will work to be sure the community voice is heard, and, as she says, work to “spend smart and spend less.” Having served on several town committees, she understands the need for community input and compromise. Being a lifelong resident and former student in our schools, she brings first-hand knowledge of our education system. Most importantly, Laurel understands the rich history of our town and will work to preserve our sense of community as we move forward to address these needs in a fiscally responsive way.

I respect her regard for the conservation of our natural resources and her sensitivity to ensure accessibility and equity for all, from the school room to senior services and from the Bay to the parklands.

Listen to what she has to say.

Mary O’Neil


More On Horseshoe Crabs


Per your recent piece on horseshoe crab conservation: Readers may be interested in this seminal piece published by Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife in MassWildlife at t.ly/Op6Dv. There is, in fact, a great deal known about this wonderful animal.

Lee Roscoe


Right Person, Right Time


As a select board member, why would Laurel Labdon be better for Brewster?

Over the last several months, I’ve talked to friends and neighbors across the political spectrum who share concerns about the snowballing effects of unwise decisions and unsustainable expenditures on year-round residents and community character.

Laurel grew up here and is focused on protecting and preserving what makes Brewster special. She will not waste time, energy, and money on expensive and unnecessary projects.

Laurel is alarmed by rising tax bills and annual overrides and committed to smarter spending. She will press for equitable school funding and prioritize optimum use of existing buildings over new construction.

Laurel is an independent thinker, transparent and open to dialogue, and interested in others’ opinions. She will welcome new voices and ideas, not go along to get along or play politics.

Laurel does not have an agenda and is not leading the cheers for unaffordable plans. She will make common-sense decisions after considering the needs and wants of the entire community.

Laurel is earnest and friendly, not cool and calculating. She will put the interests of current year-round residents and our shared environment over development and business interests.

Laurel Labdon is the right person at the right time.

Chris Powicki