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May 21, 2019  |  

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Not Effective Leadership

Published Feb. 06, 2019

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We can’t do nothing. Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about last week’s Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting was what didn’t happen: a plan for Academy.

On Jan. 28, GreatBlue presented the results of the Academy phone poll and online survey. The results were definitive: The majority of those polled and surveyed support the town’s continued ownership of Academy and restoration of the building as a community center. And more than 80 percent strongly oppose sale or development of the ballfields.

So you’d think the next step is clear. The Academy Building Guidance Committee, tasked with creating and implementing the poll, thought so. The committee issued a formal statement to the BOS recommending that the BOS be guided by GreatBlue’s findings in presenting a plan to Madison residents for vote at referendum.

But the BOS did not confirm we’re keeping it. It offered no plan, no next steps, no path for the future of Academy. Instead, it punted to the strategic planning process and inclusion of Academy in a global 10-year plan for the town. That’s not fair to Academy and not effective leadership.

The BOS promised us a referendum. To tether Academy to the strategic plan means it will be 2021 at the earliest before anything happens. To tether Academy to a $100 million-plus education and multi-project taxpayer ask will bury Academy.

After 14 years of debate, public outcry, committees, reports, surveys, arts centers, and high-density developments, 2019 finds Academy School still vacant and deteriorating, waiting for a plan. How many times do town leaders need to hear, “We want to keep it”?

It’s time to move forward. Let’s focus on funding sources (historic tax credits, grants, philanthropic donations, and a capital campaign) and a fiscally responsible plan for renovation of this historic building for community use.

Kathryn Hunter
Madison

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