To the editor:
As a 1980 graduate of Lincoln Academy, I have fond memories of the high school that prepared me for the very nice life that I enjoy today. My teachers were wonderful human beings and my education was solid. I believe this is still the case in the classroom at Lincoln Academy, and I would like to thank the LA teachers for their ongoing commitment and success in providing outstanding educational opportunities for their students. My goal is to have my experiences available to my sons, and other students who choose to attend Lincoln Academy.
In order for my goal, hopefully our collective goal, to be met, I believe a lot has to change at Lincoln Academy. Consider this – when David Sturdevant became head of school at LA, the school had $2.4 million in its checkbook. Recently, the school had about $220,000. That is a reduction of more than 90 percent in less than five years.
At the same time, school debt has increased by 800 percent, from $1.25 million to nearly $10 million, and it’s going to take 20 years to pay that debt off. In contrast, five years ago Lincoln Academy could have written a check and paid off all of its debts, with money to spare.
The board of trustees’ reaction to all this? They increased the head of school’s compensation package this year to more than $240,000, which includes salary, fringe benefits, and a free house with utilities included. Beyond that, when Mr. Sturdevant retires from LA in June, one trustee has confirmed to me that Mr. Sturdevant will be getting a financial package beyond what his contract calls for.
This troubles me, and I think the general public should be troubled by this, too. Given the financial results achieved over the past five years at LA, I think that if the board of trustees wants to provide Mr. Sturdevant with a departure bonus, they should pay for it out of their own pockets. I think the taxpayer has paid enough already.
A proposed path forward
I believe the head of school and the board of trustees should simply acknowledge what has happened and take responsibility for what the general public already knows – “Folks, we did our best, but we were overly optimistic in our projections and we have made a number of mistakes along the way. And now, we need to ask for your forgiveness and for your help.”
I have no doubt this would go a long way toward healing the relationship in the community, and facilitate more assistance from sending towns, through insured value factor funding, and private donors through charitable contributions. I, for one, would be first in line to donate to the school – just as soon as they project, and deliver, a balanced budget.
Beyond this, seven of the LA trustees from June of 2013 are still on the board of trustees today. These are the same people who allowed the school to accrue most of the $10 million in debt that it currently owes. Given those results, I question if Lincoln Academy is being well-served by their efforts.
Meanwhile, the AOS 93 school board has been seeking more “transparency” with Lincoln Academy.
I think the underlying issue really is the lack of community representation on the LA Board of Trustees. Given that 80 percent of the students at LA come from the general public and 50 percent of the school’s revenues come from the general public, I believe somewhere between 50 percent and 80 percent of the board of trustees should be popularly elected and come from the sending communities that LA serves. Otherwise, this is basically “taxation without representation,” and we all know how that went a couple of centuries ago.