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A chance to do the right thing

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published May 23. 2013 4:00AM

Occasionally, readers, bystanders and even friends will ask about my "New London bias." I don't get angry. Because they're right. I have a New London bias. Here's why: What the kids of the high school have done for me over the last 22 years cannot be repaid.

They've made me a better person.

The two-minute drill version of my old life: Know-it-all creep who never really spent any time with anyone else who wasn't of the same color, beliefs or point of view. I might have even chuckled at Sergio Garcia's recent dinner invitation to Tiger Woods.

And then came this job. Never forgot my first official assignment: a week of stories leading to the New London-Ansonia championship football game in 1991.

I remember my first interview of a New London kid: Troy McKelvin. We are friends to this day. So are our wives and kids. Troy and what feels like a million other kids here have stories to tell beyond the fields and courts. All they need is somebody interested enough in who they are you know, the content of their character instead of perpetuating the myth that if you come from New London, you count less than those from the comfy suburbs.

The kids here changed me. Enlightened me. They've shown me a whole, new diverse world.

Which brings me to today's discourse.

I believe in the kids here. I want what's best for them. And that's why the residents of this city, regardless of whether they have kids in the school system, need to show up en masse to the Board of Education meeting tonight. They need to tell Board members that their shabby treatment and ultimate dismissal of Nick Fischer, the superintendent of schools, is unacceptable.

I know. Joe Average Resident rages against the machine, but often feels powerless. But there is precedent here that illustrates the power of the people. Their resonance and unity once forced the Board of Education to overturn a decision under the same circumstances.

It was July 27, 2000 when New Londoners packed a meeting and lectured board members about their treatment of former superintendent of schools Julian Stafford. They spoke passionately, albeit misguidedly, it turned out. One man, Larry Lewis, threatened a hunger strike.

The message of the people, despite Stafford's ultimate incompetence, was received nonetheless. The Board, which originally voted not to extend Stafford's contract, reversed its decision.

Vegas would lay no better than even odds that this board has the acumen necessary to recognize a capable superintendent or the fortitude to admit a mistake. Which is why the people must be heard.

The school system, for the first time in years, has shown driblets of improvement. Entire schools have been recognized for excellence, test scores are up and the Ivy League is showing interest in some students. All this has happened on Fischer's watch. Is it all his doing? Put it this way: He's the quarterback. Too much blame in defeat, too much credit in victory. Except that when does anybody remember so many victories in this school system?

Taxpayers must recognize this. They must understand that the only way to a better city is through better schools. If the schools aren't good enough, families won't move here. The schools are getting better, the evidence says. But would improvement remain steady under a lame duck superintendent?

This might be palatable if Fischer did something to warrant a dismissal. It's nothing more than a personality conflict with selected Board of Education members. Should you, the taxpayer, now that you are seeing some hope, allow personality conflicts to retard progress?

You, the taxpayer, would do so if you don't make your voice heard tonight with clarity and, hopefully, brevity.

The kids in the system like Fischer. They see him at many of their functions and games. They see his wife, Karen, volunteering her time. They are far more important to the future of this city than any current bickering.

You need to be heard, folks.

The kids need you.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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