ITEM FILE PHOTO
Don Castle motions at the “no-vote” victory party in this March file photo.
The founder of the “no new schools” movement pledged following the March 21 referendum vote to reach out and work with school officials.
Almost three weeks have passed and that conversation between Donald Castle and the officials he wants to speak with has yet to take place.
Mr. Castle and his Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove campaign defeated the city’s request to fund an $188.5 million plan for a middle school on Parkland Avenue and a second one on McManus Field.
Give Mr. Castle credit; he tapped into voter anger over taxes and tallied a 64 percent to 36 percent win.
He told The Item’s editorial board before the March 21 special election that he opposed construction of the Parkland Avenue school because the city’s forefathers wanted the 44-acre site to be reserved to expand the Pine Grove Cemetery.
He argued that the parcel is too close to Breeds Pond Reservoir, the buildings were too expensive, and the process failed to be inclusive.
Insisting his group is not anti-education or anti-new schools, Mr. Castle said he would reach out to city officials after the school vote and say, “We want to work with you.”
He kept up that refrain the day after the election, saying, “I extended an olive branch to the mayor and the committee to pick another site.”
Mr. Castle and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, a school construction supporter, each say they made post-election efforts to reach out and meet, but missed each other’s post-election calls. Castle got a chance to state his case last week during the Pickering Middle School Building Committee meeting. Kennedy made a motion to suspend the rules and allow Mr. Castle to speak.
“It was a bag job,” he said following the meeting, “They wanted to pick a fight with me, I’m not going to get into an argument with the superintendent that would make me look dumb. The proponents never sat down with us or called us once. I feel bad for the kids, but now they want to talk to us in the 11th hour. No thanks.”
Sorry, Mr. Castle, you can’t have it both ways. Protect-Preserve won a stunning election victory. But the middle-school enrollment tidal wave threat still looms.
Maybe Mr. Castle wants to hold on to that no new-schools anger and see if it converts into a possible City Council bid.
Maybe he got tongue tied when the opportunity came to actually present city decision makers with his school construction suggestions.
Or maybe it’s time for Mr. Castle and Protect-Preserve to make good on his pre-election statement and offer specific and positive ideas for solving the city’s school space crunch.
Unless they never had any ideas to begin with.