A sincere thank you (to Sumner principal Michael Eastman)

A sincere thank you

I read with great sadness and a sense of outrage the article in the Ellsworth American last week describing the Maine Department of Education’s (MDOE) announcement that Sumner Memorial High School had been designated as one of the ten “persistently lowest-achieving schools” in the State of Maine and was therefore eligible for “rescue money,” compliments of the United States Department of Education. The article went on to state that the only model by which the school could qualify for this money included the requirement that the school district remove the principal, Mr. Eastman, from his leadership post at the school. To put it quite simply, the MDOE was unilaterally labeling Mr. Eastman as a failure in the education profession to which he has dedicated his entire life.

Anyone who has been associated with the schools of today in any capacity knows full well that there are many variables that lead to both the success and failure of an educational institution. Some of the root causes of these variables are within the control of the school and some are a shared responsibility with the community. Most certainly, the faults of many cannot be dumped on the head of one by simply labeling him a failure. The Mike Eastman I know is not a failure by any definition of the word! He is a man who walks the halls of Sumner Memorial High School each day, the same way he walked into my classroom and played on the teams I coached at Bucksport High School some twenty-five years ago. Mike was then a young man, and I was a young teacher, but I could already see him clearly exhibiting the qualities of a superb leader. He remains to this day a man of great compassion and shows a genuine kindness for his fellow human beings. He is a person with a deeply ingrained, highly positive system of values and an individual who serves as an extremely strong role model for young people, as well as adults.

I have watched Michael grow into a devoted family man, an equally dedicated educator, and a mentor to the teenagers whose lives he touches in so many positive ways each and every day.

I continue to be proud to say I know Michael Eastman and I have a deep respect for his commitment to his school, its children and the entire community he serves. Unfortunately, the education profession is unjustly coming under an increasingly intense attack with each passing moment. Our schools are becoming the universal scapegoat for the ills of our greater society. In reality, these ills are more closely tied to the destruction of the family unit we witness evolving into a critical state before our eyes.

I am honored to have once been Mike’s teacher and his coach and most recently one of his trusted friends. It is an equally rewarding pleasure to have Michael Eastman as a distinguished and highly valued colleague in the education profession that I have given my professional life to as well. Hold your head high Michael, you are not a failure; it is the system we have created that has failed to recognize your unwavering and unfailing commitment to your school and to the children it serves. You should be proud of all your efforts that have contributed to making this world a better place for young people as they grow up. These efforts have not gone unnoticed and are deeply appreciated - even though, to this point, the gratitude may not have been voiced.

I would like to now make this official announcement as a fellow educator: Thank you Michael Eastman for all you have done and all you will do in the future on behalf of the young people of our region!

Robert E. Liebow

Superintendent of Schools

Mount Desert Island Regional School System (AOS 91)