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Lumley unfairly vilified

 

August 16, 2017 Letters to the Editor

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I am a proud friend of Dale Lumley. The vilified and now retired superintendent of Butler schools was my classmate in high school and college. It is obvious some would have Lumley drawn and quartered, but only after appropriate torture. Those people have no idea who he is or who he was, and have read publication of truth, half-truths and complete misstatements of fact to develop those opinions.

Lumley has lived within five miles of Summit Elementary School for most of his life. As a child, he rode his pony to baseball practice at Summit Elementary, ironically the place that ended his career. He played in that dirt and drank the water just like everyone else. He spent most of his career in the Butler School system, choosing to raise his two sons here. After 57 years as a resident of Butler, in 2014, he was comfortably employed as superintendent of the South Butler School District.

As documented in Eagle articles in March of 2014, the committee to replace the outgoing Butler superintendent recognized its difficult road in finding a suitable candidate. Facing continuously declining enrollment, budget issues and impending need to close schools, the committee fielded only five applications. Lumley was advised to stay in his comfortable slot in South Butler. Against that advice, he thought he could help his hometown district navigate through the dark waters. He knew the town and district, the district knew him and he thought he knew you. He was willing to risk himself for the greater good. He was expendable.

Of course, the rest is history. Schools were closed. Parents were irate. School board members divided politically. The closure plan was not Lumley’s plan. It was the board’s plan that had been developed over many years. Recall that three short years ago, Lumley was the best they had available to them, and the board was happy to hire him.

Not once since this story broke in January has any media outlet in Butler, to my knowledge, reviewed, or even mentioned, the study published Dec. 16, 2016, by Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-lead-testing/) highlighting the endemic lead poisoning crisis that exists in thousands of communities in the United States. A review of the Reuters maps and corresponding data regarding the problem reveals that in Western Pennsylvania, and in Butler City and the areas served by the Butler School District, there is a significant problem with children testing positive for lead exposure.

Flint, Mich., in the height of its water crisis, had 5 percent of its children test positive for elevated blood levels of lead. The data published by Reuters shows that in the 23 census tracts that mostly make up the Butler School District, approximately 18.95 percent of children tested positive for elevated blood levels of lead. Census tract 9112 (Summit Elementary location) tested at about half the district average, or about 9 percent of the children tested. Conversely, census tract 9023, which encompasses some of Butler’s old industrial sites, test a whopping 33.2 percent of children with elevated levels. Every one of the 23 census tracts in the Butler area tested higher than the 5 percent level that rocketed Flint into the national spotlight.

The district has hired a new superintendent. Brian White is a well-qualified, motivated executive who likely will serve the district well. I fear people will be disappointed if they view White as the solution to all problems that haunt the district, especially the lead problem.

If you did not before, you now have knowledge, and with knowledge comes responsibility. Blaming others is an act of refusing to take responsibility for your own knowledge.

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