For the record, the permanent facilities at Rutherford Memorial Park are about 600 feet from the west end zone at the football field. The facilities, which were recently made accessible in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, are more centrally located for baseball and softball spectators. The rest-room building also houses the only locker room in the park, which the high school uses. See the park layout here.
Granted, that's just a drop in the, er, bowl, compared to a school budget of $20 million or so, but that's no excuse to treat money that's been set aside for our children's education as though it were toilet paper.
The rented potties are the brainchild of board president Tom Clare, who said they would eliminate the need for football spectators (particularly senior citizens) to walk across the soccer field to use the public facilities.
Rutherford already spends large sums of money on high school football, with the support of a significant number of students and parents.
The case is often made for buying only the newest NFL-quality uniforms and top-of-the-line equipment, and for paying top dollar for coaches and assistant coaches.
While often controversial, these expenses at least benefit the student athletes who participate in the football program, and arguably increase the sense of pride and school spirit felt by the rest of the student body.
But that's not the question here.
These toilets aren't being rented to benefit students, but instead to accommodate a few of the older spectators. Even presuming that's a good idea, it is not an appropriate use of funds that are designated by law for the education of our young people.
If more toilets are needed at Memorial Field, fine, we should get them. But we should not be paying for them out of an already tightly strapped education budget.
Even before this year's school budget was turned down by the voters and slashed by the mayor and council, there had already been a 13 percent cut in school supplies and materials.
My seventh grader was younger than his science book was. It was written 15 years ago, before IBM had sold their first personal computer, before most of us had ever heard of a fax machine, and before the ozone layer had a hole in it.
This year, at least one teaching job has been eliminated, our lunch program is threatened, computer purchases have been scaled back, and we can't afford teacher's aides even for the most overcrowded classes.
Yet somehow, we have money to spare for toilets?
If this is some move designed to increase support among senior citizens for the school budget, then it's likely to backfire. In my view, the way to enlist public support for any public budget is to assure the voter that it won't be wasted, not even in dribs and drabs.
But if the board was interested in other people's views, they didn't show it that night.
The toilet question was not included in the published agenda of the meeting (preventing any advance public comment, even if someone had managed to get wind of the scheme).
Nor was it discussed under old or new business, as normally required by the rules of order.
Instead, the item was introduced, discussed and passed at nearly 11:30 p.m., after new business was supposedly concluded, the last public comment period had come and gone, and all the students, parents, and reporters had packed up and gone home.
I was the last spectator out the door, which was closing behind me when I heard the board start to discuss the port-o-potties, so I returned to the room.
Surprisingly, the vote was 7-to-1 in favor, with Dr. G. Manskopf, the lone dissenter.