Of Pirates and Bureaucrats–a tale of how local bureaucrats took down a small private school

Bureaucrats_at_workEditor’s Note: Though Brian Kearsey’s tale of wow with his local bureaucracy and the demise of an innovative private school took place due north of New York City, unfortunately, it’s a tale that’s being played out all across this country.  It is the story of an American dream crushed by the machine.

By Brian Kearsey

My wife and I founded and directed a wonderful little school, Crossroads. With a half dozen teachers alongside, we served pre-K through high school, treating every child as an individual; parents, not government bureaucrats, made the final decisions as we customized the details of their child’s education. Our results were consistently spectacular, as they were throughout our sterling, 35 year careers working with children.

Crossroads was set on a gorgeous, country acre with sweeping views on the Middle Branch Reservoir in Brewster New York. Our first purchase was a rowboat; our first project, a tiny, sturdy rock pier. The boat was a few feet away, tipped on its side on some rocks at the edge of the lake and leaning against a tree so it didn’t fill with rain. Any decent sized high schooler could tip it down and hold it steady as a teacher and group of excited, life-preserved adventurers embarked on the “high seas.”

Regaling passengers with tall tales as we explored all the coves was one of my top 1,000 fondest memories of Crossroads. Little eyes would bulge as I recalled my days as Pirate of the Lake. Older kids would lap it up, clamoring for me to tell the stories that had mesmerized them only a few short years before so they could watch me hypnotize the younger folk. “Tell ‘em about the eye patch!” (I was the first pirate ever to use an eye patch – made me look meaner on my raids.) “Tell ‘em about Captain Hook!” (I took him under my wing as an young apprentice when he was about to abandon his dream of following in my boot steps, teaching him how to growl and snarl, and suggesting the fake hook to build a better image before shooing him off to make his way in the world.)

Most of the kindergarteners1 would be pretty sure that the Pirate of Lake was just a story, but Christa Cove and the excitement of seeing the Crystal Cave of Wonders (all had heard the lore about our winter excursions to be dazzled by sunlight on the ice crystals) would soon put that topic to bed. A few coves later, I’d round a little peninsula and one of the younger kids, sometimes all on their own, if not, then after a knowing nudge and point from one of the older guys, would shout, “Oh my God! Look! LOOK! THERE IT IS!

One day, a local bureaucrat coldly informed us that we were no longer allowed to keep our registered, annually inspected and stamped “free of zebra clam contamination” boat on our own property. We had to move it a half mile down the lake to an official launch spot or sell it. Suddenly investing a half hour on the high seas on any gorgeous day we wanted was no longer an option; that now demanded a van to drive and two adult men to drag the boat from its designated spot to the water. We sold the boat. Kids cried. I cried. The bureaucrat didn’t even blink, much less yield to my pleas for an exception for people who owned property on the lake and had had their boats on their own property for decades.

I wish that was the worst tale of our 14 year, slow motion crucifixion by bureaucrats. It wasn’t. Not by a long shot. Stay tuned to this station to eventually learn all of the gory details…

Come back for the next installment Of Pirates and Bureaucrats

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Brian Kearsey is a seasoned educator and founder of Crossroads, a private school. Kearsey, a former resident of Simi Valley California,  now resides in Kent New York with his family. 

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