Voting Matters

Another Agenda Adjustment

The following was forwarded from the RSU 50 Central Office noting more changes to the Board meeting and subsequent vote to close Katahdin.



Please attend very closely to this message.
Due to the potential for the weather to be an issue at the end of our meeting tomorrow evening, and the board needing to get regular business accomplished, we will hold our executive session, audit report, bid opening, and other general items starting at our regularly scheduled time of 5:30. Secondly, the board chair and I along with a majority of the board, recommend that an adjustment to the agenda should be made to move the discussion and potential vote on consolidation options to another date and time. I suggest the date and time to be Thursday, January 21, at 6:00 at the Katahdin Elementary School.
We sincerely regret any inconvenience this will cause anyone as we work to get all of our business done. We would hope to move the boy’s basketball game to 4:00 on the 21st to accommodate parents wanting to attend both events.
Mike Hammer

Interim Superintendent
RSU 50
207-757-8223 (O)
207-944-7751 (C)



keep-calm-and-follow-the-agendaClick below for the meeting AGENDA for January 12th, 2016 at SACS.

Please note public comment under #4…




BOARD VOTE: Postponement and Relocation

Forwarded from the Supt’s office today. Please note the change in date and especially location. Though Katahdin’s communities now have few illusions about any benefit to their children or taxpayers… Still… The gavel dropping anywhere but Katahdin is tone deaf, to put it mildly…..


“As many of you may know the scheduling/cancellations of the last few board meetings has been quite a challenge.

Due to basketball games on both sides of the district, accountants, and other entities involved with our scheduling, we are going to move the board meeting to January 12th.

The meeting will be in the gym at SACS. Our intent is provide an agenda later today. I regret any hardship this places on anyone. The primary intent for the date change is to allow parents from our communities to attend the board meeting.

We will also be considering adjustments to the agenda to allow for the most expedient attention to matters on the agenda that have been delayed due to the previous cancellations”

Mike Hammer

Interim Superintendent
RSU 50
207-757-8223 (O)
207-944-7751 (C)

Best Maine High Schools

77465743 - starFor the Superintendent and Board of RSU #50, a list of the best high schools in Maine.

Small size is an advantage for policymakers with the expertise and the will to leverge it.

Stop using “declining enrollment” as an excuse for a poor quality education and start emulating the strategies of the best high schools in the state, many of which are small.

Stop wasting taxpayers’ dollars and whining to the people who gave you those dollars that “there is no money”.

Just… Stop it….

Teacher: Do You Want a Monsanto Education or an Artisanal Education? | Diane Ravitch’s blog

Many of our readers share our exasperation with the prioritization of technology For precious education dollars….

Teacher: Do You Want a #Monsanto Education or an Artisanal Education? via @DianeRavitch 

“A reader who signs as “New York State Teacher” wonders why classrooms should be compelled to use more technology than they need. Why the push to put every student on a tablet and to buy online curriculum and online tests? Is there a comparison, the teacher wonders, between authentic education and “slow foods,” “organic foods,” “artisanal foods,” and the effort to maintain a classroom where teachers make decisions? Why are corporations pushing mass-produced lessons into public schools, but not into the elite schools attended by the children of the 1%? I recall a prediction by Forbes’ technology editor in the 1980s (sourced in my book “Reign of Error”) that in the future, the children of the poor will get computers and the children of the rich will get teachers.”

Facts and Figures

2_bookkeeperA wise woman once said… “Once”, specifically, at the Nov. 9th Public Forum.  “Where are the facts and figures?” the citizen asked.

Scenarios were, indeed, taken “off the table” without careful study, and, in at least one instance, purposely to AVOID the work of compiling figures.  “If you aren’t interested then you don’t want me to waste time running around getting numbers.” Then-Supt. Larry Malone

“The School Administrative District must provide the amount and nature, or each type of source data that is used in these calculations and the basis for each pro-rating that is performed, in sufficient detail to permit an independent verification of accuracy of the cost data and it’s validity for use with 20-A MRSA, Section 1407 and rules.” – Maine Department of Education

Here are the numbers RSU 50 submitted to the State in preparation for liquidating Katahdin.

Also included are number and types of positions targeted for elimination and cuts to the State Small School Adjustment subsidy.

To our readers with a better eye for numbers than mine, I offer the original pdfs with only brief comment.

What neither Timbered Classrooms nor anyone can itemize or calculate, are the “unforeseen” expenses that inevitably make promised savings and opportunity disappear. Well, not exactly “unforeseen” by those who look at the research and our own history.

More expensive building deficiencies at SACS, as outlined by the AMES report, continuing declining enrollment trends, growing interest in homeschooling or tuitioning to other districts, and communities looking to withdraw, re-negotiation of cost-sharing formulas to compensate for losses….. All of these factors will weigh heavily on budget projections that fail to realistically account for them.

RSU #50 Cost Analysis Summary Submitted to the State to permit Katahdin’s closure

Enrollment by Town in RSU #50 and Tuitioning Townships  I apologize for doodling on this document before scanning it:


Back to the meeting of November 9th, where a wise man spoke to Katahdin’s past, when it when his father dedicated his career to “building” an education system that was to become one of the top in the country.  Those in an office 25 miles away who are more dedicated to extracting money and children for their own use than the pressing needs of children currently in their care cannot give taxpayers the same value for dollar.  RSU 50 will not quit until Katahdin is closed.

Is RSU 50 the best steward of your children, infrastructure and money?

Imagine That!

This post first appeared in January. Of anything, though, it is more relevant today as more people question the value of an RSU that has failed to live up to its promises, but is all too eager to make more.

Timbered Classrooms...

How is the RSU model working?  Support for withdrawal from the RSU is high, but so is the (mistaken) belief that it is “too late”.  It is never too late….  As Katahdin communities prepare to fight to save their school, they may ask themselves, “If we save our school, do we want to continue to funnel our tax dollars to fund it through an RSU that wants it shuttered?  …or do we want a dedicated Board to set priorities?  Do we want to pay the additional costs levied by the RSU in the event of a vote to preserve Katahdin even if it does not, inherently, cost more?”
images-1Can you imagine why any town would want to withdraw from any School Administrative District?

~Unless they wanted to have a say in the way that their tax dollars were spent at the consolidated school.

~Or unless they discovered that sending their…

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Which Way To The Ballot Box?


If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it – Mark Twain

But it does AND they do… Well, supposedly.

Voters who signed petitions to withdraw from RSU 50 did so, among other reasons, to prevent the District from taking their school away. (Other reasons cited: keep the District from taking programming, children, money…. Make the District stop taking!)

While the march to close Katahdin goes on, Voters await progression to Step 2 of the Withdrawal process; a public meeting followed by a referendum to continue the process…. …. a step that Selectmen refuse to allow:

“…They (Selectmen) are not planning to hold a public meeting at this time due to our inability to obtain financial data from the Dept. of Education and/or RSU #50.”

The RSU is required to submit verifiable financial data to the State to begin the school closure process – and has done so.

Getting on with the RSU withdrawal process does not guarantee its completion by any means, but does ensure voters’ opportunity to render an informed and democratic decision.

The decision belongs to the voters.

It is well understood that Selectmen met with the Supt.; less so that this is NOT part of the process in any official way….. …and came away scared that withdrawal would cost more. If that is true, the process will illuminate that. What are the odds that regaining more control over spending will cost more?

For Withdrawal Procedures proscribed by the State click here




“…Let us be clear, it is not progress, technology or time that kills a small rural school or any school for that matter. Small schools often do not fit the standardized mould and they cause difficulties for administrators. And so, the very qualities that make these schools work and that their students and communities love about them are actually used as justification for their closure. These schools work because they are nonstandard and responsive to real communities…”

“…Contrary to the mythology, exceptional schools do not die off, most are killed by intentional acts, not by the inevitable forces of nature. In nature, variation, messiness, and chaos are not unnatural or unproductive forms of organization. In fact, as biologists would remind us, they are essential features of growth. When school people forbid such messiness, or view it as a burden, we undermine the possibility of proliferation … Many good schools die an early unnatural death because the policies that govern our public systems cut short their natural growth … the people who operate the present system do not see themselves in the business of trying to maintain idiosyncratic practice …they’ve been trained to seek, first and foremost, ways to solve problems by rule. Education on a Human Scale

Communities’ Concerns

freedom-of-speech_400…a collaborative compilation of community concerns surrounding Board plans to close Katahdin, by people who know the outcome was never in doubt….

Some concerns voiced at the public forum Monday, November 9th; concerns raised as a result of Mike Hammer’s letter following the Nov 9 meeting:

-Loss of school in community, kids feel that the people in their community should be protecting their education in their own communities, it is the responsibility of taxpayers to provide an education for the kids of their communities in their own communities – This concern and responsibility is now on the voters! There seemed to be no intent from the board or Mr. Hammer to take these concerns into consideration.

-People are confused about the voting process. This was not addressed and clarified by the board.

-The effect on businesses when the school is removed from the community, concern that people will not move to the area. We realize that people “are already passing by these communities” for other reasons, but there are many families HERE NOW that choose to live here in a small school/community setting.

-It was requested that further consideration be given to the scenario of moving K-12 at Katahdin into the high school building. There has never been an estimate of the cost of renovations, savings of closing KES presented. People feel this should be completed before expecting voters to make a decision. We have been told in the past that to close KES would save $250,000 per year just in insurance and heat. During the board meeting that followed, “further consideration was not given” to this scenario. How can this be dismissed without studying the costs? Shouldn’t voters get the opportunity to vote on viable scenarios such as K-12 into the KHS building?

-Concerns about the breakdown of family life as a result of the distance in traveling to and from sports, extra-curricular, school events, and the fewer opportunities students will have to participate. Also the added cost of travel for families. The continued concern of busing students such a great distance and the cost.

-Mr. Hammer continues to “promise” better educational opportunities as his number one priority. This is a promise we heard when we became an RSU and students have not received. The better educational opportunities and advantages for ALL students could become disadvantages to Katahdin students traveling. To “compete globally” is a goal of Mr. Hammer’s. We are continuing to put aside what our kids here and now need. Naturally, SACS parents support receiving better educational opportunities. There are no negative changes to their education.

-There will be no reduction in taxes, as many people are looking for as a result of consolidating. This savings is misleading.

-Mr. Hammer reported that “13 people spoke about keeping things the same.” That is not what people at the public forum spoke about. These people spoke about not supporting consolidating 9-12 at SACS and the reasons why. No one even mentioned “keeping things the same.” People all agree that change is needed. Not sure what he is stating. It seems that the public comments were misunderstood. How?

-These and many more concerns and questions were posed to the board and Mr. Hammer on Monday night. There was no acknowledgment or discussions as people spoke directly to the board and Mr. Hammer. It did not feel like a public forum, only a “time period to hear from citizens.”

As a result of Monday night’s board meeting, the only scenarios on the table are consolidating 9-12 at SACS and no change. Mr. Hammer has said that no change is not an option, so………………….. We can no longer look to our school board or superintendent to make the best educational decisions for our children, their decision has been made by the majority. We have to appeal to citizens and voters to act on saving our communities and our school.


“If #8 does not pass wait until they get the new budget……!” – Supt. Mike Hammer at the Board Meeting following the Public Forum

After Monday’s Public Forum, the Board voted to eliminate all scenarios EXCEPT:

#8 – “Move 7th and 8th Grade to KES and move 9-12 KHS to the NEW MOUNTAIN BROOK complex – close KMHS.


#11 – No Change – Schooling continues as is.

The Board has the votes necessary to pass #8 in December.

The Superintendent’s remarks:

“Good Day,

This update is a little difficult as people may misinterpret my comments about “staying the same”.

A brief update on last night’s meeting: the board whittled down its options for consolidation at last night’s meeting. One option that remains as a choice for consolidation is to move the 7th and 8th grades from KMHS to KES and have 9-12 grade students move up to the Dyer Brook complex (building and grounds qualifying as “a complex”). The second option is “no change”.

The idea to have two K-12 building gained a lot of support and discussion last night. It does not offer the amount of savings as are in the other plans. It would offer significant financial investment in renovations to either facility. This option has some benefits; however, it does not bring the educational benefits to a combined 9-12 grade facility/complex. It was not voted as an option to for further consideration.

Personally, and again in my opinion as the current superintendent, we cannot have “no change”. The public did speak last night from 5:30 to 6:20 or so. They were heard by the board. Thirteen people spoke in favor of “keeping things as they are”. I asked the board for clarification of what this means to them and I believe we have many opinions about what that might be. For me, I will not embrace keeping things the same. There are opportunities that we can build on and enrich for our students. Our teachers do a wonderful job and as Principal Jon Porter pointed out to me in an email we have made some gains in our “report cards”. That’s another story.

From my recent visits with town managers, selectmen, community members, teachers, and board members, I conclude that many do not truly embrace “no change”. The one thing we count on is change. The board has put these two options as an agenda item for decision at the December 14th board meeting. If the vote is for no further consolidation, I will passionately advocate for the board to make additions to the budget that will enrich, support, and extend the educational opportunities for students in their “own” school.

Some wonder what the specific offerings would be if the high schools were together, increases in electives, (creative writing, drama, forensics, anatomy, physics, chemistry labs on both white and colored days, two sections of English, updated lab equipment) the list goes on. We need to compete globally; we’d like pathways that prepare students for career and higher education. Many of these items are already being developed, in isolation, for small groups of students. Some of these opportunities would be easier if our students were in the same complex, some won’t take a lot of financial resources, that being said, they will require the voters to support the education of their students. This is a truly complex challenge, I understand we don’t want to have “winners” and “losers”, I don’t want to take the identity from a community. The truth is, people are passing by these communities due to a variety of causes or they are on a fixed income, they also love it here and want to raise their children here. There are not currently multiple industries moving into the communities. The financial support we enjoyed in the 80″s and 90’s and early 2000’s is no longer reality. We have declining enrollment and high teacher attrition. I want to focus on the positives, increasing opportunities for students and moving the district toward a common vision. I will work at this regardless of what the vote is in December.

Lastly, I want to thank the 4th graders who invited me to their ceremony and the veterans for their service to our communities. Please take time to remember them tomorrow as we celebrate Veteran’s day.”

Notes on “Scale”….


A message from the Supt.’s office claims the Board will not take the vote afterward.

Timbered Classrooms...


…There are some who cling, stubbornly, to the outdated view that bigger schools are necessarily better schools. Despite the fact that there is no research evidence to support this view, well meaning but misguided and ill-informed policy makers continue to pursue the closure and consolidation of small neighborhood and community schools. They pursue this agenda apparently unaware that the educational community has moved on from this mid-twentieth view to embrace the educational opportunities available to students in small schools. Despite paying lip-service to “evidence based decision making,” some educational leaders seemingly ignore the growing body of evidence that clearly indicate that smaller schools are to be preferred over larger ones.

One has to wonder if these folks can read!…”

Education on a Human Scale

“…The criticism that smaller schools cannot offer as broad a program of studies as can larger schools has been around for a very long time; it is often…

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Column: Beware What School Consolidation Means

A Public Forum preceding a vote on closing Katahdin will be held tonight @5:30pm at the Island Falls Municipal Building.

Timbered Classrooms...

image“In Maine, protests from larger and wealthier towns won them exemptions from the state’s consolidation law. Fifty-five percent of the students in the state were in districts that were ultimately exempt from reorganization. Those districts forced to consolidate are mostly Down East, in the far north of the state, or in the “rural rim” between the interstate corridor and the Northern Territories. The anger was so profound that the Legislature amended the law to allow towns to back out of their consolidated district.”

Lesson 1:  You don’t save money, but you change who gets it.

Lesson 2: Consolidation is about closing schools, not districts.

Lesson 3: Consolidation is something the wealthy and powerful force on the less wealthy and less powerful.

Lesson 4:  Consolidation increases children’s time on buses and crimps participation.  

For more lessons, and a thorough explanation for each of these, read the entire piece by Marty…

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School Consolidation: What Is It Good For?

A Public Forum preceding a vote to Close Katahdin will be held tomorrow, November 9th at the ISLAND FALLS MUNICIPAL BUILDING 5:30 pm

Timbered Classrooms...

“…Let’s make consolidation the absolute last resort. Instead, let’s recognize that merging districts with financial problems and falling enrollment will not make them better off financially and educationally. Let’s focus on what’s really important — the resources (financial and otherwise) that strong community and school leaders can leverage to improve…”  

“…Consolidation robs communities of important assets: their children and their schools. imageConsolidation may seem efficient based on pupil-to-teacher ratios, costs per pupil, and the promise of improved curriculum and higher test scores. But it is hardly efficient, given the costs of transportation and the time children spend away from the school and their families.

School and community leaders who promote consolidation may think they have the well-being of children in mind, but their emphasis on per-unit cost treats students as if they are assembly-line products and not children with differing needs, personalities, and dreams….”

Read the article, in full…

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Actually, You DID “Promise Me A Rose Garden”…


This piece was originally published after the last RSU 50 Task Force Presentation. We decided to run it again in light of the upcoming Public Forum and subsequent vote.

A quote from a community member, at Monday night’s presentation gets right to the heart of the school consolidation issue:

“We’re always promised all these programs and opportunity but we never see them….”

A number of our readers have shared their experiences with consolidation locally, and, to say the least, disappointment is a common thread woven throughout.  That the Task Force believes our local experience with consolidation here will, somehow, make another round easier is laughable.  (Seriously, many of you did share a laugh at that.  ..might as well laugh as cry right?)

Anyway, Board member Stephan Walker responded before the lady could finish her point, “We can’t do it! We can’t do it!”, forcefully shaking his head with every syllable. (He also made a point for consolidation, likening children to “fertilizer” sprinkled over too many schools…? Wha-?  There is enough “fertilizer” thrown around by this Board to grow roses on the table.  (sigh) Children are not “fertilizer”….  So why not?  (…offer extra programs I mean, not “Why aren’t children like fertilizer?” Our readers don’t need to ask that…).  The RSU plan painted a picture of what district consolidation was supposed to provide; promises of sorts :

“Potential opportunities for students” include: World Languages for Grades K-5, Gifted and Talented, AP courses, more and varied opportunities….etc.

You can read it here . You might as well laugh as cry, right? Phil Knowles claimed savings in administration with the formation of RSU #50, but did not provide supporting data.  Concerns in the communities surrounding positions that did not exist pre-RSU and relatively exorbitant compensation for some cast some doubt on that,  along with unpopular budget priorities. Timbered Classrooms readers have a great deal more expertise in that area than I do, so we leave it to you HERE.

Widespread disappointment was highly predictable to those who did their homework, who looked at the research; the evidence with an open mind.

This Board and Superintendent determined to consolidate, refusing to “even look at” the research,  that has all but rejected the well-supported idea to consolidate only the Katahdin side… …is, once again making predictions; promises if you will, about the Rainbow-Farting, Sparkly Unicorns that  await your children at the end of a very long bus ride….

…or something more mythical? rsz_lucy-football-peanuts (1)

Consolidation Promises Tested

imageWAGM reported on the “real possibility” of consolidation early in October. See it here: here

Many of our readers were disappointed that the reporter allowed the Superintendent’s claims to go unchallenged and even unquestioned, the reporter insisting he presented “facts”.  What has happened to journalism?

Below, a Timbered Classrooms response to excerpts (in purple) from WAGM’s interview:

“They all have some potential saving the ones with the most potential saving are the high school $572,000 one way and $512,000 the other way. You have to remember that all of these scenarios have an increase in one area, transportation, we are adding about 200,000 there and we are still saving nearly $600,000.” -Supt. Mike Hammer

Neither $572,000 nor $512,000 are “nearly” $600,000.          $28,000 – $88,000 is serious money.  What could teachers provide children with a sum considered a rounding error by Administrators?

Not so fast, though. A more recent  letter from the Supt. warned, “…each town may not witness the full savings … because we want to add educational offerings into the budget…” -Supt. Mike Hammer

“Hammer says a shrinking student body is a large part of the reason for the situation. The number students lost in the district over the past few years has been double the projections, losing 45 students in that time. He says those loses really affect the students.”

It isn’t the losses of enrollees that affect the students. It is the choices made by the Board and Superintendent surrounding their profligate use of available resources.  In a vicious cycle, those choices drive enrollment declines. Listening to parents would certainly improve the accuracy of your “projections”.

But there is the elephant in the room. Enrollment will continue to decline.  There are ways to turn smallness to an asset as demonstrated by other small schools.  Continuing to chase scale you will never achieve relegates our children to unnecessary mediocrity and taxpayers to unnecessary expense and diminished value for their dollars.

“A growing body of North American research is exploding the myth and now suggests smaller schools are not only better for students but more cost effective for school Boards…”

He also says that combining Katahdin Middle/High School Athletics and Southern Aroostook Athletics, would make them perennially good.

All these teams could be competing with each other. I think we could be competing for Eastern Maine championships. Let’s put that on the table.”-MH

What is “on the table” for kids who relished being needed to play for their local school but are cut from your new “competitive sports teams”?  So much for “maximizing opportunity”…

“I think if we put them together they would have more opportunities more electives larger class sizes for more discussion.”

People always “think” this – and inevitably disappointed:

“While this has a certain common sense appeal, examination of the research reveals that there simply is no reliable relationship between school size and curriculum quality. For one thing, researchers have found that “it takes a lot of bigness to add a little variety”—that is, “on the average a 100% increase in enrolment yields only a 17% increase in variety of offerings” (Pittman and Haughwout, 1997). Moreover, “[t]he strength of the relationship between school size and curricular offerings diminishes as schools become larger…” – Education on a Human Scale. Read the full report here and visit our “School Consolidation” tab for more evidence.

“Larger class sizes for more discussion”??? …said no school brochure ever.

Very funny.

No, sad; children struggling under heartbreaking circumstances in their lives need the small classes demanded for children of the fortunate in order to reach their full potential.

“impoverished regions in particular benefit from smaller schools and districts and can suffer irreversible damage if consolidation Occurs.

An Ounce of Prevention….

“…A school administrative unit, including the unorganized territories, shall establish and maintain a maintenance and capital improvement program for all school facilities…”


The following documents, prepared by Ames Associates, prioritize RSU 50s facilities maintenance schedule according to “critical” deficiencies, (2015-2016) “serious” (2017-2020) and “minor” (2021+):

Building deficiencies RSU 50 Katahdin Elementary School

Building deficiencies RSU 50 Katahdin Middle and High School

Building deficiencies RSU 50 Southern Aroostook Community School

In summary:

  • CD = “Critical deficiencies” (2015-2016)
  • SD = “Serious deficiencies” (2017-2020)
  • MD = “Minor deficiencies” (2021+)

Katahdin Elementary School:

  • CD = $26,600
  • SD = $1,309,165
  • MD = $614,680
  • TOTAL = 1,950,445

Katahdin Middle and High School:

  • CD = $404,490
  • SD = $1,525,640
  • MD = $392,010
  • TOTAL = 2,322,140

Southern Aroostook Community School:

  • CD = $1,198,000
  • SD = $2,738,390
  • MD = $887,600
  • TOTAL = 4,823,990
    ”  We will be consolidated somewhere…” “Grades 7-12 SACS, bottom line…” ~Chairman Greg Ryan
    Parents continue to seek other options for their children, and enrollment will likely decline; communities will continue to withdraw either to lessen their costs or transfer their dollars to another district altogether – all for reasons obvious to everyone but the Board.
    Please help them choose wisely.

Supt. Hammer’s Update to the Board

“…each town may not witness the full savings (621K, 577K, 515K or 110K) because we want to add educational

offerings into the budget. This is crucial for people to understand, there will still be savings along with increased options provided for students. …”


“I have been or will be involved in the following activities in preparation for our next board meeting. I am in hopes these meetings will move our upcoming time together from conversations to decisions on the consolidation options still left on the “table”.

Phil and I met with Sherman, Stacyville, Mt. Chase, and Patten selectmen, community members and town officials last week.

This was a very productive meeting in my opinion. We explained the potential savings for the different consolidation options and the decision making options still before the board. This was very similar to our other meetings with individual towns, we appreciate the effort of the towns to come together for a combined meeting.  We also received some information on the withdrawal plans from Patten and Sherman, in my opinion, those towns are not in a hurry to leave the district and this is very good news. It is important to note that town officials want us to communicate that each town may not witness the full savings (621K, 577K, 515K or 110K) because we want to add educational offerings into the budget. This is crucial for people to understand, there will still be savings along with increased options provided for students.

I will be meeting with Oakfield and hopefully Smyrna and Merrill in the middle of November in order to continue the conversation with all towns.
I will be meeting with Shelly Lane the director of education for the unorganized territories today to discuss our consolidation options with her and to see how we can work together on any potential issues further reorganization would have on the EUT.

We are publicizing our community forum prior to our next board meeting. I hope board members and the community take advantage of this opportunity to hear what is on peoples’ minds in terms of the decision the board may make on the consolidation options.

Also, in preparation for the next board meeting, both the education and buildings and grounds committees will meet. I hope that we can shift the focus to what educational opportunities can be enriched as we look at consolidation during the education committee meeting. This conversation is open to all board members and I hope we discuss things like transportation for students that want to be involved in activities, class offerings, staffing, etc as we move forward.
At the buildings and grounds meeting I hope to prepare a list of priorities for this committee to focus on in the short term and then a longer term look at how we will continue to take care of our facilities. I think that “the will of the board” is to move away from talking about which building is better than the other to what needs to be done to each building and do the buildings meet our needs in relation to the decisions that need to be made.

Robin, Phil and I attended the MSMA annual fall meeting in Augusta. I am sure they will fill you in on their learning. There were many sessions on continuing the conversation around proficiency based education. I also attended a Farm to School session, this is a grassroots effort to educate/involve students in the process of how their food comes to the table. I feel we have an excellent opportunity to bring this program to our schools.

Overall, I feel very encouraged that we can bring the conversation toward enriching what we are already doing for our students and to provide economic stability to the taxpayers.

One last thing, I know I used the term Mountain Brook Complex as an option for further consolidation – this is to notate that there will be changes for both sides of the district if further consolidation is considered by the school board. (there has been no new committee or focus group that has been tasked with rebranding  anything; that will be for the students to do)
Mike Hammer

Interim Superintendent
RSU 50
207-757-8223 (O)
207-944-7751 (C)”

New School, New Name…,

This is a photo of a document given to the Board. We believe our readers are entitled to it ahead of the Public Forum. Please note the time 5:30 pm November 9th at the ISLAND FALLS MUNICIPAL BUILDING

No one seems to know who comprised the focus group that renamed SACS “Mountain Brook Complex”, but several readers having formed an impromptu “Timbered Focus Group” quipped that it is a perfectly lovely name for a nursing home.  It is also confusing because a “complex” by definition is a group of buildings and SACS, or “Mountain Brook” is but one. Are more buildings planned?


RSU Withdrawal Update


It has been brought to our attention that certain town officials on the Katahdin side support further consolidation and therefore oppose withdrawal from RSU 50.  They are somewhat separate issues.  Towns are free to close Katahdin and enter into agreements with neighboring districts in or out of an RSU.  The withdrawal process is lengthy and provides ample opportunity for voters to make an informed final decision.

Voters have the right to expect Town Fathers will honor their directive and move the process onward regardless of their personal biases.

In response to reader questions, initiatives to withdraw from RSU 50 launched by the towns of the former MSAD #25 have not proceeded to Step #2 with the exception of Mt. Chase, which has continued on.

Click below to the Maine Statute governing RSU Withdrawal



  Nosferatu…(shudder); terrifying audiences for 93 years…

Makes my skin crawl..

Evidently a real life horror befell Katahdin students who joined their peers around the State donning costumes in a nod to the season….

…unaware that the RSU had cancelled the holiday, and, apparently – fun.

After students were reprimanded rather shabbily for violating the “dress code”, they were, in the end, allowed to finish out the day in costume.

..but not without a warning, “Next year will be different!”

Now THAT is terrifying.

RSU 50: What is wrong with you people? You have done nothing but take, take, take from children and are poised to take more. …clearly NOT for the benefit of the taxpayers who pay dearly for an education their children are doing without!

The Hammer Falls….


…on Katahdin.

CORRECTION: A requisite Public Forum on closing Katahdin will be held November 9th 5:30pm

The Regular Board Meeting will follow at 6:30 but the PUBLIC FORUM IS AT 5:30 – ISLAND FALLS MUNICIPAL BUILDING


The Regular Board Meeting will follow at ISLAND FALLS MUNICIPAL BUILDING where the Board will most likely vote to bring the hammer down on Katahdin in a more official capacity than it has done for over 3 years.

The RSU that falsely promised to save you money has instead taken your most important assets; your children …and infrastructure.

….and still has your checkbook.

It does not matter how much more efficient for taxpayers or better for kids a small scale local education is, people want the money elsewhere and for other purposes.

“‘We will save you money…’ that is the bait that trolls in the suckers. We grow old too soon; smart too late.” -The Humble Farmer

The Accidental Author

il_170x135.352935919_954aAnonymous | October 17, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Reply | Edit

From the comments section, a community member who did not intend to join the author roll, but belongs there:

The Superintendent must believe that parents will all send their kids to SACS.

I think a better education is definitely needed, but not by sending our kids way over there. I don’t think people have anything against people on either side of the district, it has to do with keeping our school in our community.

If the schools are gone at Katahdin, why would anyone in their right mind move here with kids. It hurts our kids and our communities.

Why should we have to pay taxes to a school that takes from our community. The whole idea that more can be offered is a big lie.

Had the board and the other supt been honest with their intentions in the first place, you wouldn’t have so much discussion.

I don’t believe you want to hear anything that isn’t in line with your consolidation idea. The reason people do not attend board meetings is they do not feel listened to.

Closing Katahdin will hurt our kids and community bottom line.

“The Lie Is Falling!”

Our readers would not soon forgive me if I let such a popular guest author hide in the “comments” section.

Brace yourselves, the big lie on which the liquidation of Katahdin is predicated; that small schools are untenable, is about to fall…. “Timmmmmmmberrrrrrr!”


They need to look at the big picture. Easton Schools is roughly 15 minutes from Presque Isle High School, exactly half of the travel time from Katahdin to SACHS.

However, Easton chooses to keep their Class D School (which by the way is much smaller than Katahdin in terms of enrollment) open, even though they are so close to a large school.

With that aside, Easton manages to have one of the highest graduation rates in Aroostook County, one of the the largest percentage of honor students in the county, and many extracurricular groups to help their students thrive (a math team is one example).

If Easton can manage this with approximately 2/3 the enrollment of Katahdin, while providing a good education and plenty of educational opportunities, then there is no reason why Katahdin can’t. Washburn also does the same thing!

The problem lies internally. Consolidation is going to merely consolidate problems, not consolidate students.

I believe that the education that I gained from Katahdin was well rounded and it prepared me well for college. However, I had the option to take classes like shop, chorus, band, etc. These positions have simply been removed not due to a lack of student interest, but due to the fact that without them, they can toy the idea that “consolidation brings more opportunities.”

What needs to happen is the school needs to backtrack about 4-5 years and reestablish the same programs and morale that kept students and staff happy.

The voters are never going to approve consolidation, so you might as well not waste any more air Mr. Hammer.

A Letter From The Superintendent

fountain_pen_writing_paper_with_black_ink_313098Below this Timbered Classrooms commentary, you will find a letter that was issued by the Superintendent; his perspective on the recent Board meeting, and developments since.  

The expertise of faculty and staff is invaluable, and their absence from free and open discussion, as is their legally protected right has been a terrible missed opportunity.  The Superintendent’s invitation to remain involved is a welcome change. 

Taxpayers paid $60,000 for AMES Associates to asses district buildings, and their reports should have de-politicized the issue.  The Architects’ report vs. Board insistence that SACS is “…closer to Region 2…” will NOT be settled without “discussion”, as much as the Board, committed to a decision for which AMES denies the Board political cover, would like to avoid it.  

I could not agree more with the call to stop “pitting one side against the other”.  The decision on how to best educate one’s children is a deeply personal one and is made without prejudice or malice of any kind, though without regard to the priorities of Board members. 

The Board has admitted that Consolidation causes hardships for “some children”; the opposite of “every child matters equally”.   No one should ever be expected to sacrifice the well-being of even one child, or maligned for using their civic  or individual power on a child’s behalf – least of all by Board Members through a microphone.  This sort of vituperative rhetoric is part of a tired old strategy, and I agree –  stop it. 

Our readers will be familiar with Kathreen Harrison who speaks so universally yet brilliantly to issues here.  She has written about the middle school years, and gives credence to the scenario to move Middle School grades to Katahdin Elementary.  

That said, the assumption that Katahdin Elementary is somehow safe from fiscal asphyxiation, and closure by this district are unsubstantiated.  Enrollment will continue to decline.  If the Board plans to employ alternatives to consolidation for KES then, why are they rejecting those proven child-centered strategies for the local high school?  No, the pressure to bus will remain as long as there is money at the end of our little ones’ long bus ride.  Cue the “tough choices” rhetoric.

Here is Superintendent’s letter in its entirety:

“To All Staff,

I wanted to give you another update regarding this week’s board meeting. I offered up another potential scenario regarding our school configuration for the future brought to me by a member of the public. I also discussed this option with a couple groups of staff members. In this scenario we would move the 7th and 8th graders from KMHS to KES and have the 9th through 12 graders move to SACS. The potential saving for this ideas is around (621K). There is room for these students in each of the buildings. This idea has the potential for some very positive outcomes, in my opinion. First the 7th and 8th graders would be in their home community for a couple more years for instruction, maturation and athletic opportunities. There is further savings in transportation and I assume shorter length of bus ride due to fewer students. I do not have firm transportation ride times due to not knowing what the board will choose to do. The 9th through 12th graders should be able to handle a longer bus ride though.

The building and grounds committee has also had a chance to look over each building and they fit our needs for any scenario in terms of space and immediate need. As is the case in any district, each building will have needed repairs in both the near and distance future. We need to thoughtfully plan for these items for any scenario chosen by the board.

There was important sentiment from both the public and board indicating that the conversation needs to switch in a couple of ways. First, from pitting one side of the district against the other and secondly, from discussing the benefits/detriment of each building to the educational opportunity that can be provided for all of our students. I believe this is incredibly important.

On behalf of the board chair and myself, I appreciate the staff that made the commitment to be involved in the public comment and by being present at the board meeting. Your input is valued and I am confident that all board members appreciate what you have to say. They, (the board) are close to making some form of decision (motions to vote) on the many options presented to them recently and in the past. Please remain involved.
Thank you,

Mike Hammer

Interim Superintendent
RSU 50″

Calculating Costs ….and More Costs

Much of the difficulty surrounding consolidation efforts stems from the fact that cost/benefit analyses differ wildly depending on where one lives in a district, particularly one as geographically large as RSU 50. It should come as no surprise that the math is night and day between sending and receiving schools.

“All children matter equally”?


Cost savings figures touted by the Superintendent and others are determined by a State formula that considers transportation alone as the ONLY negative cost savings.

There are others, to which the AMES Associates REPORT attests. Click HERE for a brief synopsis of needs.

The public is entitled to independent evidence that children are protected from mold and by working sprinkler systems.

When the decision to close Katahdin goes to voters, the State sanctioned “savings” figure will appear on the ballot. A vote to keep Katahdin open will levy that amount of money on Katahdin’s communities IN ADDITION to their contribution under the cost sharing formula. That extra money will not stay at Katahdin but will be spread around the District at Board discretion, and Board priorities.

Add to that the cost to families who must transport children long distances to participate in extracurricular activities and likely the cost to decommission Katahdin’s abandoned building.

Yes, the Board has publicly expressed a desire to turn the building AND ITS COSTS back to Katahdin’s communities alone.

The RSU likes to tout Spruce Mountain ad nauseum…. Fine. Those communities contribute a sum of approximately $44,000 each to keep the “sending school” open for Adult Ed and other community functions. The RSU has NEVER expressed a willingness to do this but has spoken of dumping it on the original MSAD 25 towns.

Katahdin voters will see that “savings” figure often repeated by the Superintendent, unaware of the costs that consume it many times over.

For school closure procedures click here.

For those communities seeking to regain control over their money via RSU withdrawal? Maybe looking to tuition their children back in?

The RSU cannot charge $20,000 per child but must abide by State guidelines. …though apparently not ethical ones that would preclude lying to people one is hired to serve.

Such abominable behavior goes right to credibility.

The RSU claims elementary children will be spared long bus rides and will keep their school. enrollment continued to decline and the same pressure to consolidate mounts on those little shoulders?

If you believe them…

Experience and Wisdom


Sometimes the “comments” section isn’t enough.  We are grateful to our neighbor and Board member for sharing his experience and understanding of the issues facing RSU 50. Thank you Mr. Stanley

Greg Stanley on October 12, 2015 at 7:28 pm

This is sad, I have served on the Medway school committee for about 16 years. Several years ago we had a Super, that said Medway would not be able to have a school due to cost. Well, at that point on, the School board took control of the budget. I’m happy to tell you that Medway still has a school, and one that is in very good financial shape and we offer children more now, then we did then. I would also like to add that during this time we put several hundred thousand dollars in building and grounds improvements, these were paid for with no borrowing. Please don’t let Administration, with no ties to the community, tell you it can’t be done. We did it and so can you.

Greg Stanley

Closure Agenda

I apologize!  It has been brought to my attention that the AGENDA was not under the text – it should be so now….image

Below please find the Agenda for the RSU 50 Board Meeting on Tuesday, October 13 @6:30pm Katahdin Elementary School.

The long looming issue of closing Katahdin will be discussed.

Many thanks to our readers who report that the Board intends to reconsider closing Katahdin should a sufficient show of community opposition appear Tuesday night.

Our readers have done exactly that, only to be told they are outvoted by the throngs of people who never attend meetings yet are demanding consolidation…. I call shenanigans.

It isn’t just the loss of educational infrastructure, but the fiscal starvation of a school that inevitably results in closure.  This RSU Board has demonstrated an unwavering unwillingness and appalling inability to provide the quality education for which taxpayers are paying.

It is up to the communities; up to you, if you want your school back; your children, your tax dollars and your schools.

AGENDA Oct. 13

From The “Fairy Tales Fractured” Files… “We Can Offer More Opportunity For Kids”


Even if the inevitably broken promises of enhanced opportunity were truthful, the Board has failed kids with their indecision.  It is past time for policymakers to embrace their schools’ size, which we have shown to be ideal according to research.

Size is never an excuse to shortchange children’s education, and excellence is not about money.  The budget is ample to serve the needs of students better than the district is doing so.

“..Even the smallest schools (100-200 students) are able to offer core curricula comparable to schools of more than 1,200…” ~Jack and the Giant School by Stacy Mitchell

“…there simply is no reliable relationship between school size and curriculum quality. For one thing, researchers have found that “it takes a lot of bigness to add a little variety”—that is, “on the average a 100% increase in enrollment yields only a 17% increase in variety of offerings” (Pittman and Haughwout, 1997)…” ~Education on a Human Scale – Corbett

“…The effective characteristics
of small schools can be lost even in small schools if
school leaders chase the illusion that bigger is better….” ~

“…the closure of schools on the basis of their size is not warranted in terms of academic achievement or community or other measures of academic quality. There is a lack of evidence to suggest that small schools are incapable of achieving the broad goal set out for public schooling….” ~Michael Corbett What We Know And Don’t Know About Small Schools

Decades of research on appro- priate school size fail to document anything like the benefits for large schools advertised during this century (Smith & DeYoung, 1988). More- over, evidence that small schools actually blunt the negative effects of educational disadvantage (variously construed) on academic achieve- ment continues to accumulate(Fowler & Walberg, 1991; Friedkin & Necochea, 1988; Howley, 1989; Huang & Howley, in press; Plecki,) ~The Political Economy of School Consolidation

“The percentage of student participation has been shown to peak in high schools with 61 to 150 students.”~

“…A growing body of North American education research on the “dollars and sense” of school size is exploding the myth and now suggest that smaller scale schools are not only better for students but, more surprisingly, more cost effective for school boards…” How Big Is Too Big?

“In her review of more than 100 studies on school size, Mary Anne Raywid of Hofstra Universtiy writes that the relationship between small schools and positive education outcomes has been  “confirmed with a clarity and at a level of confidence rare in the annals of education research.””Is School Consolidation a Good Idea?

“…Those who say small schools are not “efficient,” or effective, need to cite the evidence, not just the rhetoric. …”~Size Matters

“We will save you money.”

That’s the bait that trolls in the suckers.

We grow old too soon. Smart too late.”

~The humble Farmer, on School Consolidation

A Message From Superintendent Mike Hammer


Hello all,
Feel free to forward this to whomever you choose, staff, town managers, friends, family, or local blog sites. This is part of the communication plan for the district, in my opinion, and the more people that know about what is going on the better off we all will be.

We are continuing the meetings with town selectmen in order to get out and have people put a name with a face. Island Falls and Crystal are slated for the first week of October. At these meetings we will go over the figures that have been put together on the state templates regarding the potential savings if their is a decision to close a building. I also answer basic questions about anything related to the district. I have enjoyed getting to meet the people that are doing the difficult work on the town side of government. I also offer an invitation to have us return as we go through the year.

I am looking at bus routing software that comes at no cost from the state. It is called Transfinder. I think it will help the board answer some questions regarding transportation in the event we relocate students on either side of the district. I will keep you posted on this as we move forward. To use it effectively we need very accurate and up to date student data to make this work.

The building and grounds committee has taken a look at SACS’s basic building and systems. We are scheduled to look at KES and KMHS on October 6th. I anticipate a preliminary report at our next board meeting.

I had a terrific time at the KES open house, I admit, I couldn’t afford the calories in the cake auction, but will somehow help with fundraising for the wonderful programs going on in the school. I believe KVHS matched donations to make the auction a big success.

Chris and Peggy attended a Habits of Mind workshop in Ashland last week. This was sponsored by Central Aroostook Council for Education (CASE) and the Northern Maine Educational Consortium (NMEC) two very important organizations supporting educational initiatives in the “County”. A reminder that the Habits of Mind/Work are the fundamental skills we need our students to have, perseverance, work ethic, self regulation, and grit are what it takes to succeed in any learning endeavor.

We had an early release day on the 23rd, the elementary staff was hard at work examining student writing samples and grading expectations. The high school staff was getting into Web to school preparing student grading for reporting out to parents. Some of this work is being facilitated by our own people including one of our literacy coaches Mrs. DiMarco.

We have a full day workshop on October 9th. Eric Herlan, Drummond and Woodsum’s top special education attorney will be with the whole staff in the morning. This is an excellent opportunity to gain first hand knowledge regarding a very important part of the work we do in our schools. In the afternoon our elementary teachers will be working on their literacy class and middle/high school will continue work with data, assessment, and instructional practice.

I will be headed to Augusta tomorrow for an MSMA professional development committee. Our committee will be putting the finishing touches on the October MSMA conference. Please think of attending this conference, it is a great opportunity to meet other board members facing the same challenges we are facing and to get to know your superintendent in an informal setting.

Have a great weekend.

Mike Hammer

Interim Superintendent
RSU 50

“Off The Table”? ..or “Under The Bus”?

Research; reality often flies in the face of our assumptions. We hope communities facing the loss of their infrastructure money and children will question everything…


“Busing is expensive and affects students and their families in many negative ways. An alternate, beneficial strategy for using an existing large building is to reconfigure the grade span in the facility to include students from kindergarten through 12th grade. In rural areas, drawing students from a wider age range will increase the pool, narrow the geographic area in which they live, and cut their transportation time to and from school. In any area, there are many social and pedagogical benefits to bringing students of all ages together, as well as benefits from making the school more accessible to the community. The best SWaS will serve elementary, middle, and high school students within the same facility….”  Dollars and Sense

” I truly do not believe the combination of KES and KMHS is a viable option and would venture to say it was taken off the table. ” -RSU 50 Interim Superintendent Mike Hammer

“One More Nail…” Superintendent Hammer on Closing Katahdin


Timbered Classrooms is grateful to our readers who shared the following letter from the Superintendent’s office in which Mr. Hammer projects consolidation cost “savings”.

It would be silly to pretend that Katahdin and SACS are in equal jeopardy here, so I won’t….

“…These are strong estimates, they do not include any necessary upgrades in infrastructure….”
-RSU 50 Interim Superintendent Mike Hammer

Projections that ignore costs are anything but “strong” for those who nonetheless must PAY them and for whom those costs erase those “savings”. 

His projections come from a State formula that ignores the cost of these “necessary renovations”  but these so-called “savings” WILL, nonetheless, appear on the ballot when voters decide whether or not to close their school.

In the event Voters elect to keep, Katahdin open, the district will levy that sum IN ADDITION to Katahdin communities’ share as determined by the cost-sharing formula.

The district is under no obligation to spend that extra money on Katahdin or for the benefit of its children whatsoever; protection from a continuing campaign of fiscal asphyxiation is virtually nonexistent.

Community members will continue to pay more for less under the current leadership and do to the inherent disadvantages of the RSU model itself.

Here is Mr. Hammer’s letter in its entirety:

“To All Staff,

At last night’s board meeting I presented to the board specific cost savings for the closure of KES, SACS 7-12, and KMHS. Specifically, closing KES and moving the students to KMHS, this would net 110,000 dollars annually. Secondly, closing KMHS and moving the students North as previously discussed (577,000 annually). Lastly, closing part of SACS and moving 7-12 students South with yield an estimated 515,000 annually. These are strong estimates, they do not include any necessary upgrades in infrastructure. We used formulas and background data provided to us from the state that we would use in the event of a vote to close a school. There were no decisions made on any of the information that I provided last night. My purpose was to give factual information to the board, I feel that they are at a point were something must be decided.

In either case of closure of a 7-12 scenario we save upwards of 500,000 unfortunately the savings come on the backs of lost positions, some of those could be presently unfilled positions. There is more information to gather in terms of what makes for the best scenario to put 7-12 students together and the ultimate intent is to provide the highest quality education. We are also planning for the long term, in order to remain a viable district.

There is more information that we will be gathering. We will need to inform the communities through forums and in one scenario the local voters would have to decide if they want to bare the burden of increased taxes to keep KMHS open. I truly do not believe the combination of KES and KMHS is a viable option and would venture to say it was taken off the table.

We hope to keep communication lines open, there will be many difficult decisions that will need to be made as the process unfolds. Please remember that when the dust settles there will be a decision based on what is best for students balanced with what this area can sustain for the long term. Students must be kept in the loop as well and ultimately will get to make decisions on what their future could hold.
Mike Hammer

Interim Superintendent
RSU 50
207-757-8223 (O)
207-944-7751 (C)”

Standardized Test Scores 2015-2015

standardized-test-6Substantive criticism abounds of the Smarter Balanced Tests for which our children sat last year, and of standardized testing generally.  Opposition is growing nearly as fast as the evidence that children are not well-served by the mindset that created these strategies.

The State was, indeed wise to scrap Smarter  Balanced, and would do well to further question Education Reformers’ motives and expertise.

That said, as these tests consumed precious class time, and, many would argue, caused a narrowing of the curriculum more weighted to reading and math than ever…. Our readers should have the results to determine for themselves their value or lack of same.

MDOE Standardized Test Scores 2014-2015

For an informative piece; one Diane Ravitch has called a “must read” giving context surrounding how these tests are scored; what constitutes “proficiency” etc. click here

Budget Vote


We have Unofficial word that the RSU 50 Budget passed.

We will happily share more numbers when we have them.

Thank you for your interest and for casting your ballots!

Vote Today!!!


..on the RSU 50 Budget.  Are you happy with the Board’s spending priorities? Are taxpayers getting all they could out of their hard-won tax dollars for their children?

…or does the Board need to try again, listening respectfully to those they serve?

Have your say at your polling place.

“Vote as you please but please vote.”





Whether Katahdin replaces one or neither of its two departing music teachers – whether it’s faculty is cut by 50% or 100%  – remains to be seen. 

What is clear is the adverse impact on children either way. 

Additional funds provided by the State recently – $68k to be exact, will be spent well outside classrooms of any kind – music or otherwise, and has been budgeted in its entirety for an Assistant Principal.


“Lose your school. Lose your community. School administrative districts were no more than a scam and a few people have finally figured out that it would be nice to keep the control and the tax dollars in town.

  Oh, it would also be nice to keep the kids in town.  

But getting the control and the money back is the main thing. You will not get your schools back in town without a fight.  There’s too much money at stake.  And it’s fun to spend other people’s money.”

~Robert Karl Skoglund, “The Humble Farmer

Though taxpayers dislike the spending priorities outlined within, the budget passed last night without changing a dime.  The additional $68,000 appropriated by the state has been consumed in its entirety by an Assistant Principal position. 

When the Board was questioned about a letter Timbered Classrooms received about an offer on the table from a teacher to serve in dual capacity in the post for less money.  The questioner was unceremoniously accused of “gossip” in spite of having the highly credible letter in hand (the name of the writer was obscured to “protect the innocent” so to speak.)

Is this the way to treat the people whose money you are spending? …and whose permission you need at the ballot box to spend it in the manner you propose?

The Superintendent went on to say that the position “would be posted” and that they would not give the position away for less money when others may be more qualified.

Of course they are going to “post” the position! IT IS THE LAW.  Those close to the situation however firmly believe that the candidate has effectively been selected already and the cost would be the full budgeted amount.  The Board did not elaborate on the teacher’s qualifications versus those of their chosen candidate, but their concern in that area rings hollow as they have consistently opted for inexperienced faculty due to the cost of their more experienced counterparts.  The most accomplished teacher still commands a lower salary than an entry level administrator for some inexplicable reason given the disproportionate influence of faculty on Kids.  Remember them?

The Board forgets that those who pay the bills have the final say. Hopefully The communities will not.

The budget validation vote will be held Tuesday August 11 at  community’s polling places.

A Reader Speaks….


The budget meeting and Vote will be held Thursday evening, 7pm, at Katahdin High School. 

Meanwhile, a reader called “deleted” encapsulates the sentiments of so many others.  The Board needs to read this:

We have all been saying there is too much money spent in administration in our district. However the board never seems to listen. And because we want less money spent, they seem to just have to take from the kids. What would be the incentive for a teacher to come to our district? Things are up in the air, the communication is poor, and too much bureaucracy. Teachers want to teach, not facilitate. By the time teachers are trained in some of the educational fads of the day, there will be a new fad. In the meantime kids lose. We could educate for much less, but there always seems to be an excuse, money. Well start cutting in the right areas, and I do not mean cutting anymore teachers. Hire a band and music teacher for Katahdin. That is a start.”

Budget Vote – Have Your Say


The RSU Budget Meeting and Vote will be held THURSDAY JULY 30 KATAHDIN MIDDLE/HIGH SCHOOL @7PM

Here is a golden opportunity to take control of your money and put your Vote behind it.

Many thanks to our readers for their heightened interest in our website and for your comments – whatever your position on the pressing issues we face. 

Hope for Music….


Many of us were understandably alarmed when Board members indicated they would not replace either of Katahdin’s two departing music teachers. 

A glimmer of hope comes from Serving Schools where a listing does now appear: 

View the listing b below, and lets hope for an answer soon!

Readers’ Discuss….

Discussion-GroupThe following is a reader’s response to a long overdue discussion in our comments section.  We welcome it and your input.  Read the full discussion here:

Comment forum 3 minutes for 3 meetings

“In response to the recent comments and also to hopefully clarify the thoughts and goals of some parents and taxpayers of RSU 50:

We do need the input of former teachers, people who do not have children attending schools in RSU 50, and in general people looking in from the “outside” as we move forward and decisions are made in how to best educate our children in the rsu. As parents and taxpayers, we do sometimes have difficulty not becoming too emotionally attached when making these decisions. However, being a parent of a child in the district certainly warrants reason for us to be very involved.

After several years of meeting and discussing, there is agreement across the district that changes need to be made. Students are ok with the consolidation of peers. There are many friendships across the district ­ this is not an issue. The distance is an issue, removing schools from a community is an issue, and money is an issue. The money is not there no matter which way we go. However, we as taxpayers, young and old, know that the education of our children is very important, comes first, and is our responsibility.

Many of us are not trained to solve these issues, try as we may. What we need is good LEADERSHIP, which has been lacking in the district for several years. We know that our taxpayers support local education. The reason towns are turning towards withdrawal is because there does not seem to be an answer within the RSU and people are frustrated. More money is being spent on administration and in other areas that do not seem to be benefiting the students.

Prior to the RSU configuration, I don’t believe consolidation with SACS was considered a whole lot. So we keep coming back to the issue of things going down hill at Katahdin as a result of basically being forced into an RSU. If taxpayers choose to withdraw and educate their kids another way, that is their choice and they will take the responsibility for that. We do not know if it is possible to house K­12 at Katahdin Middle High School because it has not been researched even though people have asked for this scenario to be looked into. Money was spent on a study that produced the scenarios. What good did that do? We already knew what scenarios were out there. We keep hearing that we cannot consolidate K­12, but no numbers, no dollar amounts, and no information has been given as to why this is not a scenario being researched. Several classrooms were not in use last school year, the bus garage is in the old shop/welding area – there is space available. It should be researched and the information made available to the public. There has to be effective leadership from professionals who are trained. It is not the first time districts have had to face this.

Professionals who put the education of students first and are willing to work with towns and communities could help us reach a viable solution other than busing kids such a great distance and closing schools. We are stubborn, passionate people in this area. That is why we are willing to look at alternatives and not agreeing with decisions being made by the RSU 50 Board and Superintendent. “

3 Minutes for 3 Meetings

philIncluded here are the minutes from the Budget meeting of June 2nd, regular meeting of June 8th and a Special Board meeting on June 22nd.

Though budget information is included, please note the date.  Since that particular budget was rejected by voters (with good reason!) the Board has subtracted $60k curriculum coordinator’s position, BUT added a $70k Assistant Principal.  The one remaining music faculty position has been vacated and the Board does not intend to fill it.  Not only will children be left with no music teacher whatsoever, the Board is mum on what they plan to do with the money budgeted for it.  If past truly is prologue, brace yourself for the addition of yet more unnecessary bureaucrats diverting funds away from children.

Our children, our money, our schools…. Only you can take control….

Meeting Minutes June 2, 8 and 22

“The Savage Breast”

violin in “Music hath charm to soothe the savage breast to soften rock, or bend a knotted oak.” William Congreve Last night’s school board meeting could have done with the addition of music to soothe the “..savage breast..” of the RSU #50 Board.

An attendee reports the resignation of Katahdin’s music teacher.. ..that the Board does not intend to replace. They opted not to fill the position of the retired music teacher either leaving Katahdin’s children without and taxpayer dollars flowing into such asinine things as an expensive assistant principal.

I hope we are mistaken and the full complement of music faculty will be restored after all – it can be done with a fraction of the money these people are spending on a.. What? Yes, an Assistant Principal. Parents and communities are the ultimate authority here, if they choose to exercise it.

Budget Meeting Update

Thank you, readers, for sharing what happened at the meeting with us.

Faculty lost through attrition will not be replaced – effectively a cut to children.

The Curriculum Coordinator position was cut from the budget but an Assistant Principal has been added.

It’s now in the voters’ hands….

Curtains! in voting booth.  Our readers are well aware of the reason for those, as well as other protections voters enjoy from undue influence.

Timbered Classrooms would like to thank those who gave us the following letter from Superintendent Malone.

“Dear RSU #50 Staff:

As you are aware, the recently proposed budget for the 2015-16 school year was defeated at the June 16, 2015 referendum vote.  I am writing to inform you that as a result of this action, the school board may need to consider the elimination of positions if the next proposed budget contains reductions. The Board will deliberate the development of new budget at a special meeting on July 9th, 2015 at the Island Falls Municipal Building at 6:30 p.m.

While the extent of these reductions is uncertain, there is a possibility that your position could be affected.  Please be advised that you are welcome to attend the July 9th Board meeting.

I have enclosed the timeline presented to the Board which outlines the upcoming budgetary meetings.


Larry Malone

Superintendent RSU 50”letter

You are welcome to attend the July 9th Board meeting”  ???  Faculty and staff do not need the Superintendent’s “permission” to attend any more than anyone else.

If the inartful suggestion that every defeat of the budget threatens one’s job all the more doesn’t bother you; if it sounds normal, reasonable or appropriate to you…. I respectfully ask that you re-examine your perspective on the role of the citizen.

There  is no higher office.

It would be impractical to surround either the Board table or the voters’ seats tonight with the festive striped curtains so familiar to all of us.  The people can, however, take a cue from last year and move for a private ballot tonight.

The meeting will be held tonight, July 9th at 6:30pm at the Island Falls Municipal building.

Timbered Classrooms wishes the people well in crafting a child-centered frugal budget.

ROUND #2! RSU #50 Budget Meeting July 9th, Island Falls Municipal Building

deer_appletree“We are a small school!  Why do we need so much bureaucracy?”

“Why are we paying administration so far above the State average while teachers earn well below?”

“We do not need a curriculum coordinator!  …and for so much money!  Those responsibilities rightly belong to teachers!”

“The RSU has done nothing but cost. We haven’t saved a dime!”

Comments often heard out and about point to reasons, perhaps, that people voted the budget down the first time.  Had the Board listened to them before the vote; REALLY listened, and crafted a child-centered budget leveraging the advantages of their small schools rather than squandering them… … there may be no need for a meeting on Thursday evening.

But they didn’t, and there is.  The Board will take yet another bite at the apple on:

Thursday Evening, July 9th at 6:30pm

@the Island Falls Municipal Building.

YOUR vote will determine the budget that goes to the voters subsequently.    The above comments reflect very real problems in terms of priorities and even mindset in the leadership.  Change is not forthcoming from this Board without you.

Every voice, and every vote matters.

Timbered Classrooms thanks you for your interest.

From the Sherman Town Office

Gazebo Shaped Bandstand in the Park in Sherman Village

Gazebo Shaped Bandstand in the Park in Sherman Village

This is a “heads up people” reminder that there will be another budget process and subsequent vote. So please pay attention and plan to vote.

Also as a reminder citizens can contact their respective town offices to find out the date for the next school budget referendum vote.

The Town of Sherman posts this information at the town office and the Sherman Thriftway. The town office contact information is 365-4260 and our email address is

Your Vote Counts! Final Budget Referendum Results

Timbered Classrooms...

1-65764-Your Vote Counts

Final: Referendum results  Yes=191   NO=221

Sherman      –      No =57              Yes=11

Island Falls    –    No = 33            Yes = 31

Mt. Chase          –             Yes = 14                 No = 11

Symrna                              Yes = 11                 No = 7

Merrill                  No = 14            Yes = 7

Stacyville              No = 32              Yes = 8                                

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