“Yes, Virginia…. There IS a PTSO.” …..and other thoughts on the RSU 50 Board’s October meeting.

OldDesignShop_SilhouetteFamily1912“There isn’t one!”  barked one Board member to another’s suggestion to look to the Parent Organization for volunteers to serve on the working group to shape a vision for RSU #50.  It was an awkward moment, for which I feel compelled to offer clarification — AND an apology for not doing so on the spot:

Our, (well YOUR) fledgling, and, as yet, online organization represented by this page and on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/timberedclassrooms?ref=hl   is, quite deliberately, neither affiliated with nor sanctioned by the Board or  Administration of RSU #50.  (I assure, you, though, that those who connect here do, indeed, “officially” exist.)  …an online presence for those who want to help, and be heard, but cannot attend meetings; for those who are shy about speaking publicly or have expressed concern about employment and community repercussions; we endeavor to create a safe space for community members to be involved, to air their views, by name or anonymously, and stay abreast of developments and opportunities to shape education in the region.  Though we are committed to independence and eschew Board control, we do want to be of service to it — to you.  Our surveys, comments — any and all material is here for you.  We hope you find all of it helpful.

The high-point of the evening for the gallery back row came when the same Board member expressed concern that parents may be underrepresented in a Working Group facilitated by Great Schools Partnership.  (O.K. — confession time.  I’ve left out names to keep the focus on the issues and stave off cries of “personal attacks”…. But, the fact is, we don’t know them!  “I’m concerned parents may be underrepresented” was met with whispers in the gallery that went something like, “Who IS that….?” “I don’t know — but I LIKE her!” “Who was that masked…”)   Subsequent discussion quickly revealed some troubling resistance to parent influence.  Parents are no more exempt from taxes than they are of death, and often have parents of their own paying taxes in their community.  Parents may well want more teachers (read: lower-paid people) while Tea Party sympathizers have been known to lavish enormous sums on the upper echelons of administration, consultants and the like in hopes of future savings that never materialize.  This is a generalization, sure, but please — question your assumptions.  Is it really possible to have TOO much skin in the game?  Are child-centered budget priorities really more burdensome to the taxpayer?   No, and no.

The near-record gasps, sighs and face-palms (sorry — the #1 slot still belongs to one made over the summer, “If we cut administration, kids are going to start losin’ services real quick.”) came at the suggestion by a Board member that the presence of administrators on this committee — and stacked with administrators it is!  …negates the need for the presence of teachers.  “Administrators sort of represent the teachers…”.  No.  It doesn’t matter how exceptional they are in their work, teachers’ perspectives are vital.  The most successful school systems in the world rely on the expertise of teachers,  for good reason.

This Board’s deference to administrators, managers for investment — people who never see a child, stands in stark contrast to the view of teachers as dispensible costs to be slashed (on display in the most recent budget).   This has been a consistent source of frustration to the communities of the former MSAD 25, as illustrated by the recent survey.  Shifts in resources from faculty to extra layers of administration/management at salaries even the most accomplished teacher will never see….. are always awash in lip service that it’s “…for the kids”. (A claim that demands to be questioned).

“You cannot put students first, and put teachers last.”

I do wish our survey reached more people on the SACS side of the district.  It is entirely my fault, and an issue I aim to correct.  The one response we did receive, from a student there was easily the most instructive for its stark contrast to responses from the former MSAD.  It hints at what we know, anecdotally, that communities on either end of the new district are living very different realities — both correct.  District consolidation has a strong tendency to create winners and losers, and many adults; especially those who apply a business mindset to education, are so focused on the “big picture” that they subjugate the interests of one community for another “for the good of the whole”, one generation of children for another — perhaps for a shiny new building only a few hours’ bus ride away…  Education is not a big-picture sort of endeavor.  One child at a time, every one unique, precious and deserving of the best.  (Notice I did not say, “..the best plausible”.  The best is not necessarily the most expensive to taxpayers — have you compared a teachers’ salary to one for administrators and middle management type of positions?)

I want to end, here with the beginning; the start of the meeting which began with a stand by an exceptional young lady against bullying.  I wish I had the answer to this painful and difficult issue.  Only when bullies are stripped of their power; or, in her own words, “remove the threat” …can healing begin for everyone.  The heartwarming show of support of her friends, her employer and especially her family is also a lesson for all of us.

As always, we welcome your own thoughts…..

Thank you


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