Monthly Archives: March 2014

Student Spring Survey

“…The survey was not done for negative reasons, but with the hope that it would be utilized by the administration to improve the district and facilitate a coinciding budget….” ~Student blogger and pollster

3128097-1  Thank you to everyone who participated in the Student Spring Survey.  Happily, our young pollsters were able to garner responses from a wider span of the district than I have in past efforts, and we appreciate their diligence there!  Respondents’ answers also come from a wide range of perspectives, from faculty, to community members and parents as well as students.  

Please read this with all of the care with which our young people prepared their thoughtful questions, and use the responses constructively,  as you work to create an optimal learning environment for all children, and build bridges with the community.

As always, we look forward to your take in the comments section.


Student Spring Survey Responses

A Student “Graduates” from the “Comments” section, to a Post…


“…Sometimes being recognized is not an easy thing. When it comes to important meetings, such as the budget meeting, students are not even allowed to speak about their concerns or suggestions unless they are 18 years of age. It is difficult to spread a student’s view when the administration is trying ever so hard to hide our opinions from the public. Our school has already lost a family of students this past month, and I personally know of 3 more families who plan to withdraw from the district and take their children elsewhere. Education is the foothold of our community. No student that has gone through this school system is going to want to raise their children here unless the education system is fixed. As a student, all I can do is try to persuade the voters. There are so many students that long for changes to occur within the school district. All we can do is write articles like this, tell our friends and community members, and get surveys out to the public. However, the future is vested in the voters hands…..”Image


monopoly“…it is becoming apparent that any significant savings to the towns, or increased opportunities for students will only come from the elimination of duplication of services….”

~Larry Malone, RSU #50 Superintendent

Read the pdf of Superintendent Malone’s letter to Municipal officials, et. al.:

Letter From The Superintendent of RSU #50



Be Brave Enough…

“Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters” ~ Margaret J. Wheatley


How Big is Too Big?

Image“The century-old trend towards school consolidation and ever bigger schools is driven by a peculiar logic. School consolidators, posing as modernizers and progressives, tend to rely upon a few standard lines.

“Student enrollment has dropped, so we cannot afford to keep your small school open. Now don’t get emotional on us. It simply comes down to a matter of dollars and cents.”

What’s wrong with this conventional school planning and design logic?  A growing body of North American education research on the “dollars and sense” of school sizeis 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.  Whereas school consolidation and “economies-of-scale” were once merely accepted truths, supported by little evidence, newer studies are demonstrating that true small schools also deliver better results in academic achievement, high school completion rates, student safety and social connectedness….”

In the Eyes of a Student: Mid-Year Review

Our student authors remain the most-read here on Timbered Classrooms for a reason!  Please welcome this one; listen, learn, and scroll down to participate in a thoughtful survey created by students, as they find their civic feet….


13 weeks, 12 weeks, 11 weeks…Currently, the countdown for summer vacation  has began in the halls of Katahdin High School. As the third quarter comes to an end, not much has changed within the building. Student morale is still flatline and fear for the future of our school district is still widespread. Staff resignations and retirements are flying in as expected, leaving many students wondering what is next. As budget time nears, fear as to what the next round of cuts will hold is starting to spread through the halls. However, with recent news, one would think the budget isn’t suffering!

Recently, the news of a 2% raise in the superintendent salary has struck the student body hard. Bringing the total salary of the RSU 50 superintendent to $109,000 annually, the school board voted all but one for this raise. While this may seem fine to some, I recently learned that our superintendent makes $17,000 more annually than the superintendent of RSU 29 in Houlton. This is shocking to me that someone who is new on the job in a district of half the size has a 17% higher salary. What does this have to do with the student body? Last year, the students and parents were addressed by the board and superintendent with a string of budget cuts and warnings for more to come for the school year 2014-2015. This is leaving students to question why it is there end of the rope that is getting shortened while the administration is getting raises. Many students including myself feel as though this raise is coming at the cost of our education’s, yet again. The majority of the students feel as though the administration doesn’t care and ignores our needs. The only people who try to speak out for us are some of the teachers, many of which are leaving because of no job security or their own frustrations. Some aren’t leaving because it’s their choice, but because of “budget deficits.” Just this year, there have been multiple position cuts. Class offerings are few and far between, leaving many to take classes they don’t even care for. We all know that next year will most likely only be worse.

I would like to think that things are going to get better. However, as a junior I am left to only hope that I can wake up tomorrow and be walking down the aisle for graduation. My freshman year was wonderful. I use to love getting up in the morning to go to school. I loved all of my classes, and at the time our administration wasn’t corrupt. The teachers were all great and I learned everyday!  Anytime that I had an opportunity to challenge myself, I took it. I had an endless ambition to be an involved student, and I would step up to the plate at any chance I got. At the time, we had a different principal and superintendent who put the students before their salaries. Times have changed immensely since then. I struggle getting up each morning for school, and only come in to see my friends.  I only have three teachers who I feel are worthy of their salary. I lack that ambition which once drove me to enjoy my classwork. As a junior, I have literally ran out of classes to take at Katahdin that I have interest in. Next year, I will barely be able to fill my schedule with classes, most likely being forced to take something I have no interest in. Sadly, I am not an outlier in this situation, but a majority along with the rest of my class. The only positive thing out of my junior year was Region Two. Every student that I know who goes to Region Two dreads their day at Katahdin. It is a sad reality, but this is becoming commonplace.

Less than five years ago, my class had over thirty students. As it stands now, we have 25 students. I know of quite a few who plan on transferring, being homeschooled, or moving out of the area to escape the school district. My class is by far an exception in this situation. Many families have began withdrawing their students from RSU 50. A number of families have moved away from the area to a better school district, while many have allowed their students to travel to schools such as Houlton. There are a few families who even took it upon themselves to homeschool their children. As it stands, I know of four large families who plan on taking their kids out of the district at the start of the next school year. RSU 50 needs change quickly!

Please help speak up for the students of our school district. School should be able to be a place where the students can flourish and learn new knowledge and skills. We need a change in administration and an end to the corruption. The administration is suppose to be here for the students, not for themselves! Parents and community members, please come to the board meetings and help the students speak out. We can only speak our opinions, but you are the voters who truly speak for us! We need every community member in the RSU 50 district to win this battle for the students before it is too late! We all want our school back. The clock is ticking,  will you help us?

Please take this student survey and share your opinion! 

Is School Consolidation a Good Idea?

“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.””

Peruse this compelling collection of evidence here:  Is Consolidation a Good Idea?

Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, s

Maine Consolidation Worked…

…..just not for rural children, taxpayers and communities.  Perhaps not, for YOU…


“…So Maine consolidation has become what state mandated consolidation usually becomes — something the rich force on the poor for the sake of cutting their state aid….”
Read the entire article from the Rural Trust here:  Maine Consolidation Fight Twists Again

Consolidation: What Is It Good For?


Image“…Consolidation robs communities of important assets: their children and their schools. Consolidation 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.


Rural schools have provided their communities with doctors, lawyers, ministers, merchants, farmers, and laborers for generations. The notion of schools at the center of rural communities is hardly new. Nor is the idea of child-centered education….”






Column: Beware What School Consolidation Means

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 Strange here:

What School Consolidation REALLY Means

Not “Fluff”…

ImageFrom the official blog of the U.S. Department of Education:

“Research increasingly shows that arts education heightens engagement for all students and can increase motivation and persistence for those most at risk of failing or dropping out of school. Learning in the arts also uniquely equips students with the skills in creativity and divergent thinking as well as problem-solving and teamwork that they need to be college and career ready. “

The arts should be at the center of the curriculum, not considered something ‘special’. They are core subjects.

UMaine Prof Says School Reorganization Law Proving More Negative Than Positive; Consolidation Effort Based on False Premise, Not Backed by Research


Donaldson, who holds three degrees from Harvard University, said the greatest impact on educational attainment comes from the classroom itself and it is the classroom, not consolidation, where the emphasis should be placed.

“Teachers are our most precious educational resource next to students,” said Donaldson. “Teachers make the biggest difference in how much and how well kids learn. Smaller schools are more successful with difficult-to-teach kids and with social and citizenship development. Bigger schools aren’t as good at those things. The school’s leadership can make a difference, and the most powerful differences between schools are the school’s ability to challenge and support teachers’ ability to constantly improve. Bottom line: Schools, if poorly led and supported, can be obstacles to superb teaching and learning. It doesn’t automatically assure a school of raising achievement levels if they’re well led, because in the end, it’s the quality of the teachers that makes the difference.”

Read the full article by Will Tuell here:  Tuell: UMaine Prof Says School Reorganization Law Proving More Negative Than Positive

“Humble” Classrooms

th“I am one of many who believes that it is time for the state-mandated consolidation of school districts to be dissolved.

My reasons are many, the school bus that went by my home at 6 this morning being only one of them. If kids are going to spend much of their school day just getting there and back, conduct some classes on the bus.”

~the humble farmer

“Humbled” Policy….

th-1“….thousands of Maine people can now tell you that busing kids 20 miles to school “to save money” has nothing to do with improving education but does cause small towns to lose their identities and their sense of community.”

~The humble Farmer


The Value of Everything; The Price of ….

20140309-134023.jpg“…In small towns that still have a school, community members recognize it as the hub of local activities and a major resource to the town (Nachtigal, 1994). However, people often overlook the reverse–the important role the community plays in education. An example of this lack of recognition was evident in testimony given during a recent school consolidation hearing. One observer commented that no one mentioned the potential loss of family involvement in school affairs. Several writers have addressed the role of a healthy local culture in the nurturing of healthy people.

First, consider what is meant by a healthy community. Wendell Berry (1993) offered this definition:

“Such a community is (among other things) a set of arrangements between men and women. These arrangements include marriage, family structure, divisions of work and authority, and responsibility for the instruction of children and young people (119, 120).”

Read the article, in its entirety, here:  School and Community

Size Matters

the-truth-behind-in-like-a-lion-out-like-a-lamb-2867“Few aspects of education have been more thoroughly researched than school size; few findings have been more consistent; and few have been more consistently ignored….”

Read the full report here:

School Report – School Size

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

Pearls of Wisdom from our Coastal Cousins….

owlsljm“There are two provisions within the statute governing education in Maine, which if authorized by the governing RSU give communities increased influence in local schools – not local control, but choice over adding, funding and/or replacing courses and programs. These two provisions are MRSA 20-A 1478 and 1481-A. They allow you, the RSU Board, to establish and empower local school committees. They also permit municipalities to raise and direct funds for use in local schools over and above what is contained in the RSU budget. If you haven’t read them, I’d recommend you do. They represent a significant tool for the board to reach and substantively involve communities in the education of their children.”

Read the entire article here:

St. George Withdrawal RSU

Read the document containing MRSA 20-A  1478 and 1481-A here:

The Sinclair Act at 50: What History Tells Us about the Consequences of Consolidation | The Maine Heritage Policy Center

snowybus22“How much of the following sounds familiar? Maine people were told by the “powers that be” that the state’s schools were too costly. The problem, it was said, was that the educational system supported too many different schools and school districts, which resulted in wasted resources. It was argued that the solution was to create larger school districts and larger educational bureaucracies. Legislators in Augusta enacted laws eliminating countless community-led school boards across the state and handing over more power and influence to bureaucrats in Augusta. Though many people across the state protested this move, it went ahead anyway, despite few solid predictions about what might result.

This sounds very much like current efforts to consolidate Maine’s many school districts into fewer, larger ones, but it is actually what happened 50 years ago, when Maine last undertook a dramatic restructuring of its educational system with passage of the Sinclair Act. Though the 1957 law has often been heralded as a great step forward for Maine’s educational system, the Sinclair Act had many negative, long-term consequences that should throw a dose of cold water on the current debate about whether continued consolidation of our schools and school districts is right for Maine’s schoolchildren.

Here are the results of the Sinclair Act:

• The number of schools in Maine dropped by 40 percent, and the average size of each school doubled.

• As larger districts were put in place, the number of local community school boards making decisions about local schools plunged, halving in number between 1950 and 1975.

• As professional administrators and bureaucrats replaced community school boards, administrative costs increased. Per pupil spending on administration grew 406 percent, in 2002 dollars, from 1950 to 1980. Over that same period, the number of people working for the Maine Department of Education tripled.

• Though sold as a means of controlling spending, total per-pupil expenditures on K-12 schools continued to rise dramatically, increasing 353 percent, in 2002 dollars, between 1950 and 1975.

Unfortunately, the state has set on the path of greater consolidation despite the evidence that it will not lead to significant budget savings. Instead, policymakers should revisit The Maine Heritage Policy Center’s plan, based on Education Service Districts, that would produce budget savings without the merging of school districts and creating of larger school bureaucracies”

See the full report here:


The Sinclair Act at 50: What History Tells Us about the Consequences of Consolidation | The Maine Heritage Policy Center.

Reel, Humble Wisdom…

SONY DSC“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









Lessons From Our History – Old study weighs school consolidation costs

school-bus-steven-michaelA 1957 law intended to improve academic opportunity and reduce spending by consolidating Maine schools instead resulted in an increase in the cost of education”, a University of Maine professor said Friday. “By 1980, more than 20 years after passage of the Sinclair Act, both the number of administrators and the average per pupil expenditures had increased, even accounting for inflation”, said Gordon Donaldson, professor of education.

The Sinclair Act may have worked in some ways, but we don’t know what those are,” Donaldson told the Small Maine High School Coalition which met on the UM campus. “We do know it raised costs and reduced community and parental involvement.”

And there’s no evidence it increased quality.”

Citing statistics that he said haven’t been issued before, Donaldson pointed out that between 1940 and 1960, the average per pupil cost rose almost 90 percent, from $934 to $1,767, adjusted for inflation.

By 1980, however, a span of 20 years, per pupil spending increased to $3,908, or more than doubled.

The statistics were compiled by graduate students he taught as part of a history of education class, the professor said in an interview after his presentation.

“There’s no way of telling what education costs would have looked like without the law”, Donaldson acknowledged, “But we can say that the rate of expenditures per pupil increased a lot faster than it had been.”

Read the entire article here:

Old study weighs school consolidation costs – Three Rivers Community.

Board Meeting March 10th

lightpainting-school_copyThe RSU #50 Board will meet on March 10th at 6:30pm at Southern Aroostook School.

Board Meeting Agenda March 10th

You think you know what teachers do. Right? Wrong.

images“…The problem with teaching as a profession is that every single adult citizen of this country thinks that they know what teachers do. And they don’t. So they prescribe solutions, and they develop public policy, and they editorialize, and they politicize. And they don’t listen to those who do know. Those who could teach. The teachers….”

“We need to honor teachers. We need to respect teachers. We need to listen to teachers. We need to stop reducing teachers to arbitrary measurements of student growth on so-called objective exams.

Most of all, we need to stop thinking that we know anything about teaching merely by virtue of having once been students.

We don’t know….”

This piece, taken to heart by all of us, not just those in public policy would serve children so well!  Read it in its entirety here:

via You think you know what teachers do. Right? Wrong..