Katahdin Schools/RSU 50 Budget: Concerns & Questions

 Timbered Classrooms is proud to welcome a VERY popular community author back to the fold.  On any well-run Board, these questions would surely be answered; in any healthy, civic-minded community, there would be a reckoning if they were not…

Cougar-EyesAs we approach the big budget meeting, I think back over the last two years and realize how much of a disconnect there is between parents and administration, the superintendent, and the RSU 50 board.  A good education should have parental involvement and ideas, after all who knows best for their children, their parents.  I have a list of questions for the people to think about as you prepare to vote for this monstrosity of a budget, which will raise our taxes, and I see no benefit for our students. 

  1. Why does the superintendent take a raise and ask our towns to give more money?  Why does the board agree to this?  Why did we waste money on Great Schools Partnership? To further the agenda?  Why are we told we saved money by joining the RSU when it is not true?
  2. Why does the board agree with whatever the superintendent wants?  Aren’t you supposed to represent your towns and kids?

  3.  Why would the board and the superintendent want to consolidate our schools into one and send them to Southern Aroostook?

  4.  Why would you want our children to have to ride on a bus that long? How much money would that cost?

  5.  Why would you want to take our schools out of the community?

  6.  What does taking schools out of our community do to our local businesses?

  7.  Why don’t you think you have to answer people’s questions?

  8.  Why have you let the buildings fall into disrepair?  They are not old.

  9.  Why would you even consider building a new school, which our communities cannot afford?

  10.  Why aren’t you transparent with what you want to do with our schools?

  11.  Why did Katahdin roll out Standards based Grading this year for freshman with no preparation and little communication with the parents, when you did not have to?

  12.  What would ever make you think sending out a 42 page report card to freshman parents is a good thing?  What does it tell people?

  13.  When parents have concerns about a science teacher at the high school, why are they not listened to?  Why did she expect the freshman to do the same science fair project, not being able to take it home, not enough time or direction? Why would she cook at school for the kids?  Teaching?

  14.  Why do kids get to take tests over? What does this teach our kids about working hard?

  15.  Why aren’t kids graded on their homework in some classes?

  16.  Why are teachers out for training during the school year?  How does this help our kids?

  17.  Why is the communication so poor from administration?

  18.  Why are all kids put in the same educational box?  Why don’t you offer AP courses, online classes?  Why can’t we bring shop, welding, drafting, culinary, automotive, and childcare  back to Katahdin?

  19.  Why do you apologize to the freshman for their limited course offering?

  20.  Why did we spend so much money on a math curriculum that is has been ineffective for 10 years?  If it was so great, why are this year’s freshman and next year’s taking math everyday when there is block scheduling?

  21.  Why do we use declining enrollment as an excuse to consolidate?

  22.  Why does administration nitpick at the high school for foolish reasons? Why can’t boys play touch football at lunch to burn off some energy?  Perhaps it would help them focus better in the afternoon?  Why do we pick foolish areas in which to discipline, and not concentrate on education?

  23.  Why did you waste money on iPads that are toys, which are used for games and non educational purposes?

  24.  Why are you afraid of kids opinions?

  25.  Why can’t we educate our students cheaper?  Why not cut the budget in half?

These are some of the questions that bear thinking about as we approach the budget.  I think we deserve answers.  Will we get any?

 

 

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29 responses to “Katahdin Schools/RSU 50 Budget: Concerns & Questions

  1. A funny thing happened…. It looks as though some comments intended for this piece fell under another, so here is a copy of the thread and a link to the original:

    danette moody kay | May 21, 2014 at 1:26 pm | Reply | Edit
    Unfortunately, instead of moving forward, “our” school system is moving backward!! Why all the cover ups, untruths. (I call them lies) There seems to be so much scrambling around after every meeting, parents are more confused than ever. We’ve made calls to the administration, and we never get the same answer. In fact my husband had a lengthy conversation with our SUPERintendent, regarding a number or serious concerns. We were told that as soon as he had time to “look in to these issues”, we would hear back from him asap, Well, that conversation was last November, 2013, and today is May 21,2014!!! SURPRISE, we’ve never had our “important” phone call returned!!!!! What a shame when you have no confidence in your administration! And we are hearing more and more stories like this, “why go to school board meetings,no one listens”?, why call the school when you have a problem concerning your child”?,”no one cares!! Very,very sad how the futures of our young people are being jeopardized! Unfortunately, for the once popular, “No child left behind”, its now called, How many more children will be left behind!!”

    Like this

    atimberedchoir | May 22, 2014 at 10:08 am | Reply | Edit
    Déjà vu! …so where are the unicorns and rainbows they promised us after Benedicta’s school was shuttered? Turns out unicorns aren’t quite as mythical. All I see is even MORE people, peering into Ian’s classroom window, and wondering how they can wring money out of his education and take it for themselves. It’s grotesque! The Board Chair wants to spend Patten’s tax money in Island Falls? ..and you can neither stop him nor vote him out!

    If I may, I would recommend contacting the Superintendent again. Perhaps a follow-up email copied to the Principal and each Board member. The “Time Period to Hear From Citizens” is good too.

    “why go to school board meetings,no one listens”?, why call the school when you have a problem concerning your child”?,”no one cares!!” I hear that too, but leaving them to it and staying silent won’t solve anything.

    The drumbeat to close Katahdin and bring the spoils North precedes this Superintendent’s tenure. He is the hired gun Greg Ryan et. al. brought on Board to get it done.

    Hurting kids along the way? It will be O.K. because there will be unicorns and rainbows in Dyer Brook, right?

    Sooooo…… I hear there will soon be an opening on the School Board soon? How about it?

    Like this

    anonymous | May 21, 2014 at 8:38 pm | Reply | Edit
    I like all these (questions) too be asked… however you left one out… why can’t we cut SPORTS. Really they need 10K for new turf grass?.. & were consolidated. So why 2 teams?? Is that really NESACERY? Oh & PLZ stop crying about transportation Costs to school. The state reimburses most of buses fuel expenses & after a service life of 10 years & 125K miles the state reimburses nearly 80% of the cost of a bus. A schools greatest cost is heating. Administration & activities with no reimbursement available. So yes people if you closed katahdin high your 1 less building to heat & maintain. =$ saved. Keep elementary kids in town. @ K.E.S & bus older higher school students to SACS. Very possible. It would just be a shame too lose K.H.S. & some staff. Food costs more. Fuel costs more. Daily living costs more. Is it unreasonable to expect operating a school in today’s world will cost more??

    Like this

    atimberedchoir | May 22, 2014 at 9:13 am | Reply | Edit
    10K for new turf grass? I didn’t know about that. How awful!

    I, too, noticed that the State is a bit more generous with bussing, but you still pay a percentage, and the total would be LOT more than we pay now. If you want to keep little children in town, and ship the older ones out, bus routes that once required only one bus will now need two to take children of different ages in different directions. Why does everyone think it’s O.K. to ship teenagers away? They need their communities too: https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/the-value-of-everything-the-price-of/

    The State also has a way of taking away support, as they have done the past two years. Transportation is but one reason that there are no savings here, and I encourage you to browse “School Consolidation” at the top of the page to look at the research. I hope the Futures Task Force will, too, though I’m not optimistic. It looks like they are treating the two preK-12 campuses like one large one, moving things around freely, which would be costly and impractical for taxpayers, children and families. The schools are 20 miles apart, and though longer commutes are common, we don’t typically pick up 25 of our closest friends along the way, or travel to and from work the way kids do; go home for supper and come back for a game….

    Yes, it would be more than a shame to lose faculty and staff. When you cut one teacher, you are cutting the many relationships with their students where education happens every day. The cuts last Spring shook kids to their (not-so-common) core for a reason. Teachers give taxpayers the most return on their dollars, are an asset to their community and local economy — with which the school system is so deeply entwined.

    The good news? You will find a great deal of agreement on closing a building! Our readers are very supportive of the idea of closing Katahdin Elementary and housing pre-K – 12 at KMHS. All the savings from a building you want, with no increase in transportation costs. The building is in better shape than SACS, so there may be savings in fewer renovations? …and kids still get all the benefits of being educated in their community. The local economy benefits.. …a win-win, really.

    P.S. It looks like you intended to comment on the latest post? https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/katahdin-schoolsrsu-50-budget-concerns-questions/ ? WordPress has taken on a life of its own, and comments are appearing in odd places. My apologies!

    Read, or join the original thread here:

    https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/from-msad-to-rsu-where-are-the-savings/

    Like

  2. I would say anonymous doesn’t have kids at Katahdin. Why should our High School kids be shipped over to a school when they want to stay at Katahdin. As far as sports go. We barely have any extracurricular activities. To combine teams is to reduce the leve of participation. Also these kids take pride in the teams they compete on. Believe me sports are run bare budget. It is the superintendent that is spending your money wastefully. If we hadn’t of payed $20,000.00 to Great Schools Partnership and bought these stupid iPads we could have fixed a roof. The budget issue is a spending problem. They feel they can do whatever they want to. They do not care what you think.

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    • It doesn’t matter much whether or not “Anonymous” has kids at Katahdin. Though there are some on the Katahdin side who believe they will get money if they ship their own children north (though clearly a minority) others on the SACS side who believe they will get money if they take our children…. The State wants to pull money out of the entire district…. Taxpayers on both sides desperately want savings…

      The fact is, there are no savings to be had for ANYONE bussing our children so far. Of course, as a resident of Benedicta, I have no way to predict where our children will go. Would the U.T. bus some of our children to Katahdin Elementary and others to SA? …buy a second bus to do it when Schenck not only houses PreK-12 together, but is half the distance? We tuition our children from here, and I think it is about $250,000 total. RSU 50 is worried about declining enrollment? Ooooooooooooo. K. then.

      It’s too bad that the things that are the most important to kids are also the most visible to people in the community, and, so most vulnerable to the budget ax. Things like, apparently, solid gold turf grass are easily hidden.

      Our readers have the expertise to find the waste, if they could get a detailed budget.

      But the RSU needs two separate budgets; two school committees. Decisions need to be made as close to the kids as possible for real efficiency. The RSU took them further afield, with predictably bad results.

      Like

  3. First and foremost, I am far from happy with a Superintendent who looks after himself over the entire school system. Second, I am not impressed with people on a board that cannot stand up for the good of the people. If they are not “getting” what the Superintendent is doing–maybe you better study more and learn more options. Third, I feel it is time for consequences for those students who cannot go into ANY classroom and each need individual rooms to be worked with mostly because no one carries through with solid discipline. If students received consistent, firm, discipline they (and their parents) would realize this needs to stop.
    There are so many complaints about the Science teacher and yet nothing gets done. Perhaps the connection with the Superintendent from previous employment carries too much weight?? Also, there are teachers who are not really qualified to teach some subjects but are being put in that position at the expense of students education.
    Teachers are missing so much teaching time due to so many “meetings” out of the school, in the school, etc. You don’t think this isn’t costing the students good education??
    I have nothing against SACS or their people. I do have something against a Superintendent and a weak board who would take away from students their own identity by moving them out of their own element.
    There are definitely better ways. Listen to those who are beyond the board (local contractors and intelligent community members) who can see how we really can succeed and be effective within our own community. Let’s dig deep!!

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    • I feel fortunate to have the counsel of so many accomplished educators. For example, I once believed Superintendents are in charge of underwater fire prevention and little else. It’s the Board that wields the power. I asked someone, more qualified than Larry about this, and he said, “Well…. …it depends on what he ‘lets them know’…”. Some Board members listen to no one else, and feel they are doing the right thing. If that is the case, why have a Board at all?

      Cue the directive, “Do not even look at it!” of this website. I don’t know what is more pathetic; telling grown men and women what not to read, or those who would listen to such a thing.

      So, we averaged 128 views per day in April, and have 98 followers. Of course, there are those who read us but don’t want to “follow” us publicly.

      You gave me an idea! Kathreen Harrison, who writes “Rethinking Education” for the Bangor Daily News has some wonderful advice for Board Members, and school leadership. I’ll create another category for “School Leadership” or something like that so it will be easily accessible. This Board is in dire need of expertise. We do have some good Board members, and they know that deferring sensitive decisions to the Superintendent will not absolve them of the responsibility — the communities will call THEM to account.

      Costs continue to fall on kids, don’t they? …in terms of teachers time and attention too, in the way you describe.

      Surely there are those who accuse Katahdin’s community of parochialism, selfishness or even prejudice simply because they do not want to lose vital educational infrastructure, and shortchange their children by bussing them so far out of town, or incur other hardship for children and taxpayers. I don’t think it will stick. It’s been tried before, and got no traction.

      Children are not “regional units”; neither are taxpayers. Bringing the decision making closer to each of them, via separate budgets and committees, is more efficient and effective for everyone. There is a great deal of support for that, and schools can still share whatever they like.

      I am sick to death of the interests of our children being entirely at odds with the leadership’s vision, be it the militant, stripped-down sort of implementation of the asinine Common Core, lack of respect for kids’ attempts to inform the leadership, or further consolidation. There are those who believe kids will be better off for it. They are wrong, and I will not “shut up”.

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  4. Common Core???????????????????????????? this is the same brand of thinking that is all around us. NO BODY BEHIND AND NO WINNERS. This way of thinking, is disrespectful to the kids, and no drive to achieve more than the others. Thats why there is no public out-cry, allot of people do not want there children challenge, its easier. Just like the sports now, most of the coaches,not all, think that holding the team back is good sportsmen ship, BULL-SHIT. Let me make myself clear, this hole thing is going to SCREW up our KIDS and it will stay with them FOREVER. Speaking for my self, i have to listen to every thing i hear, because there is allot of BULL-SHIT going around. By the way,,,,,,,,,,, INDIANA STATE JUST KICKED COMMON CORE OUT ON ITS ASS. There kids mean something. If every body lets this SHIT go on, I WOULD NOT WANT TO BE YOUR,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,MIRROR,,,,,,,, NO WHAT I MEAN!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    • Apparently, the children of Arne Duncan, Bill Gates and other Common Core architects “mean something” — because they won’t let the Common Core NEAR them!

      Though the horrible Common Core is mandated, I’ve spoken with teachers in other districts who, given their autonomy and freedom to align in a child-centered way have been able to shield children from the worst of it; no spending $30,000 on Pearson Math programs (Our oldest has had fun laughing at all the errors in his Pearson text). Before the year began, I was in touch with the Math department at the Maine School Of Science and Math, when I was told Katahdin’s curriculum was poor by their standards. He recommended a text, and I found it, used for $5 — including a teachers’ edition!

      I hope you folks can make it to the Public Forum, where they will be discussing “scenarios” (building closures) on June 3rd. 6:00 at KES?

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  5. I am wild about the stuff that is going on, you are right Mr.T, This is getting out of control. Closing one school, will be the start of closing it all.

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    • Certainly no one wants to close any school! What people are telling me, is that they want to educate their children, K-12, at Katahdin — period. No sending Sherman tax money or Patten children to Dyer Brook. They are open to doing it in one building, if enrollments deem it appropriate, but they want Katahdin taxpayers, parents, Board representatives to decide; NOT people in Island Falls who want the money for SACS.

      Everyone I’ve talked to wants the decision to do this in one building or two to belong to themselves alone.

      Like

  6. YA!! YA!! good job JT, by the way, welcome back.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. There ya go, home run JT.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. All that is going on is bull!! I hope people will show up in big numbers to the June 5th budget meeting at SACS. Sports should be played competively. Academics excellence should be encouraged. The Valedictorian and Salutitorian was not even announced at the Katahdin’s high School Academic picnic. What is wrong with these people?
    I hope Mr. Tapley you will come out to the June Budget meeting. We need people like you who are up afraid to speak up.
    Ok one more thought, I have listened to different kids express their frustration this year, and I have come to realize that their views are not respected. Thank God a lot of them are outspoken, because we have no leadership.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The things that are going on at the big school, and you want are little kids there. What,, are you kidding me. JT what is your thought on the closing of the little school.

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    • Mrs. Cunningham is a wonderful principal, and would be in any building.

      Closing KES is not on the table, as it was rejected out of hand by the committee because elements of it want those children bussed North — along with your money.

      As long as pre-K – 12 stays on the Katahdin campus, people express to me that they are open to considering it — no one really wants it, including yours truly!

      Like

  10. CLOSING, STUPID, let our little kids stay innocent, and free to learn one step at a time. Not this miss manage out of control leader ship persuade our little people. Our little kids are in good hands with MRS. CUNNINGHAM . Yes i will try to be there, ALL HANDS ON DECK.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The kids need you, and people like you MR.T

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Yes i hope that too, MR. T

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  13. Ok, so when do WE get this thing together.

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  14. It is already together, you, me, them, us, stop this shit, stop the out of control spending, the miss management, the bull shit, the lies, the kids fear, and doubt , remember there only powerful when you allow it. I fight the fight every day for my kids, i will never STOP. We can do this…………………………………

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  15. You all no that every one of our children are worth the fight. When this is all over, you can look every kid in the eye and say, you are worth the fight. You are not a number, you do have a name, and you are special to this community. We will back your rights to learn, and have the opportunity to have the best education you can get. We do care. AND YOU ALL ARE WORTH IT.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The message to kids coming from this Board is so destructive… When they tried to communicate their feelings, via surveymonkey, in a mature, respectful manner, they were ignored! Larry lied about ever having seen it, and then-Chairman Phil Knowles barked, “It wouldn’t have mattered anyway!” – right in front of the student who had delivered it personally.

      Kids came to me for help, and I will give them everything I have. I am rightly a poor second choice. They should have been able to go to the Board, who has so much more power to help..

      Please, everyone, come out to the public forum, the budget meeting; a random Board meeting….. This website has taught me that people care very deeply.

      Like

  16. Your going to make me cry, MR.T

    Liked by 1 person

  17. As a start to our part in this, people are invited to attend an informational meeting with Rep. Rick Long on withdrawal from the rsu tomorrow night (Wed., May 28) at 6:00 pm at the Sherman Town office. You are all correct: We Can Do This!!! Please pass the word on this meeting as it is very short notice!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This author has a very obvious misunderstanding of how standards based education should be working. I want to point to question 13: “When parents have concerns about a science teacher at the high school, why are they not listened to? Why did she expect the freshman to do the same science fair project, not being able to take it home, not enough time or direction? Why would she cook at school for the kids? Teaching?”

    Parents have rights to be concerned. The role out of standards was not organized, true, but it is necessary. RSU 50 is operating far below the state average. A 4.0 GPA from SACS or Katahdin is not worth the same as a GPA from Portland. Why? Because the towns have lowered expectations of the students. Standards, and being held to those standards strictly is necessary for students from both communities to get back on track with the rest of the state.

    The science teacher in question gave the expected amount of time for a project to be competed for any 10th grader. Students were most likely not using class time wisely. This is something all RSU 50 classrooms seem to be lacking. There is also a lack of discipline. Students need to be held accountable for their actions, something that is most definitely not happening at either school. This is why being able to take a test over seems like a bad thing. I believe any student should be able to try to improve their grade, but poor assessment grades should equal loss of sports and detentions.

    Speaking of detentions why is there no common detention policy? That would help a lot of the problem right there.

    SACS needs an asst Principal, or Dean of discipline. One person can’t run that school and provide discipline in any timely manner.

    Also, “Teaching?” what a dumbass question.

    Like

    • How standards-based education SHOULD be working isn’t relevant. You gave “..an obvious misunderstanding…” of how it IS working.

      No one would argue with what the Common Core State Standards Initiatve, of which standards-based grading is a part, purports to accomplish. But further investigation quickly reveals how little the CCSSI is about children; about the sort of equity you describe.

      These “standards”, according to one of its own authors, are “…not for STEM, and not even for selective colleges” https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/01/21/go-home-dr-zimba-youre-drunk/. Canned curriculum materials are not aligned, as claimed, but DO “claim” premium tax dollars https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/study-despite-claims-many-textbooks-not-aligned-to-common-core/. They undermine equity https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/our-children-their-children/

      I would encourage you to delve into this ready to question. Timbered Classrooms curates quite a bit but I would also encourage you to visit Collapse the Core on Facebook. …a wonderful resource.

      Back to the experience at Katahdin: I do not know the teacher in question, and she has since departed… Complaints and concerns came from bright, well-mannered students, who use their time wisely and their parents. ..parents who could do nothing to help their children struggling to complete their projects because they were not allowed to. The Board was instructed to “throw away” letters from concerned parents, who were subsequently ignored. But, please, if you have knowledge or evidence of young people squandering their time, and shouldering some if the blame, this is the place to share it.

      Believe me, our family; my own children especially, have no patience with the time teachers must spend dealing with classroom management issues. They come to school ready to learn – ask any one of their instructors. For example, when I found out that the “warden” assigned to our son’s Grade 7 class was being paid more than my husband, an accomplished, award-winning educator in another district, I was livid. He should be teaching, not policing!

      More principals are not the answer, but more teachers; more people with whom these troubled children spend time and forge relationships with hold, according to research, the best hope.

      There are no “dumbass” questions here.

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  19. Another principal is definitely not needed, there are too few kids. If a person can’t discipline consistently, fairly, and effectively, they should not be running a school.

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  20. As my opinion stands clear to reality. Eventually the schools will become one. Bitch about on this blog or not, and blame SACS for everything but you should be encouraging your kids and adults to be trying to make RSU 50 work. Not making things worse. Your opinion as a citizen matters just as mine does. I graduated 4 years ago and know how Southern Aroostook DOES NOT get anymore than Katahdin. So you are wrong. I may be a young adult but I know being enemies is the wrong way to handle this situation. They have already explained that no one from Katahdin is going to SA, it was rumors.

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    • Cost-shifting, inherent in the RSU model, isn’t in dispute here – even by the Superintendent, from whom I have a letter acknowledging it.

      But before I go any further, I feel compelled to point out that SACS is not to blame, and I have not seen any evidence of this sort of thing on Timbered Classrooms; we are proud and delighted to welcome readers from all communities and beyond..

      Austerity has hit SACS, too, and our readers from the North of the district join us in our objection to the shift in resources from the classroom to “bureaucrats and wardens”…

      The Superintendent has spoken, privately, of his desire to close Katahdin in the “near future” to some of our readers while offering “personal assurances” he has no such intention to others. Someone IS “wrong”, certainly, but it isn’t me.

      “You need one high school” “Look you’re cutting programs now – close a building!” said the Superintendent. I appreciated his candor if not what it meant – that the “austerity” Katahdin students faced was unnecessary, deliberate and part of a larger strategy to hasten closure.

      Reports of specific examples of inequity from the inside are highly credible, and not denied by either the Board or Superintendent when presented publicly. Reports of unabated deliveries to SACS; boxes piled high, during a spending freeze at Katahdin are well-documented.

      The Board has publicly expressed a reluctance to invest in whichever school they intend to close, and their own assessment of the scenarios they are considering deem Katahdin the target.

      Timbered Classrooms links to the Board’s thinking on this, and offers its own analysis in our series, On the Table.

      Some good advice that I received when I was about your age, was, “never assume anything – question, question, question” and it served my well when I began studying the issue of consolidation 10 years ago, which defies our most basic assumptions about scale and efficiency. I would encourage you to do the same and make up your own mind. We have compiled empirical research from the finest minds anywhere under “school consolidation” (you can find it at our home page). But please – don’t stop there! Consolidation costs.

      Further consolidation is only inevitable, as you suggest, if people choose not to fight back against the costs; if they want quality, local, cost-effective schools, they will have to stand up for them.

      School closures follow a well-warn script designed to keep the public in the dark until the wrecking ball is in full swing; also designed to make it appear that there is no other choice.

      Though there is nothing but goodwill between schools here on Timbered Classrooms, I am not surprised by your assertions. The Superintendent has been eager to tar consolidation opponents with “selfish” brush. But sharing in an AOS model is very popular! Separate school budgets and Boards, but retain all opportunities to share! This is most efficient because cost shifting is expensive overall.

      Thank you for your input.

      Peace

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  21. You might want to do some research on the whole RSU deal. We were better when we were separate schools. It is not about blaming people. Since we joined the RSU costs have gone up, and our education has declined. More money does not make a better education. The more money given, the more spent. It is too bad they use scare tactics, that will never happen, excuses. I think it is wrong to think people are on here just to bitch. If people felt free to express their opinions, they would do so publicly. The powers that be do not want to hear disagreement. I am glad that as a young person you feel that you can put your opinion out there. I respect your opinion.

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