Monthly Archives: June 2014

Get rid of the Standards/Proficiency Grading at Katahdin

“It’s hard for a parent to hear, ‘Give me a year or two and I’ll fix that — their kid does not have a ‘year or two”” ~from Standards Based, A Maine Case Study 

  Parents want what works; what is best for their children, and, the “best and wisest” take their responsibility to demand such of policymakers to heart.  …time for a Hippocratic Oath for School Boards and Superintendents; “First, do no harm….”.  Please welcome our most popular author, cent7.  …and brace yourself, WordPress — the stats are about to go off the charts!  8723102_origThis year at Katahdin the freshmen were subjected to the new Standards Based Proficiency grading system.  They were totally unprepared to implement this system of grading, which makes me wonder why they bothered to start this when they did not have to.  Confidence in administration is already low, but this is not right to make guinea pigs out of the freshman class.  When you are unprepared to answer parents questions about grading, honor parts, and honor roll, common sense would dictate you are not ready.  Three different report cards, one which was 42 pages.  What can you say about that, crazy right!  It just furthers the belief that there is such a disconnect between administration and parents.  Administration can apply for an extension so they can be adequately prepared to implement this grading system.  This is a no brainer, figure out what you are doing so that kids are not guinea pigs for what could be another educational fad.  Show people you care about kids and do what’s best for them.  Go back to high expectations and grades.

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…from A Timbered Bookshelf – “Teaching the Commons” by Paul Theobald

51zQngwqtJL._SY300_“Theobald has written an impassioned, yet clear-headed defense of rural schools and rural communities… He has helped us to understand exactly why the fate of small towns is vitally important to the future of our nation… Anyone interested in American education — or, for that matter, in the nature of community — will benefit from spending a few hours in Theobald’s company.  He is a provocative and lucid social critic.”

~Osha Gray Davidson

 

 

On Research Based Policy – “The Political Economy of School Consolidation”

791066-My_introdution_to_Duck_and_Cover_Patten“…(“technical”) arguments, tiresomely repeated in the current round of school 
 closings, actually serve to conceal the social, political, and economic agendas intended to change the behavior of the affected parties (communities, parents, and students). Intentional concealment is all the more likely given recent empirical evidence discrediting substantial portions of the traditional “technical” arguments against small-scale schooling. 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,)

Read the work, in its entirety, here:

The Political Economy Of Rural School Consolidation

Political_Economy_Rural_School_Consolidation-1

“On the Table” Series Continues: #5 – “TABLED”

Review this and other Scenarios currently under consideration by the Futures Task Force (FTF):

 RSU50Scenarios

Folkard-Charles-Alice-Rabbit-Mad-Hatter-Tea-Party-Illustration-from-Songs-from-Alice-in-wonderland-1921

Scenario #5, where elementary grades would remain in place on either end of the district and a new 7-12 facility would be built in Crystal.  Happily the Committee had the sense to table it.  It really is utterly absurd.

The Committee did comment, though:

  • Few benefits involved
  • Would “appease” some stakeholders, but would not address current and future constraints.
  • Too draining on the budget or too much loss for each individual community
  • No cost savings
  • “not”

“Few” benefits?  The FTF does not say what those are, but I see “none”.  ..and who on Earth would be “appeased” by an asinine idea like this?  I don’t know what “stake” they are “holding”, but “appeasement”?  How about a first-class seat in a handbasket?  No; all seriousness aside, I recognize that I may be missing something here, so, please readers, enlighten me if you can?

That this would be “too draining on the budget”, and the “drain” would pull money away from kids, as construction projects; new facilities do, is a given.  But “too much loss for each individual community”?  Most of the other scenarios pull more children even farther away from their communities than this does; the losses are greater, so why does the concern of the FTF for this very serious issue disappear under them?  Once in a while, I ask a question I don’t already know the answer to — this is not one of those times….

In case you were wondering (and I don’t blame you) about the value in discussing Scenario #5 at all is the mindset of a committee that would propose such a thing, and even believe that it could garner even a modicum of support from “stakeholders seeking appeasement”.

Overall, this decision is going to come down to values.  WHO benefits, and on WHOM do the “challenges” fall?  Our readers have made themselves clear that benefits MUST go to kids and taxpayers, and challenges must fall on adults, namely administration.

We will see how the FTF weighs its decision.

“On The Table” – Scenario 4; “The Wheels on the Bus”

sbnite0214Review the Analysis of this, and other scenarios currently under consideration by the Futures Task Force:

RSU50Scenarios

Scenario 4 varies little from Scenario 3a and b.  In fact, it varies so little, that the Futures Task Force has apparently cut and pasted many of the benefits and challenges from Scenario 3a and b.  Here in Scenario #4, the Futures Task Force considers consolidating only the high school either at SACS (4a) or Katahdin (4b), but leaving the elementary grades in place.  (Well, it isn’t really considering consolidating the High Schools at Katahdin, for reasons outlined in “A Tale of Two Scenarios”.

“Administrative roles and support staff can be diversified, (i.e. Curriculum Coordinator, Assistant Principal)….”  — This is actually listed under “Benefits”!  A cue, certainly, that the hiring of Bureaucrats and Wardens” , which has frustrated taxpayers so will continue unabated, or, more likely, grow precipitously.

Another item, seemingly mis-filed under benefits is, “Co-curriculur opportunities may become more competitive, thus contributing to higher levels of performance (not limited to sports).”  So much for maximizing opportunity.  This is the very thing that researchers cite as a disadvantage to kids.  Does this Board seriously have such an issue with the “performance” of our fine young people that it wants to “weed” some of them out of the opportunity to participate?  I, for one, am proud of every one of those precious children, and I know I am not alone.  Readers?  Feel free to jump into the comments section anytime.  You can always come back to this part later.  I don’t know why, exactly, the prospect of “climbing” to Class C is also touted as a “benefit” — these aren’t letter grades, and one is not superior to another.

The striking thing about the “benefits” claimed by the FTF is WHO actually “benefits”.  ….and it isn’t kids or taxpayers, but administration itself.  Please keep this in mind, as we look at “Challenges”; on whom they fall the hardest:

“Challenges presented by both options include the assimilation of students and staff from one of the district’s facilities into the other… …”lost identity”… …loss of intimacy… …more competitive selection process for co-curricular opportunities” (Wait!  didn’t we just see this under ‘benefits’?) … …longer bus rides for some secondary children”  Anyway, these challenges fall squarely on the shoulders of kids.  But taxpayers are hardly spared, as “bureaucrats and wardens” are not alone in lining up to claim a share of their dollars.  The committee refers to bus route redundancy; “PK-6 students bussed separately than 7-12 students, even if they stand at the end of the same driveway” and “remodeling of classrooms and other school facilities that must be repurposed”  will cost our coffers dearly.  It looks as though “50 years of consolidation” has replaced educators with “bureaucrats” “wardens” AND a crap-ton of very expensive bussing… …as expensive to kids and communities as it is to taxpayers.

The analysis of benefits and challenges unique to 4a and b appear to have been copied and pasted from 3a and b, and are every bit as questionable.  4a, like 3a (consolidating the High Schools at SACS) is strongly favored by some on the committee, reflecting its dogged determination of some to shift  resources and kids North. I want to acknowledge the fact that others on the committee are acting in good faith, but it is safe to say that those who posed the question, “What do you know about building a new school?” to the Superintendent during the interview process, has an outcome in mind.

Under “data still required” the committee trots out Spruce Mountain and Oceanside – (sigh) AGAIN.  “Optional: contact schools where student relocations have occurred in recent years to gain their perceptions on the experiences of students, teachers and families.”  So why would research like this be “optional”?  Why would you not do likewise with schools that have opted to remain small, local and use their natural attributes to their advantage?  …and why, for the love of Pete, are you so focused on Spruce Mountain (geographically much smaller, so that expenditures in the receiving community benefit the sending one as wel… Oh, and by the way:  the communities of Spruce Mountain coughed up $44,000 each to keep the sending school open for Adult Ed., community purposes etc. because they recognized the liability and cost of abandoned infrastructure to a community.  Is RSU 50 planning the same thing?). Oceanside? …a hot mess from Bangor Daily News accounts.  If THIS is what Craig Kesselheim puts on his resume?  I’d hate to see what he leaves off….

A Timbered Bookshelf – “From Schoolhouse to Schooling System: Maine Public Education in the 20th Century” by Gordon A. Donaldson Jr. Ed.D.

“From Schoolhouse to Schooling System traces Maine’s efforts to educate its children and youth through the twentieth century. It is a story of high ambitions, changing economic fortunes, and the struggle to shape widespread community schools into a coherent system. Donaldson’s book offers a richly detailed description of the past and the lessons it serves up for the future.” ~Maine Authors Publishing

Donaldson_fromSchoolhousetoschoolingsystemlg

“From Schoolhouse to Schooling System: Maine Public Education in the 20th Century examines schools in six communities, Peru, Anson, Lubec, Houlton, Cumberland, and Bangor…”

“…The state’s forced consolidation of schools “was a case of 1920s-style thinking being applied to the 21st century world,” Donaldson said.  He also said the trend of grouping teachers in larger schools for the purpose of professional improvement was outdated by 1980.  “By that time, professional development and knowledge were readily available, and sending students to larger schools held no value.” he said.  “So the 2007 consolidation law made next to zero sense educationally”, Donaldson said

Read the entire review from “The Ellsworth American” here

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Small Schools that Work – Surry Elementary

Worse than the constant bemoaning of “declining enrollment”, and citing it for all of the serious issues RSU #50 currently faces, is the admission by this Administration that it cannot provide our students with a good education, and taxpayers value on their dollars at our current size and building array.   Our readers (who just passed the 100 mark!  Thank you all so much!) see even smaller schools than our own, not simply surviving but thriving around our State, and want to emulate them.  Schools like Surry Elementary, enrollment of 102, et. al. show us the advantages we already posses.  If this Administration does not know how to use them, then, perhaps the Board should find someone who does….  Of course that will, ultimately, be up to the communities…

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“”It’s all about doing whatever we need to do and keeping an eye on whatever is working.” said Principal Cathy Lewis.  Class size plays a role, too.  Surry, with an enrollment of 102 students is a small school. Class size ranges from 8 to 15 students.  “I would say it has a huge influence on the opportunity for connections.”  Lewis said.  “That’s personal connections where students feel they have a relationship.  The more opportunity there is for connections, the better it all works….””

Read the article by Jennifer Osborn of The Ellsworth American, here:  Surry Elementary 1

 

“On The Table” – A Tale of Two Scenarios, Consolidate North or South

“Options 3a and 3b are intentionally paired as two sides of the same coin: consolidate all students and staff to either the North end of campus, (3a), or the South end (3b)..”

RSU50Scenarios

stock-footage-three-apples-on-the-table-in-the-rain

Just as Scenarios 3a and 3b represent “two sides of the same coin”, benefits and challenges emanate from “two sides of the Committee’s mouth”.

“Significant cost savings would appear to be immediate due to the closure of facilities” is cited as a “benefit”.   Meanwhile, under “challenges”…

“Challenges unique to option 3a…” (let’s be honest, here – 3a is strongly favored; 3b is not under any serious consideration — more on why in a moment…) “..involve facilities constraints.  SACS does not have a dedicated auditorium or music instruction space.  The building will require a new heating system and the roof needs work. Science lab classrooms may need to be refurbished or expanded.”

“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

Now, as for why 3b is not “viable” to this committee:  The vehement objections to a research-based and popular solution — consolidating the Katahdin side only — revealed that NO solution that keeps Sherman/Patten/Stacyville/Mt. Chase children and tax dollars in their community is “viable” to those who want that money and Katahdin communities to invest in much needed renovations to SACS or a new school.

“You don’t save money, but you change who gets it.” ~Marty Strange

Before I became a mother, I worked in Economic Development.  I learned from the best, that the most effective way to build your community and local economy is to invest in pre-K-12 education, infrastructure, partner with universities to use buildings at night for online course opportunities…. But efforts to draw investment to your own community inadvertently result in a divestment from someone else’s.  The loss, certainly, does not fall on everyone equally.  Here, the pursuit of some on the Board simply to draw investment to their own community,  is a painful divestment from another — and from their children, as the research is clear that small, local schools are better for kids, taxpayers, communities and school boards. (Boards whose members are closes to the kids and taxpayers; who actually represent the same children and taxpayers, function more efficiently.) Indeed, small schools around the state are innovating, serving their children and communities so well, that Board members come from far and wide to learn from them.  What about our own?

Back to the FTF analysis:  Benefits “unique to 3a” (consolidating to SACS) are outlined:

~”locating all the regions students closer to Region 2″  …a shorter bus ride to Houlton also, in the view of the FTF, would expand academic opportunity as well.

“..a shorter bus ride to Houlton”? That is just silly.  The travel time to Houlton, for CTE or other opportunity will not change from where children LIVE.

This does speak to the flight of students – an alarming 70 in all, though.  Most who leave SACS are taking advantage of the opportunities in Houlton, while most who leave Katahdin are homeschooled.  Now, not all families can homeschool, on either end of the district, certainly.  More children from the SACS communities, however, have access to the opportunities Houlton presents, giving them far more options than children on the Katahdin side under 3a.  “You don’t get excellence without equity”, and the apparent lack of commitment to equity by the Administration and Board is a continuing concern.

Families opt to homeschool for a variety of reasons, certainly, and transfers… but Superintendent has said he has spoken to only “..a couple”.  Aren’t you even a bit curious?

These figures are as clear as they are  alarming.    If this Board cannot fathom how to compete with Houlton, then, 3a should give its members pause.  When asked if he had spoken with families pursuing other options, the Superintendent said, “A couple”.  Well, I have spoken with more than “a couple”.  I hope the Board will too.  “It’s not them, it’s you”.

Advantages to 3b involve facilities: “..dedicated space for school performances and for music instruction, sufficient spaces for administrative offices (we can’t have cramped administrators!) playing fields and an environmental studies ecosystem resource behind the middle school.”

Challenges include “…closure of the SACS facility, a related problem in finding a new location for the Region 2 Forestry program”  How about the “environmental studies ecosystem resource”?  I don’t mean to suggest that I support EITHER 3a or b.  I don’t.  The auditorium is small — too small for concerts, and you had better get tickets to plays early!

Another challenge to 3b… “The end of day travel time from Region 2 back to Katahdin would reduce academic course options for this population”.   Does the Region 2 bus typically return students to their sending school in time for more courses?  …or do they spend the entire CTE day at Region 2 in any case?  Would the Region 2 bus depart Houlton early enough in the day to afford students academic courses at, say, SACS?

“A PK-12 school on either end of the district would likely choose to rally around the creation of a new school name and mascot, similar to the recent experiences of Spruce Mountain (Jay/Livermore Falls) and Oceanside (Rockland/Georges Valley).  This phenomenon is not foreign to the RSU 50 Communities’ own history of past consolidation.  In other words, it can be done.”

Yes, memories of past consolidations are alive and well, but if you think for a minute that they will make it easier in the future?  Call me. I have some oceanfront property in Benedicta to sell you.

Anyway, a closer look at the models this committee has chosen to emulate would be valuable here, wouldn’t it?

First, Spruce Mountain.  The combined square mileage of Jay/Livermore Falls is but a fraction of RSU #50’s.  Transportation here would be far more daunting.  Jay and Livermore, consolidated in name before a building, adopting a new name and mascot with “North and South” campuses.  After taxpayers rejected a $5 million request for renovations to the former Jay H.S., they did approve nearly $2 million.  The former Livermore Falls H.S. building remains open for Adult Ed summer recreation at a cost of $132,000; $44,000 each from Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls.   How much would Sherman voters approve to renovate SACS? …or keep Katahdin open for Adult Ed.?  Abandoned infrastructure is a liability to a community, certainly, but don’t ask children to ride a bus further than you are willing to drive for Zumba!

Oceanside is interesting, as Mr. Kesselheim touted his work with the communities of RSU 13 as he introduced himself to RSU#50.  Here, one of many Bangor Daily News article describing the turmoil and the cost.  St. George is in the midst of a rather acrimonious withdrawal effort from the RSU…. So, where do we sign up?

Though the FTF intends that a scenario selected here would serve as a transitional one enroute to a new school, it acknowledges the possibility that 3a or b could well become permanent.  That is more than likely, and may well be the intent of some on the committee.  Once taxpayers have footed the bill (which of course will be more than the estimates) for all the renovations to SACS, how eager will they be to break ground on a new structure?  A new school in the center of the district appears, at first glance, more equitable than shifting all infrastructure, children and economic/community development potential to one side, and thus may garner more support than the latter.   Perhaps the “transitional” claim is intended to soften the loss some on the Board are determined to inflict on Katahdin’s communities.  Just a thought.

Now let’s hear yours…

 

SPECIAL BOARD BUDGET MEETING, MONDAY JUNE 30 KES 7PM – “If At First, You Don’t Succeed….

…try doing it the way your mother told you in the beginning.” ….or, in this case motherS, fathers, grandparents, kids and community members of this district.

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Here is the agenda for the Special Board Budget Meeting on Monday, June 30 at Katahdin Elementary School, 7pm.  The absence of “Time Period to Hear from Citizens” is striking.  After the budget vote, the Board needs to “hear from citizens” now more than ever….

Please, let the Board hear from you! …and don’t forget to tell us, here at “Timbered Classrooms”, too!   Thank you for your interest and advocacy for children and taxpayers.

    AGENDA – Special Board Budget Meeting

 

 

 

 

Your Two Cents…

megaphone-woman-vintage-photo-cropped-can-you-hear-me-now11So, the 2014 budget was buried in a landslide on Tuesday.

There is a great deal in the message voters send, that the ballot does not tell.  ….so much the Board needs to know as it proceeds.

Here is a chance to clarify the message you sent with your vote!  Won’t you take a moment and answer our brief poll?  Well, it needn’t be brief, if you would be so kind as to post a comment as well.

Where do Board priorities diverge from your own?  Which ones do you like?  How could they rework the budget to better serve children with available resources?  What would a “yes” budget look like to YOU?

From Our Series titled, “On the Table” – Scenario Option #2

“What do you know about building a new school?” ~Interview question posed to Mr. Larry Malone when he was a candidate for his current position.  …also the sound of the school closure train leaving the station…

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View “Scenario #2, as well as other Visions of the Futures Task Force, here:

RSU50Scenarios

The second option on the table for the Futures Task Force is “..building a new, PK-12 structure and ‘decommissioning’ all current school facilities in the RSU..” apparently “received a very strong endorsement from the FTF membership”.

Of course, as usual, no supporting research was offered.

The “benefits” they cite are listed below, contrasted with what the research actually says:

~”site neutrality” : According to the research, this will not look like any sort of advantage, come budget time.  Research highlights the increased difficulty in raising funds where communitie’s sense of ownership is diminished by both size and distance.

~”coordination of services” : This may help you fill you buzzword bingo card, but beyond that…. “coordinating” children from a 400+ square mile district under one roof is an anathema to efficiency and convenience.

Since I became involved in school issues, I’ve been struck by the adult-centered mindset.  In conversation with a Board member, for example, a brief mention of an AOS model of governance,  was met with, “Oh!  For a Superintendent that’s….!”  “…a pain in the butt..?” I finished.  “I know”.  Why was “Superintendent convenience” foremost in his mind? What about kids and taxpayers?  The closer decision makers are to kids, the more sense decisions make to them, their parents and communities.  Our readers have been very clear about who comes first in THEIR minds.

~”educational opportunities and staffing” : Research shows that that bigger is not better; larger schools do not necessarily offer more, and face diminished participation due to distance and more competition for available spots on sports teams, in plays and in classes.

~”creation of a new multi-community asset” : To which communities does this new “asset” belong?  Not to all of those that must pay for it, certainly, as distance undermines access a great deal.  Children are not regional units.

~”efficiencies that accompany a regional location” :  What is more inefficient, and archaic, from the standpoint of children and taxpayers than bussing long distances every day, that thwarts achievement and diminishes participation.  Research shows that these “regional” schools do not accomplish more, even in cases where they do offer more choices (which is not a given).  Participation rates clearly fall.  Yes, it is convenient, though certainly not more “efficient” for a Superintendent to have all his or her charges under one roof, but at what cost?

A regional perspective; assets that belong to everyone and no one; presents just one of many stark differences between the way children grow and learn, and the way people think.  Buildings don’t educate children, people do.  Parents who have seen their children go without will want to know why there is money for new construction but none for their kids….

Good luck with that.

RSU #50 Budget Vote – Yes = 128 No = 533

RockwellBelow, please find the Computation and Declaration of Votes for the RSU #50 Budget Validation Referendum held June 17, 2014, as issued:

 RSU #50 Computation and Declaration of Votes

 

Budget Results for Sherman

“The Town of Sherman had a total of 146 votes cast. There were 15 “yes” votes and 131 “no” votes.”

From our “On the Table” Series – Scenario #1 – “Keep the Current Building Array”

The first in our “On the Table” Series, this is a close reading of Scenario #1 currently under consideration.  The FTF analysis of this and others can be found here:

RSU50Scenarios

 

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Scenario #1 – Retain Current Building Array

Here, we look at the first Scenario under consideration by the Futures Task Force (FTF).  Well, not really under any serious consideration as it was dismissed by its members at the beginning as unworthy of consideration.  But that raises serious questions:  If you believe the state of our educational infrastructure is untenable?  …and the only solution you are pursuing is further consolidation?  Schools of similar size and smaller are the pride of other Maine communities.  Schools the size of Katahdin do not “die”; they are killed, for the mistakenly perceived economic development purposes of the potential receiving community.  How do you “kill” a school, and simultaneously invest in the children within? Is, “…if we could get a building condemned, that would solve our problem!” Is that the language of investment and pride?

I’ll leave that to our readers to answer….

The FTF lists “small class size” as a “challenge”, though parents, communities and private schools would tout it as an advantage.  As vital as teachers are, they are also the most visible – and low teacher/student ratios drive business-minded people crazy. So crazy, in fact that they are willing to spend more to relinquish this natural advantage, that elite private schools, are larger urban ones spend a great deal to emulate, than it would cost to maintain it.

We hear “duplication of services” quite a bit, and it bears remembering that services children receive are “duplicated” elsewhere as well.  Are educational services in Houlton “redundant”?  Bangor?  Alaska?  The Pre-K-12 units are 20 miles apart, and much farther for children.  Distance costs, it does not save.  The view of the leadership, that services offered to Katahdin’s children are “redundant” and should be eliminated is unsubstantiated.  RSU 3, touted as a model for RSU 50, is a similarly large district in terms of square miles — with 8 schools.

To deem Katahdin “inviable” is an admission that children within are presently being shortchanged, and parents reject the notion that it is “unavoidable”.  Our readers are clearly as committed to small, local quality and cost-effective education as the leadership is to dismantling it.

Small schools around the state that serve their children, taxpayers and communities very well cast doubt over claims that our decline is “unavoidable”.  I would like to share with you a passage from a letter I received from a parent in Stockton Springs:

“…Searsport High School has worked hard at coming back from losing their accreditation in the 90’s and has been working towards becoming a STEM school. The program is so popular and successful here that schools in Maine, New England and beyond have visited our campus and talked with teachers and students for advice and direction. The superintendent said more schools needed to close and he had Searsport High School on the chopping block even though our test scores were higher than Belfast and even though we are so close to becoming a STEM school. He wanted to move us into a school that is too small and falling apart, while our school is newer with modern improvements and state of the art lab, etc. If we moved to Belfast, we would have had to use modular classrooms as the school isn’t big enough to accommodate us. That was Belfast’s way of being able to say to the state they need a new school sooner rather than later. Basically it boils down to our communities wanting local control of our school tax dollars and control over keeping the momentum going with creating a STEM school..”

MDOE reports enrollment figures of 156 for Searsport District H.S.  Have any of our Board members gone to Searsport?  Perhaps Easton, with an enrollment of 100?

Claims that a larger, consolidated school would maximize opportunity are unfounded both anecdotally, and in the research.

“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)” ~https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/education-on-a-human-scale/

“Ted Sizer said no school — elementary, middle, or secondary — should have more than 200 students.” ~http://www.schoolreport.com/schoolreport/articles/schoolsize_9_98.htm

“Even the smallest schools (100-200 students) are able to offer core curricula comparable to schools of more than 1,200…” ~https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/jack-and-the-giant-school/

“The percentage of student participation has been shown to peak in high schools with 61 to 150 students.” ~http://www.schoolreport.com/schoolreport/articles/schoolsize_9_98.htm

 

More recommended reading, excerpts:

“Given that educational administrators have, in many cases and situations, held considerable power, school consolidation has often been achieved by over-riding public opinion on the basis of claims about the educational and financial benefits of larger schools. These alleged benefits are not supported by any significant evidence, and the more researchers have looked at the question of school size, the more clear it becomes that small schools are actually superior” ~Education on a Human Scale

 

“… Impoverished places, in particular, often benefit from smaller schools and districts, and can suffer irreversible damage if consolidation occurs….” ~ Beware the Oversimplifiers

“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 & Sense – The Cost Effectiveness of Small Schools

 

Children are not “regional units”, and are not scaleable.  Not only do they stubbornly resist our attempts to align childhood with how we think, but they cost dearly.  The research and community aspirations are clear, that Pre-K – 12 on either side of this district is warranted.

Fin

What’s “On The Table”? School Divestment and Closure…

rearrange-deckchairs-and-ignore-sinking-1Here, we offer up the Futures Task Force’s own analysis of the scenarios purportedly being considered.  “Purportedly” as the recent public forum revealed a fierce resolve toward further consolidation, and bussing of children — regardless of the cost, against which the research (none of which is cited by this committee) and our own experience with RSU “growing pains” so clearly warn us.

Read the draft analysis, as released by the FTF itself RSU50Scenarios

In the coming days, we will examine them further, so watch this space!

They are your children, your tax dollars and your schools …and YOU are integral to these decisions.

 

RSU 50 Déjà Vu: 5 Critical Issues That Are Destroying Our School

We have so much to learn from the fine young people, for whom we gather here at Timbered Classrooms.  No matter your position, your experience… Such a perspective is the most enlightening.  Our young people are closest to the learning process, and know so much that we do not.  So listen.  Listen completely.
newfield-school-changes-2

As it stands, there are currently 6 student days left in my junior year at Katahdin High School. When 9:30 a.m rolls around on June 18th, I will finally have the relief that I have been seeking for months on end. While this year is wrapping up, many of the same issues that were plaguing the minds of students last year at this time have rolled back around. Sadly, there are numerous new issues that are concerning the student population about the upcoming 2014-15 school year. As a very vocal student, I have to ask myself why I even begin to try to fit for my beliefs and opinions. Although I was assured by administration last year that all of the troubles brought forth by the end of the school year would be resolved for this year, It is evident that this isn’t the case. From a student’s view, what changes are needed to create a more positive, enjoyable learning environment? While I could go on forever, I will list a few of my own and other students biggest worries.

1. Why aren’t we doing anything to retain our GOOD teachers? The end of this year has marked another spring that resignations have been flying into the superintendent’s office. The sad thing is that more than half of our teachers who literally commit their lives and dedicate an excessive portion of their day to the students of KHS are the ones who are choosing to leave. What is wrong here? Our teaching salary and expectations in no way match up. You can’t expect a teacher who spends 10 hours of their day and countless hours at home to have a desire to stick around. I know that all of our teachers do what they do for the students, but they get sick of things just as easily as the students do! Maybe it is time that we look into this a little bit more considering by the start of next year more than 3/4 of our staff were not there during my freshman year. The constant changing of personnel severely impacts the students needs whether the administration realizes this or not!

2. We would all act like adults if you treated us like one!  What is even logical about a more than six-hour school day that contains no breaks, limited time for lunch (which is restricted to solely inside now), and no additional freedoms? When I Was a freshman we were allowed to wear hats, eat lunch anywhere we wanted (inside or outside), enjoy a 15 minute break (in the hall too, and no one felt “unsafe”), have a 40 minute lunch (we could also leave the cafeteria after we were done eating), and we were all around treated like young adults. What is so wrong with making school a fun place? You can’t even go in the hall or library without being watched on camera. What harm does it do to let us as teenagers to eat lunch outside, get some fresh air, and burn off some energy. Taking away or limiting personal freedoms is the WORST thing that the administration can do to the students. If the logic behind the no breaks is that students are intimidated to walk by others in the hall, how is this even realistic to real life? School is about preparing students for adulthood.  I currently don’t know of one student who is pleased about school next year, especially due to limited freedom (or should I say no freedom?). We are all beginning to wonder when the bars are going to be installed on the windows!

3. No study halls is the worst idea…ever.  Sure not every student does work every single study hall, but when it needs to be done the period is used wisely. What about the students who need that free block to get help from a peer or teacher? Not every student has the time and privileges to do their work at home (especially since ipads are not allowed to be taken home). And what about 8 blocks of classes per day? This has to be the worst thing you could do to a student. If this was Bangor High School with plentiful classes to choose from, then I don’t see an issue. Our course offerings are so poor and limited that this is not going to work for the students. You are going to have a student taking a class they hate but are forced to take, causing them to perform poorly and develop an ever more negative attitude towards school. And what about for the student who finds school challenging? This is going to cause them to struggle even more having to keep up with such a heavy work load. All around, it is going to hinder student growth and achievements and not help us in any way, shape, or form.

4.Why isn’t the administration listening to and respecting student concerns? I have been bringing up the same issues or problems with the administration and school board for years. Sadly, it was a waste of my time. Nothing has been changed. This is the case for many students. They are being unfairly treated by the administration for expression their concerns. Can’t we really do our job and serve our towns with the BEST interest for the students? Isn’t that what administration is elected to do? The administration has no right to bully a student for sharing a valid concern.

5. If we are so poor, why can’t we prioritize our needs? If the budget really is such a big concern, then why are we giving the superintendent a 2% raise, why did we just purchase useless iPads, and please remind me why we have resources that cost $$ that we don’t even use (Compass Learning, etc.). It is time that we learn to prioritize our needs in order to best serve the students of RSU 50. This can be done both educationally and fiscally. Not only would I love to have a literal honors class, I would also be glad to have another teacher who could expand our program of studies. Learn to cut only what isn’t going to impact our education!

While I could go on for hours on end, I have tried to paint the best picture I possibly could without giving all of the wonderful community members, parents, students, and staff who keep up with this blog. These problems and then some are causing our school district to lose students, staff, and morale. It is only a matter of time before the damage is irreversible! Please feel free to connect with me in the comments section of this page if you have any questions, comments, etc. for me. I would love to hear from you! ~Guest Student Author

Standards Based Grading at Katahdin

 

We have been admonished that Standards Based Grading is “…not going away…”.  Given the opposition to this, and the Common Core from parents, and policymakers alike, no one can be terribly sure.  All parents can be certain about is that they are NOT “…going away….”  Please welcome cent7, and press this astute assessment of Standards Based Grading into better policies for our children.

550px-Hold-a-Guinea-Pig-Step-3

This year at Katahdin High School, the freshmen were guinea pigs for Standards Based grading.  The administration rolled out the standards, not fully knowing how report cards or grading was done.  This is a 1-4 system, which does not allow for honor roll this year.  There may or may not be a valedictorian.  How would you have one, if you have no grades?  I don’t see how this is a good thing.  Why don’t we want our kids to work hard, to achieve, and be the best they can be.  Why would you implement something you are not ready for.  Why would you put something into practice without fully communicating your expectations to parents, teachers, and students.  Is this just another hoop we are asking students and teachers to jump through.  Then I find out that we do not have to implement this until 2020.  Parents of upcoming freshmen and next years sophomores should be very concerned about this.  We should be able to go back to the good old A through F system until this is fully ready to put into practice until 2020.  By then they probably won’t even use it.  Why should our kids be the guinea pigs for this system, which is not ready.  A 42 page report card, really, isn’t that the craziest thing.  I got news for administration, no parent wants to look at something that broad.  One page with grades is all we need. As parents, we need to have some say in our kids education,  we need to get together and demand that this be put on the back burner until they are fully prepared.  Lets work on getting this changed for our kids.

Quote

“School consoli…

“School consolidation thus involves a great expense of time and money that might be better spent in the education and upbringing of children.”
~Wendell Berry

berry

NOT a Business… Rethinking Schools Online

p6_educationfactory_2aWhen I hear admonitions, to “run schools like a business”, it’s hard not to scream.  (I will try, but I’m not making any promises.)  This is a wonderful essay, for the teaching profession…

“We have to remember, education is education, a humane and human process. It is not competition or production. It is not a business, and business leaders really don’t know much about it. Education is not their area of expertise….

…As educators, we need to shed our subordinate status and sense of inferiority. We should assert that schools work best when educators,in dialogue with parents and other citizens?are recognized as far more competent to design educational experiences than corporate officials.”

Rethinking Schools Online.

Anything But Research-based: State Initiatives to Consolidate Schools and Districts: Rural School & Community Trust

tumblr_mxmm5mTJUX1snh17co1_1280“The consolidation of schools and school districts is an ongoing issue in most of rural America. Each year hundreds of communities face the closure of their local school or the loss of their local school district-and the school governance positions associated with the district. State policies promoting consolidation have existed for most of the 20th and now 21st centuries. Indeed, the numbers of schools and districts in this country have been drastically reduced, despite burgeoning school populations. The research evidence supporting this widely implemented policy, however, is virtually non-existent. In fact, research on the effects of school size on student achievement and well-being is extensive, spans the political spectrum, and is unusually consistent in its findings that small size benefits students, especially students who are at risk for educational difficulties. Why then do so many states continue to develop consolidation policies that are anything but research-based?…”

The Rural School and Community Trust answers this, and other questions surrounding school consolidation in a truly research-based manner, and is a wonderful resource for policymakers.  Read the entire article here:  via Anything But Research-based: State Initiatives to Consolidate Schools and Districts: Rural School & Community Trust.

Dollars & Sense – The Cost Effectiveness of Small Schools

l-All-my-ducks-in-a-rowThe research here, in this document published by the Rural School and Community Trust, speaks especially well to the discussion that took place at the recent public forum.  The Futures Task Force will be making recommendations to the Board about school closure very soon.   Make no mistake, minds have clearly been made up here, to pursue policies that are anything but research-based.  Our hope is, that the community will start here, at Timbered Classrooms, for research to shape their own positions, but not stop here.  Keep learning.  They are our children, after all…

Get the full pdf here: Dollars & Sense  …or keep scrolling for excerpts.

“Even though people may appreciate the benefits of small schools, too many think that the cost of such schools is prohibitive. To answer their concerns, Dollars & Sense summarizes research on the educational and social benefits of small schools and the negative effects of large schools on students, teachers, and members of the community, as well as the “diseconomies of scale” inherent in large schools. As the research shows, measuring the cost of education by graduates rather than by all students who go through the system suggests that small schools are a wise investment. In addition, Dollars & Sense answers two fundamental questions: can small schools be built cost effectively, and has anyone done so? Using data drawn from 489 schools submitted to design competitions in 1990-2001, Dollars & Sense answers both questions with a resounding yes, demonstrating that small schools are not prohibitively expensive. Investing tax dollars in small schools does make sense.”

“…They (School Boards) may think that renovation is a poor investment, because they don’t recognize the value of the existing structure and infrastructure and they don’t accurately estimate the costs of new construction. “Hidden costs” for new buildings may include significant expenses such as “water and sewer line extensions, student transportation, and road work” (Beaumont & Pianca, 2000, p. 18). Savings that could be gained by continuing to use existing services (and the value of even the shell of a facility) are often omitted from the equation when school boards consider renovation versus new construction. The benefits of renovating a school instead of building a new one go beyond the purely economic….”

“….Don’t Confuse Small Schools with “Schools Within a School” Many people realize that large schools are far from ideal places in which to teach and learn. Creating schools-within-a-school (SWaS) is one strategy for reducing school size. It is appropriate only to make use of an existing large high school building; it is not advisable to build a new facility so that it can be turned into SWaS. In more sparsely populated rural areas, a SWaS still draws students from a wide geographic area, so that many of them travel long distances to and from school. 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….”

“…the idea persists that however beneficial small schools may be, they are prohibitively expensive. This report finds a contrary result by looking more closely at the supposed economies of large schools. Adding up the costs and weighing them against the benefits shows that small schools not only are better places in which to educate children, but that large schools themselves actually create significant diseconomies…”

 

 

Vote Tonight!

imageThursday, June 5, 2014

District Budget Meeting

7:00 p.m.

Southern Aroostook Schools

“Voters present will cast their ballots on each of the warrant articles outlined in this report”

RSU 50 Annual Report with the Proposed Budget Information for FY15

Impressions On Last Evening’s Public Forum…

images-7Here, I would like to share with you the view of last evening’s Futures Task Force Public Forum from my own chair, and hope you will do the same, whatever your position.  Please feel free to add your perspective to the comments section, or contact me at, atimberedchoir@gmail.com to join the author roll.  (Sometimes comments have a way of migrating to posts in any case.)

Throughout this process, there have been those who take my disagreement for disrespect.  Fortunately, none of them were at the table with me.  Discussions were very good, perhaps in spite of our tendency to go off on tangents, or, just maybe, because of it.  Oh, if every entry in the RSU checkbook could be discussed so by our readers, among whom lies such a wealth of educational expertise!  We could be sure kids are getting an optimal return on every.  single.  dime.  The community has some very serious doubts about that now, to say the least.  The disincentive to invest optimally in a school long targeted for closure; the determination of Board members to shield administrative costs from austerity measures fuels suspicion,  as well.

Early on, Mr. Tapley spoke to the distance of the FTF; the whole process of decision-making from the needs of kids.  He is absolutely right about that, according to the research that shows that regional Boards are, in fact, less responsive to them, as well as our own experience with the RSU governance.  A Board member who recently resigned, was not present last night, but has spoken to this as well, often in the face of fierce objection.  Her own resignation letter, read aloud by Mr. Ryan at the time, as well as Mrs. Lane herself confirm Mr. Tapley’s account of the circumstances spurring her departure.  It isn’t easy to say uncomfortable things  publicly, or anything for that matter, (I am sure I am not alone in regretting being tongue-tied) or to hear them, but we are better for it.  Thank you for that.

Ground rules for the recommendation process, like “every child, every community – matters equally”  are very good.  Admonitions that “some ideas need time to steep” “a good idea to some is scary to others” …are a bit condescending.  It suggests that people do not have a clear understanding of the issue of school consolidation, but our readers do.  Several scenarios being considered were discussed around small group tables.  (Well, at ours, kind of…).  Sometimes it isn’t what we debate, but what we don’t.  Assumptions surrounding school consolidation; putting kids together in a district that spans 400+ square miles will “enhance opportunity” stubbornly persist in the face of evidence to the contrary, and no proof is necessary.

““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….”

Those who say small schools are not “efficient,” or effective, need to cite the evidence, not just the rhetoric. The nation’s 25,000 nonpublic schools have an average enrollment of only 200. The average size of Pennsylvania’s nonpublic schools is fewer than 160. That of the new charter schools is only about 200, and many have fewer than 100. – School Size: Bigger is Not Better by David W. Kirkpatrick School size: Bigger is not Better

So how to they provide a rich curriculum without bussing?  Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions.  Rather than “Can we afford to educate kids at the Katahdin campus” to, “HOW can we afford to”. At the moment, there is no choice.  Though the board has expressed a reluctance to invest in any school slated for closure, as long as kids occupy it… Remember the ground rule, “All children are equal”.  That means children today are as deserving of a quality education as those of tomorrow.  The prevailing impression is, that the administration is trying to do that via long-term (and unproven) consolidation measures, and is likely overlooking  other innovations, like online, careful scheduling, cuts in cost centers that don’t directly affect kids in favor of faculty etc. that kids need now.   Concerns surround, too, as I said before, of a disincentive to do so that may blunt support for the closure of Katahdin.

I have learned a great deal from this website, thanks to our readers who so generously share their views with us, and complete our polls.  I believed, (well, I still do) in the promise of consolidating the Katahdin side.   The idea enjoys tremendous support from our readers, and the community.  Representative Long has advised us that Katahdin High School was built for, and has, indeed, housed, more students than are currently enrolled at both of Katahdin’s schools, and I was not prepared for the vehement opposition to it from Chairman Ryan et. al. from the North Side of the district (I  apologize — I cannot remember names).  This was especially surprising given that Mr. Kesselheim initially pointed out that the SACS side would be unaffected.  …of course the savings supposedly benefits everyone throughout the district.  What does it matter where in the district support for this comes from?  Everyone matters equally, right?

I do hope that the Board will keep and open mind and consult with districts who have done this, (Schenck comes to mind, but there are others) and of course speak with our Representatives in the Maine Legislature.  Rick Long, of course, and also Sen. Roger Sherman understands consolidation issues very well. Both have been very gracious and helpful.

Evidently, getting all the kids for each grade across the district under one roof, or two at most, is a priority for the administration and much of the Board. In fact, “robust class size” was listed as a benefit of the sort of consolidation to one side or the other. No supporting research was offered, and given the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I have no choice but to disagree. The Superintendent warned of costs to renovate the High School for younger students; moving monkey bars and the like, as significant to prohibitive while brushing aside transportation concerns.

And so, a picture emerges that is difficult to address.  We at Timbered Classrooms were advised some time ago, by a prominent local citizen that, for some, the RSU model represented an opportunity to utilize resources from a wider geographic area to fund and fill a new building that some on the Board have wanted for some time. According to the Superintendent himself, an interview question before he was hired was, “What do you know about building a new school?”.  Though people on the Katahdin side of the district are very eager to share central office costs, and yes, microscopes? …and the like.   …ultimately, they want to keep their children, and tax dollars close to home and continue to invest in local infrastructure to mutually benefit kids and the community. The AOS model; a single central office but separate boards and budget is also very popular.

The research tells us that the closer decision makers are to kids, the better. I haven’t found any interest on this end in a new school — either in attending it or paying for it.   It isn’t as simple as North and South, though, as there is ample discontent with the RSU model on both sides.  However, therein lies the point of contention between various stakeholders: those who want all the kids and resources under one (new) roof, and those who want to bring the resources to where the kids live.  The research is overwhelming in support of the latter, and no counter studies have been on offer as yet.  Of course they are welcome and Timbered Classrooms would happily publish them here.

At the meeting, we were welcome to point out biases.  Well, we are all human, and therefore are ALL biased in some way.  I try to be very conscious of what shapes my view of consolidation, and keep an open mind to the research.  Consolidation proponents, such as those who led last night’s meeting, are not accustomed to being asked to cite evidence and have long relied on our incorrect assumptions.  I used to believe that consolidation was worth the bus rides; size = quality, but I followed the studies.  Research is better than a crystal ball, and knowledge of how the world works is the best defense against the ravages of it.

That’s enough about me!  Your turn, readers:)  Thank you to the Task Force for hosting this meeting, and please, continue to welcome the expertise on our side of the Board table into your policymaking.

P.S.  There is a lovely little school in Benedicta, with a new, efficient geothermal heating system… built for 100 children.  Just sayin’…

 

 

 

 

Research on School Consolidation: A Snapshot

The research on School Consolidation is clear, yet so counterintuitive and surprising  and, subsequently, not readily accepted — in spite of the stellar credentials of those who conduct it.  Sadly, it isn’t what you don’t know, but what you know for sure; “going with your gut” so to speak,  that leads to so many disastrous decisions especially for rural kids.  Here, Timbered Classrooms offers an overview of the research we have compiled on the  topic,  to be read, (or, apparently, ignored!) at a glance… Link to the original post, or continue to link to the research behind it — it is all here for you.

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“…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…”  https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/how-big-is-too-big/

“…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…”

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/umaine-prof-says-school-reorganization-law-proving-more-negative-than-positive-consolidation-effort-based-on-false-premise-not-backed-by-research/

“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….”

“…Those who say small schools are not “efficient,” or effective, need to cite the evidence, not just the rhetoric. … The nation’s 25,000 nonpublic schools have an average enrollment of only 200. The average size of Pennsylvania’s nonpublic schools is fewer than 160. That of the new charter schools is only about 200, and many have fewer than 100. 

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/size-matters/

“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.”

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/lessons-from-our-history-old-study-weighs-school-consolidation-costs/

“A wave of research from around the country shows that consolidation does not improve schools or lead to better academic results…”

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/maine-school-consolidation-a-reorganization-report-card-and-food-for-thought-in-rsu-50/

“I have always been opposed to school consolidation although the fact that it costs more money was not my initial reason…” 

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/i-have-always/

“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….”

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/humble-on-the-rsu-law/

“Thousands of Maine people have seen the results of consolidation and are working to extricate themselves from the mess. Not only did taxes go up to pay for the mess, small towns lost their sense of community, lost their voice in the educational process and were continually steamrolled…”

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/a-humble-opinion-2/

“The public school, separated from the community by busing, (for whatever reason), government control, consolidation and other “advances”, has become a no-man’s land, a place existing only in reference to itself and to a theoretical “tomorrow’s world”.”

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/wendell-berry-on-school-consolidation-2/

“…all this bus travel was damaging to the lives of my children both at school and at home. Moreover, the grade school that my children attended was nine miles, and their middle and high schools twelve miles, from home, well beyond the range of close or easy parental involvement. School consolidation thus involves a great expense of time and money that might be better spent in the education and upbringing of children.”

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/wendell-berry-on-school-consolidation/

“…contemporary research does not support claims about the widespread benefits of consolidation. The assumptions behind such claims are most often dangerous oversimplifications. … Research also suggests that impoverished regions in particular often benefit from smaller schools and districts, and they can suffer irreversible damage if consolidation occurs….”

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/beware-the-oversimplifiers-2/

“…The research of the last thirty years clearly justifies educational policies that support the creation of new small schools and, more importantly for rural areas, sustaining and supporting existing small community schools. There is little if any justification for closing small schools as a matter of policy. All fair minded people have to wonder given this research base:
Why do so many states [and provinces] continue to develop consolidation policies that are anything but research-based? Why is this irrational and failed approach to educational improvement forced upon rural communities, despite their widespread and often vehement opposition? (Rural School and Community Trust, 2006)…
To continue to pursue a policy of closure and consolidation in the face of the research evidence is to put the education of rural children and youth at risk…”

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/education-on-a-human-scale/

‘What if you lose your school?’ they say, ‘We lose our identity.’” Some of this concern is economically related, in that the loss of a school can cause people to move and businesses to shut down.”

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/the-myths-of-rural-school-consolidation/

“For 50 years, America has been consolidating school districts, and the main effect has been to replace educators with bureaucrats and wardens.”

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/a-pocket-paradigm/

“…small schools are not necessarily weak schools. In fact, it seems to me, now, that rural schools are some of our finest American educational institutions. Instead of being unfortunate institutions in regions too isolated to be harvested by the consolidation combine, small, rural schools are often places where educational excellence flows naturally. Instead of being weeds in the educational landscape, rural schools are often vines that bear rich fruit and healthy nourishment for young people. ”

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/great-things-come-in-small-packages/

“No wonder local communities are frustrated and angry, They are paying more than ever and their schools are still being forced to cut school programs.”

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/cost-shifting-threatens-local-education-2/

According to our recent survey, 44 out of 49 respondants (with three abstentions) support the RSU Withdrawal initiative spearheaded by the communities of former MSAD #25. A whopping 89.8%!

But to those who want our communities to remain connected? Take heart! 21 out of 51 polled (41.2%) were open to re-connecting once the withdrawal process is complete by establishing an Alternative Organizational Structure, or AOS. Certainly, as more people become aware of the opportunity therein, support will increase.

https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/divorce-not-necessarily-rsu-aos-compared/#more-150

 

Public Forum! 6:00 Tonight, June 3rd at KES

SoapBoxFrom the “Cougar News”… (with Timbered Classrooms footnote)

“The RSU #50 Board of Directors approved the creation of a future task force committee with the purpose of “Building a vision for the future of education in the RSU. The task force has been working in collaboration with the RSU Board to facilitate the development of a vision, mission, and belief statements for the RSU and to obtain baseline data that represents current trends, statistics, and projections that will inform and guide the board and community to decisions about the future educational opportunities for the students of RSU #50 The task force has used the data collected and began to analyze various school configuration possibilities* in the RSU. The task force has looked at opportunities and challenges that each possible configuration presents. The RSU 50 Futures Task Force Committee will be conducting a community meeting on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. in the Katahdin Elementary School cafeteria. The purpose of this meeting is to attain community input on the various scenarios being presented and to entertain other possible scenarios that may have merit. Public will be provided with an overview of information that has been gathered, participate in group discussion, and hear next steps in the process. We encourage community participation in this process.”

*Read: building closures

Public Forum on the Future – June 3rd

The potential decision to close schools and bus children is a serious one, and the impacts ripple through not only our communities today, but in the future. Our readers strongly support several scenarios, dismissed by the committee while other, more costly schemes remain on the table. I hope our readers, who have articulated their views so eloquently here, will do so at this forum.

Timbered Classrooms...

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“..The RSU 50 Futures Task Force Committee will be conducting a community meeting on Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. in the Katahdin Elementary School cafeteria.  The purpose of this meeting is to attain community input on the various scenarios being presented and to entertain other possible scenarios that may have merit.  Public will be provided with an overview of information that has been gathered, participate in group discussion and hear next steps in the process.  We encourage community participation in this process.”

Read the original announcement from RSU #50 here:  Futures Task Force Forum

Editor’s note:  I share the concerns of our readers surrounding the last public forum; the tightly controlled format that did not permit attendees the time or space for statements that reflect their views outside of the writing prompts and the failure of the committee to answer  written questions in real time.  …or at all…

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