“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)..”



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…



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

  1. Pingback: “On The Table” – Scenario 4; “The Wheels on the Bus” | Timbered Classrooms...

  2. Reblogged this on Timbered Classrooms… and commented:

    We continue to share each of the scenarios under consideration by the RSU 50 Board, one at a time, leading up to the meeting on January 12th, and include Task Force perspectives as well as our own in each one to shine as much light as possible on the issue.


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