On Point…

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14 responses to “On Point…

  1. the community does not care, remember the vote

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    • Not necessarily…. People voted yes on the budget for various reasons, but none because they don’t care about their kids or communities.

      Does that care translate into outspokenness? …taking a stand? …rolling up sleeves and seizing the direction of education here? That is the real question, and I certainly don’t have the answer. No one does.

      I put less stock in the budget process, I think. It is one tool, but only one. …one I do not have by the way. Other avenues are open, and people need to decide for themselves what they want to do.

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  2. yes vote, people thought that giving him his vote that everything was going away. the teachers, the head shakers, the sports fans, the day care lovers, wrong,wrong,wrong. the shit that was thrown because of one person on here that told it, new it, and called it, now they no it was all right on everything he said. this person walked into the school the day before yesterday, and when he was done, mr porter and two of the teachers, there heads were down to the floor. he said it, he meant it, and they all new it. this man has stood up to every time they make a wrong move on his kids, he stood up for every body else, in every meeting he has gone to. he says the truth, he nos it in his terms, and every thing that he has said on here, came true. my wife and i have watched and listened, and remembered all of it.
    rolling up your sleeves, that only means one thing, more meetings, more nonsense talk, and waste of time. soory if you people are a fended by this. but this person once again, by him self took on the walkers at jerrys thift way yesterday. you people should have seen that, it was price-less.

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    • I think I know who you are talking about – he stood up for me when I was treated rudely by the Board.

      He is right.

      One frustrating aspect of issues like this is the fact that when people do not see results; are defied, treated badly, etc. they tend to discount their efforts as wasted time, or worse, give up. Every step matters in what is, unfortunately, a journey of a thousand miles. Another, deeply frustrating aspect is the timetable – so much slower than our children are growing up. Where is their sense of urgency as they coo to each other how they are doing a “…heckuva job, Brownie”.?

      The budget process alone was never going to solve everything – it DID deliver a strong message to the Board that people quite simply do not trust their leadership with their money. Could it have been stronger? Of course. …but I hope you will not be too discouraged. The only waste of time is doing nothing….

      So what happened at Jerry’s Thriftway?

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  3. Good Morning its no secret I follow this blog.. I do not agree with everything that is said. I will not hide behind a fake name.. I speak from my heart and am passionate about everything I do as you all are. I have made no bones about how I feel about this whole issue. I love our school as much as you love yours. I am actually a graduate from Katahdin and by chance moved to Island Falls in my early 20s. If I had my wish A. You would all get this rsu dissolved or B. The Katahdin kids move into one building and we continue business as usual. Being a parent I care about my childs education which I feel she is receiving as much as the government is allowing. I fought hard for this budget process because without the funds teaching is not possible. Was there fluff yes, but It was not going to be removed and these schools need to function. We have amazing teachers at our school as well as an amazing Principal which I hope has been given a chance at Katahdin to prove what kind of man he is.. I am a tax payer, I do not want to pay anymore than I need to for these schools to function at a level fit for our kids.. I am a select person it is my job to look out for the best interest of our town. I wear 3 hats and its not always easy to separate each one. I am curious about why so much negativity towards the Walkers? The is one Walker on the board.. They do not run the school, never have.. Is it a personal vendetta that has nothing to do with the budget process? Just a curious observation as I am friends with them, they have been very good to my family over the years..

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    • Good afternoon, …and Welcome! It is no secret, or surprise to me that there is little support for the RSU model throughout the district. Do you mind speaking to any efforts in Island Falls to dissolve it?

      Timbered Classrooms strives to be a safe space to disagree; to debate. There should be much more of that between the Board and community and among Board members themselves.

      Your support for consolidating the Katahdin side is backed by experts who recommend just that; filling excess capacity by expanding grades rather than trying to grow existing grades by bussing children in from further away.

      I came to this nearly 10 years ago, when I set out to learn as much as possible about the issue of rural school consolidation. I learned it makes a great deal of sense to Administrators, the State and for “other people’s children”. For children, taxpayers and communities who send them? …a costly, irreversible mistake. I was not surprised by the angry rejection of evidence I have tried to share, and the dearth of evidence presented by consolidation supporters – research predicted that too. Honestly, it is like a crystal ball.

      For me, it isn’t about the survival of or the love for any school per se, but the optimal education of children. Consolidation is harmful in that regard, but children are not well served in a school targeted for closure either. It is no secret that we are exploring other options for our own children even as we fight for a robust local public education system.

      There is a tremdous amount of agreement about spending priorities; people were clear during the budget process what they are willing to pay for and what they are not and problems arise when the Board contractually obligates expenditures abhorred by the public NOT contractually obligated to provide funding. I think most of the conflict there came from how to use the budget vote to force child-centered priorities; how far to go…. I was not part of it. I had no vote – just some observations. We continue to wrestle with how to hold the Board accountable outside budget time.

      I do not know the Walkers and am not sure why they are drawing more criticism of late than the Board as a whole, which justifies plenty of legitimate criticism. Perhaps their support for closing Katahdin? If you find out, let me know?

      Thank you again for your interest, inout and unique perspective.

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  4. I have made no secret how I feel about the whole debacle in public but I fear being a select person that I need to sometimes rein my passion in. I do not think minds will be easily swayed over here due to the huge percentage of taxes that are paid here in Island Falls and the fear of going backwards rather that forward and also our elderly population that no longer have children in school. And if we are speaking frankly here another reason I hate to see the schools combine is because of the negativity I have heard on that end of the district.. Mind you I understand your feelings but I fear what the negative blow back will be put on our children at this end of the district. I really do not understand why your situation in school is different then ours other that the difference in veteran teachers I feel our school is amazing and would hate to see things change. Do kids complain over hear? Yes some.. Kids are kids and some do not understand how well they have it or do not care. I blame the parents not the kids. I have talked to several parents as well as children at your end and it sounds like Mr. Porter is making it better. He is a kind man and will do his best for the kids. I think we are on the same page just going about it and feeling a little different about how it is verbalized. Being friends/family with a lot of the faculty I care a lot about them and their future. I do not agree 100% with how things are being done. Im not crazy over the fact my child is being taught spanish by rosetta stone. But Im not crazy over the academic structure in general but the government is to blame for that. I do not think for a minute our teachers are crazy over it either. Any way I hope Im not butting in here and as I said I have been following for a long time and Im just one perspective on this side of the district.

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    • Oh, you are not “butting in” at all! Timbered Classrooms is for absolutely everyone, and I believe more dialogue; especially between various communities in the district is a good thing.

      “Negativity” is a term that is projected quite a bit…. I cannot think of anything more “negative” tha targeting a school for closure. People cherish what Katahdin has been, and see a great deal of potential for its future. ….a very positive thing. The difference, is, that Katahdin is targeted for closure and SACS is not. It may seem insignificant, but the view of a school by those entrusted with it, that it should not exist colors every single decision and compromises the ability to build and retain a faculty, among other things…

      If I may, I can speak to the issues that got me involved. Divestment from faculty; namely, the cutting of Music and Phys. Ed. positions in the Spring of 2013 upset kids terribly, as did teachers leaving voluntarily. They circulated a survey monkey to communicate their feelings while parents wrote letters. When a student expressed frustration over the lack of acknowledgement, much less a response – a student I barely knew at the time, I asked the Board about it. The Superintendent and Board claimed never to have seen it – in front of the kid who had handed it to the Superintendent personally. People respect teachers, and value them first and foremost – that is why they added $100k to the budget in 2013 to restore them in spite of their dire financial straits and belief that the money could have been easily found elsewhere in the budget.

      Perhaps Mr. Porter got off on the wrong foot in his criticism of us, but to his credit, he has, indeed improved the environment at Katahdin. While the government; the Common Core, et. al. is causing difficulties, the response of districts can make all the difference in the world. I have spoken to teachers in districts where their autonomy and professional expertise is respected; where they don’t spend enormous sums on canned McCurricula to supplant them – like here.
      (I hope you follow our Facebook Page too, where there is more about that.)

      Observers, myself included have been taken aback by the disdain shown the community by the Board; the imaginary authority it wields against the public and, at times, each other — I have a very egalitarian view of the world, and it is weird! The Board has no authority over you, certainly. Until the communities establish this; show the Board where the Bear s**t in the buckwheat and establish an expectation of accountability; until the Board respects community aspirations with transparency, responsiveness and evidence to support their decisions, trust will remain elusive – on both sides of the district. Granted, this is much harder without the press…..

      I have heard the argument that not Board decisions, but our response to them is what upsets kids; as if, if we only didn’t tell them and acted like everything was great they would be better off. ….but I disagree. Remember, kids came to us — they know and deserve more respect than that. Being a citizen, standing up to the Board per our responsibility is a wonderful example; a “teachable moment”. I have told kids that it is our responsibility and that theirs is to educate themselves to the utmost. We are here for them of course and we have had student authors write with the full knowledge and support of their parents.

      There is too much money going out the door to forward the consolidation scheme; for consultants and large bureaucratic salaries… …at a time when kids need every penny. People are divided only between “we can’t do anything about it” and “we can demand better”. I haven’t heard anyone wholeheartedly support the Board’s agenda or spending priorities.

      I am friends with faculty too – on both sides of the district, and, you’re right. They don’t like a lot of what is happening in education. ..all the more reason to support them.

      Thank you again for your thoughts.

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  5. I will admit I sometimes see things through “rose colored” glasses and want to think the best of everyone. I am not sure what to think of the board other than there are fighting for what they feel is best. It doesn’t necessarily jive with what the public feel is right. Which is an issue in itself. I have a warped way of thinking if I had my way no one would be on the board unless they had a child within the district giving them a vested interest other than money. My thoughts on negativity… During the budget process it got down and dirty myself included. Again I fight hard for what I believe in sometimes too passionately. I lost friends and my business suffered. It is what it is. Those that know me know I will always do what I feel is best for my family, my school, my town, my life and let the chips fall where they may. Negativity whether justified or not breeds discontent. We all know where the future of the schools is heading unless people are successful and dissolve the RSU. I heard a lot of parents say my child will not go THERE. Fine thats great. I am glad they have an interest and will do what is best for there child. And then you have the parents that will do nothing sit in a corner piss and moan those are the children that will suffer and make my child suffer along with them through the negative thought process and venomous hatred spewed about THAT school. I have heard a lot of comments about how much more we have etc. Again I think that is the difference in principals which we agree is getting better. I don’t know the answer I only know that we all want whats best for our kids. I am happy with our current situation and hate to see it change. Have a nice day

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    • The Board is, absolutely “fighting for what they feel is best”. I always respect people who do that, not matter what their position and it looks as though we are of a mind on consolidation. I haven’t tried to determine how much of their behavior is ignorance or malice – the line gets blurred when their ignorance is willful. The evidence I’ve tried to share debunks their narrative. Though I stand by everything I’ve written here, I was told in Spring of 2013 to “shut up” and stakeholders have been ordered not to read Timbered Classrooms. I can even respect the Board’s preference for large schools over small though it is just a preference and not backed by evidence. Research clearly shows our schools current sizes are ideal from a child and budget standpoint. Now here is where the Board’s “…all for the kids” mantra begins to fall apart: If they truly believe large schools are better for children and taxpayers, why then they not simply close SACS and bus their OWN children to Houlton? It is shorter than the distance they are asking Katahdin families to bus their children. Perhaps busing children long distances isn’t best for them or communities after all? The economic fortunes of communities are inextricably tied to schools and, indeed, Board members are fighting to bring all educational investment into their own communities. They tell themselves that there will be more opportunity for everyone but the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.

      This isn’t my first rodeo — Katahdin will be the second school closed on our oldest son, amid promises of unicorn-farting rainbows. We live in Benedicta, and our own little school was funded entirely by property taxes and with the full support of taxpayers — large landowners of the UT. Then-Commissioner Susan Gendron said publicly, that “That money would be better spent elsewhere” ..meaning Katahdin. The same rhetoric, more opportunity…. Not true.

      I’m very glad you brought up the “Our kids won’t go there…”, because it gives me the opportunity to assure you that it is anything but vitriolic. People object to the distance — and of course the leadership which is the same here anyway. Also, certainly, an attachment to an institution that has been loved. People feel the same about SACS and that is wonderful! Consolidation proponents need that sort of divisive narrative to advance their agenda. It is well documented that they are quick to pounce on legitimate consolidation concerns and twist them to look like an insult to the potential receiving school. It is even easier to do in the midst of heated debate. Yes, Commissioner Gendron accused Benedicta of the same prejudice toward Katahdin, repeatedly, but it didn’t amount to much.

      I have talked to many people have learned a great deal. The two sides of the district are friends, as are our children and the desire of Katahdin’s families to invest in their own local infrastructure is not a reflection of ill-will. I hear, ‘It’s too far for the kids”….. The Superintendent said when he arrived that “We’re looking in each other’s windows” and that is a serious flaw in the RSU model. It’s just ugly and unproductive. Perhaps if we are fighting over little things going North or South we won’t notice the money is really going from the classroom to “bureaucrats and wardens”? …a recent conversation between friends on either side of the district could be called, “Where is the librarian”…: “Wait. YOUR library is closed much of the week TOO? We thought ours had to close because the librarian had to go to YOUR school?” The difference in principals makes a difference but also, remember the Board has expressed a reluctance to invest in a school they are targeting to close too. It’s a threat that angers people but I’ve never heard anyone blame you at all. Expenditures outside the classroom, toward consolidation and consultants etc. continues to frustrate folks on BOTH sides of the district, and the Board does not want to face a united front. The Board’s own finance committee is having difficulty finding where the money is going. A budget freeze at this time is highly unusual. We have been encouraged to attend Finance Committee meetings an hour before every regular Board meeting.

      I really hope you will consider attending? ….and sharing what you learn with our readers as well as your fellow Town Fathers (and Mothers)?

      Cheers!

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  6. I would have absolutely no problem with my child going to Houlton if it would ever come down to it.. They have more than us always have. My child being an athlete as a matter of fact I would be thrilled as long as the school provided the transportation speaking of which.. I have little understanding of the busing issue.. I lived on the cow team road in Patten my 5-7 grade years.. I was the first one on the bus traveled up the winding hill rd and to the end of the retreat road. It did not kill me. I got on the bus at 6:20 in the morning and did not get home until 3:40. I survived. I will try my best to attend meetings being a parent, wife, business owner and selectman I tend to get spread a little thing but will make it a point. Again I think we all want to same thing its just a matter of who is willing to stick there necks out there. I fear it is a no win situation though. If it was easy we all would get our own way and it would be a happy ending by now.

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    • Houlton has much to be proud of, and I have lobbied our own Superintendent to consider sending our busses there, if travel is inevitable. Of course the decision is hers alone, and Schenck is closer…..

      The reasons Board members do not pursue Houlton but prefer to invest in SACS even while pushing to close Katahdin are the very same reasons Katahdin residents want to invest Katahdin rather than bussing to SACS. The reasons are substantive, (read: let’s stop pretending it’s all about mascots, identity and so much parochial nonsense). Each side is equally entitled. Ultimately, small, local schools are best for kids, taxpayers and communities.

      No one ever gets “…the big deal about bussing” but it has been has been studied; the costs, the impacts on educational quality and even the tendency of people to underestimate both while overstating the benefits. Though individual experiences vary, like your own, the effects of distance are, indeed profound on children, their families and taxpayers. Most of our population would face a greater distance than you did from the Cow Team road….

      Children with little family support or low-income are hit the hardest. …and for what benefit? More opportunity? Participation rates go down with consolidation, especially across long distances. An increase in enrollment of 100% yields only 17% increase in offerings and only if you dedicate all savings to more programming. Transportation in our unusually, geographically large district will consume quite a bit of that. The Board’s expectation of savings sufficient to divide between increased programming, renovations and taxpayer support is utterly unjustifiable. The details of their own promises for more course offerings are surprisingly modest though overly optimistic.

      So how far is too far for children on busses? Answers depend on whose children you are talking about -your own, or other people’s children. That’s been examined too. A survey of principals showed that those whose students all lived nearby thought bussing had little to no impact; those whose students were actually subjected to those long distances knew it is significant.

      The Board has referenced our difficulty in passing a budget and is looking to consolidation to ease that process. The research, however, clearly shows that financial support for schools decreases with distance, because community benefits lie close to the infrastructure. There is already interest in changing the cost-sharing formula to reflect enrollment rather than wealth. (If Mt. Chase were to divide their contribution by the number of students they send, they could send each child to Husson! A per-pupil formula would save them a considerable amount…). There is further interest among some of our Sherman readers in Schenck, so a different formula may benefit them….

      The Board has shown interest in emulating Spruce Mountain; choosing a new mascot, and transforming our schools into North and South of one campus. Now Spruce Mountain is geographically tiny, but even there they recognized the loss to the sending community and compensated them for that. Last year, each town contributed $44,000 toward keeping the empty building operational for Adult Ed and community purposes. The loss to Katahdin is arguably greater, as they benefit less from the new school due to greater distance. Is this Board interested in compensating Katahdin’s communities for the loss of their assets? No.

      Board members openly salivating over the prospect of having every penny the RSU currently invests in Katahdin in liquid form to spend as they like; on a new school or at SACS, simply do not understand the issues of and surrounding consolidation.

      It doesn’t work that way.

      Consolidation is terribly INefficient from the perspective of children, taxpayers and families BUT makes sense for the convenience of Administrators, Boards… …people in power.

      You are right. It will take more people “sticking their necks out” and advocating for children. It isn’t easy, but the more people involved, the more democratic the better the outcome.

      We can all have our way, if we bring decision-making closer to kids. The RSU model wiped out local Boards, leading to Sherman’s rep, et. al. to the absurdity of quipping his willingness to “..throw our kids under the bus..” for the sake of… What? Every child matters, and the first rule of boardsmanship is this: no children under busses.

      An RSU Board can create and empower a committee for each school. It may help us ” …all get our own way..”?

      Thank you for your interest and efforts. We look forward to hearing from you!

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  7. The closing of the KMHS Library seems to be just another piece of Malone’s plan to make the situation look so desperate that we have no choice but to consolidate with SACHS. When the library issue was voted on at the budget meeting, there was no mention of closing any libraries. When kids have no access to their library other than to be escorted in by a teacher, it is a sad day. Even in colleges the library is the go to place. This should be unacceptable to parents and students. Why are people not speaking out and allowing more and more to happen that negatively effects the education of your kids?

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    • That’s exactly how consolidation works, and why I am as appalled by the plight of kids in a targeted school as I am the closure itself. Honestly, unless and until leaders take closure off the table, and install leadership committed to the future of Katahdin we will continue to pursue alternatives for our own children. That is no secret and in no way diminishes my advocacy for all children here.

      A library is, rightly, a “go to place”; not a place to be escorted. How inefficient to get a chaperone for every kid who wants access! There are guidelines, and I don’t know…

      The library was staffed in the budget so where on Earth did the money go? ..a question for the Finance Committee? However you ask, it deserves an answer…

      Why aren’t people speaking out? That warrants an answer too. When we don’t we are “…governed by our inferiors…”.

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