Monthly Archives: January 2015

It’s O.K. ….

freedom-of-speech_400….to disagree.  To engage civically in pursuit of your beliefs.  …to speak out; to petition… People can even remain friends while doing so in different directions. Each and every one has a right. No one is entitled to use his or her power to threaten, coerce, intimidate, or interfere with the civic freedom of anyone else. No one. The question, “Should we get Board permission to…” circulate/sign RSU withdrawal petitions has been floated to Timbered Classrooms. No. We include, here,  a list of reasons it is acceptable, legally or ethically,  to intimidate others.  …also a comprehensive list of things for which private citizens must seek School Board approval outside of school grounds or jurisdiction. blank page Even where people disagree, we are better for civic engagement and Timbered Classrooms welcomes it – whatever a citizens’ position.

We’re all friends here….

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” ~Voltaire

Speak A Little Louder….

…so you are sure to be heard…..;)


Notes on “Scale”….


…There are some who cling, stubbornly, to the outdated view that bigger schools are necessarily better schools. Despite the fact that there is no research evidence to support this view, well meaning but misguided and ill-informed policy makers continue to pursue the closure and consolidation of small neighborhood and community schools. They pursue this agenda apparently unaware that the educational community has moved on from this mid-twentieth view to embrace the educational opportunities available to students in small schools. Despite paying lip-service to “evidence based decision making,” some educational leaders seemingly ignore the growing body of evidence that clearly indicate that smaller schools are to be preferred over larger ones.

One has to wonder if these folks can read!…”

Education on a Human Scale

“…The criticism that smaller schools cannot offer as broad a program of studies as can larger schools has been around for a very long time; it is often used as a justification for closing smaller schools. Educational authorities, pursuing an agenda of school consolidation, point out the obvious: larger schools can offer a wider range of programs and more courses than can smaller schools. “Therefore, goes the argument, operating small schools with more limited curricula is unfair to the students who attend them” (Cotton, 1996).
However, as Cotton (1996) points out:

“While this has a certain common sense appeal, examination of the research reveals that there simply is no reliable relationship between school size and curriculum quality. For one thing, researchers have found that “it takes a lot of bigness to add a little variety”—that is, “on the average a 100% increase in enrollment yields only a 17% increase in variety of offerings” (Pittman and Haughwout, 1997). Moreover, “[t]he strength of the relationship between school size and curricular offerings diminishes as schools become larger…”


Our Readers Have A Say

opinion-mattersWould you kindly answer our poll?  It’s short and sweet!  …or not.  Your comments matter.  How has the RSU model helped or hurt?  How can we improve the lot of kids?

If you vote to support withdrawal, you still have to add your John Hancock to petitions currently circulating in your community the old-fashioned way.  If you would like our assistance in finding one, or would like to help in the effort, please “contact us” and we will be happy to connect you.

“Consolidating districts doesn’t mean consolidation of SCHOOLS…”, said the Spider to the Fly…

9973TressDunceCap……except that it does, almost inevitably. Former Governor Baldacci’s school district consolidation initiative, ” Local Schools Regional Support” (LSRS) was heralded with reassurances that “Schools don’t have to close….” — ad nauseum.   Continue reading

Education on a Human Scale…


The issue of busing is weighed very differently depending on whose children endure the journey.  See what the research says about it, beginning on page 52 of the pdf….

“…There are some who cling, stubbornly, to the outdated view that bigger schools are necessarily better schools. Despite the fact that there is no research evidence to support this view, well meaning but misguided and ill-informed policy makers continue to pursue the closure and consolidation of small neighborhood and community schools. They pursue this agenda apparently unaware that the educational community has moved on from this mid-twentieth view to embrace the educational opportunities available to students in small schools. Despite paying lip-service to “evidence based decision making,” some educational leaders seemingly ignore the growing body of evidence that clearly indicate that smaller schools are to be preferred over larger ones. One has to wonder if these folks can read!…”

Read more of this fascinating study of school consolidation in its entirety, here: Education on a human scale_5 April 

…or keep scrolling for (colorful) highlights:

“….Once upon a time rural parents and educators were more or less alone in their struggle with governments and school boards to maintain their small community schools. Educational authorities and policy makers seemed united in their view that bigger schools were better schools. If parents truly cared about their children and their education, they would agree to close their small schools and have their children bussed down the road to larger schools in distant community. It was assumed that the “authorities knew best” and they only wanted was best for the children.
     For the most part parents trusted the authorities and went along with the closure and consolidation plans. Yet, in their hearts they knew something was wrong with what they were being told. They knew that their community schools were good schools; they knew that the children benefited in many ways by having their schools situated close to home. But those in authority consistently said otherwise. And in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the authorities had the power to impose their views.
     That was then; this is now. Over the past thirty years there has developed a considerable body of evidence and a set of informed perspectives that confirm what rural parents and known and felt all alone. In Chapter 3 of this report we present the evidence that supports the viability and value of small rural schools…”

“People in rural communities and rural teachers have been arguing for years that there is a fundamental inequity in an education system that funds on the basis of student populations rather than programs.”

Any discussion about small schools must deal with the issue of bussing. Part of the rationale for closing small community schools has always been the prospect and feasibility of bussing students from their home communities to larger schools situated in other communities. The persistent efforts of educational authorities to close and consolidate small schools and create ever larger schools has resulted in more and more students of all ages having to endure longer and longer bus rides.”

“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”

“Educational authorities, convinced that they were right, intimidated and informed parents that if they wished their children to have a quality education, they had to agree to close their small community school and have their children bussed to a larger school in a distant community. No additional evidence was necessary (Howley and Eckman, 1997; Truscott and Truscott, 2005, Theobald, 2005; Meier, 2002).”

“For many educational authorities there was no need for research to support this view. Most administrators and policy makers during this time period increasingly drew their educational models and metaphors from business and industry. Notions of economies of scale and the “cult of efficiency” (Callahan, 1964) provided all the “proof” needed to justify the consolidation and closure of small schools. For many it was simply a matter of common sense: if bigger factories are more productive than smaller ones then bigger schools must be better than smaller schools.”

“…don’t bother me with the facts, I have made up my mind” applied to educational decision making. It is hard not to conclude that those who still insist that bigger schools are better schools are simply not interested in the evidence to the contrary…”

…these large, typically urban schools are attempting to create the social conditions which exist naturally in rural schools, conditions which are ironically destroyed by consolidation.
     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…”

“Policy makers can change the rules under which state [provincial] systems operate, from big-school to small-school norms. They might, in other words, un-rig the game that requires schools to be large. This study and others show that large size is not the criterion of “excellence” it was once thought to be. And smaller schools have now been shown to exert an evidently robust effect on equity. It is interesting to observe that at the time large-school norms were instantiated—the early and mid-twentieth century—few educators or legislators worried about equity. Such norms seem to have outlived their utility (2004: 27).”

“Howley and Howley conclude their most recent work with a number of practical recommendations for educators and policy makers concerned with making the most educationally sound decisions regarding small rural schools. They base these “considered judgments” on the current body of research on this topic as well as their own and others experiences working with rural communities:
•    Sustain the smallest schools in the poorest communities.

•    In communities that serve all social classes, do not build large

•    Keep elementary and middle schools proportionately smaller than
high schools.

• When building new, keep schools everywhere smaller than
recommended in the 20th century.

•    Provide appropriate and adequate support to smaller schools: small
size improves the odds of success, it does not guarantee it.

•    Regard smaller school size and reform as distinct issues, but do not
hesitate to innovate in smaller schools.

•    Doubt that an educationally-relevant lower limit of school size exists. (emphasis added) Much depends on context, and even in the contemporary world, dedicated parents educate very small groups of children with remarkable success at home (2004: 28-29)…”

“The schools that are the focus of this study are small schools. From a national and international perspective they are very small schools. The body of research that has been amassed over the last thirty years confirms that small size is no impediment to academic performance. In fact for some groups of students a smaller school provides them with their best chance of academic success. To bus them out of their home community to a larger distant school may put their academic lives at risk…”

“…The criticism that smaller schools cannot offer as broad a program of studies as can larger schools has been around for a very long time; it is often used as a justification for closing smaller schools. Educational authorities, pursuing an agenda of school consolidation, point out the obvious: larger schools can offer a wider range of programs and more courses than can smaller schools. “Therefore, goes the argument, operating small schools with more limited curricula is unfair to the students who attend them” (Cotton, 1996).
However, as Cotton (1996) points out:

“While this has a certain common sense appeal, examination of the research reveals that there simply is no reliable relationship between school size and curriculum quality. For one thing, 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). Moreover, “[t]he strength of the relationship between school size and curricular offerings diminishes as schools become larger…”

“..Meier (1996) addresses the issue of school size as an impediment to parental involvement. “Schools are intimidating places,” she writes, “for many parents – parents feel like intruders, strangers, and outsiders.”
And nothing seems more foolish than going to parent night and seeing a slew of adults who don’t know your kid, have very little investment in him or her, and whose opinions and advice make one feel less, not more, powerful. When kids reach high school, schools usually give up on parents entirely (except to scold them). But high school students don’t need their parents any less, just differently.
When the school is small enough, probably someone there knows your kid well enough, and maybe also likes him or her enough, to create a powerful alliance with you. Smallness doesn’t guarantee such an alliance, but it makes it reasonable to put time into creating one (1996: 13).  When that larger school is in a distant community, that feeling of alienation for parents is intensified. In addition, travel distance and time become additional barriers for parents to be involved with the school and get to the school for special meetings. In some circumstances having access to transportation can be a problem for parents…”

“…The trend to close schools was intensified by a culturally popular assumption … schools need to be big to be good. In fact, for many decades of the 20th century, school consolidation was considered synonymous with school improvement, despite the fact that there was virtually no evidence to support the assumption. While naïve views related to consolidation still exist, and the practice continues to be one of the first cost-cutting measures examined when states face serious fiscal difficulties, we have at last reached the point where consolidation advocates are forced to submit evidence for claims of greater efficiency and improved instruction (Theobald, 2005: 121)….”

“…school administrators often have something very different in mind when they speak of educational quality than the images of educational quality in the minds of most citizens living in rural communities. They speak, it seems different languages and it is very difficult to translate between the two…”

“…Theobald’s second point is that in the United States and in Canada as well, a higher standard of evidence is now required to justify crucial decisions that are made with public money. We are now in the age of evidence-based decision making and accountability. Theobald speaks to the passing of the time when a group of people can set themselves up as experts and make decisions on the basis of unjustified and unsubstantiated judgment calls….”

“…Let us be clear, it is not progress, technology or time that kills a small rural school or any school for that matter. Small schools often do not fit the standardized mould and they cause difficulties for administrators. And so, the very qualities that make these schools work and that their students and communities love about them are actually used as justification for their closure. These schools work because they are nonstandard and responsive to real communities…”

“…Contrary to the mythology, exceptional schools do not die off, most are killed by intentional acts, not by the inevitable forces of nature. In nature, variation, messiness, and chaos are not unnatural or unproductive forms of organization. In fact, as biologists would remind us, they are essential features of growth. When school people forbid such messiness, or view it as a burden, we undermine the possibility of proliferation … Many good schools die an early unnatural death because the policies that govern our public systems cut short their natural growth … the people who operate the present system do not see themselves in the business of trying to maintain idiosyncratic practice …they’ve been trained to seek, first and foremost, ways to solve problems by rule. If it’s not good for everyone, it’s not good for anyone. To make exceptions smacks of favoritism and inefficiency. (Meier, 2002: 156-157)
     The strange notion of fairness (in the sense that because we have lost our schools, you should too) and just desserts is sadly a powerful motivator of school closures. So many communities have lost school in past decades, so why should others be allowed to keep theirs? But what an odd and petty rationale for closing a core community institution; yet schools continue to be closed on the basis of this bizarre rationale of past mistakes…”



Special Board Meeting will be held Wednesday, February 4th at Katahdin 6:30pm “..for the purpose of hearing the final report prepared by AMES Associates LLC on the current condition of the facilities within the RSU. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.” 

Special Board Meeting Announcement from RSU 50 Website

“Together We Won’t”

bussnow“For more than 80 years, well-intentioned people have been trying to make schools better this way. And it seems logical.

It just doesn’t work.”

Read the rest of Elaine McArdle’s Boston Globe Piece “Together We Won’t”

“Beware the Oversimplifiers…”

20070125_MDIslanderCartoon“…a century of consolidation has already produced most of the efficiencies obtainable. Indeed, in the largest jurisdictions, efficiencies have likely been exceeded—that is, some consolidation has produced diseconomies of scale that reduce efficiency. In such cases, deconsolidation is more likely to yield benefits than consolidation. Moreover, contemporary research does not support claims about the widespread benefits of consolidation. The assumptions behind such claims are most often dangerous oversimplifications. For example, policymakers may believe “We’ll save money if we reduce the number of superintendents by consolidating districts;” however, larger districts need—and usually hire—more mid-level administrators. Research also suggests that impoverished regions in particular often benefit from smaller schools and districts, and they can suffer irreversible damage if consolidation occurs….”

Read the full study here:


…a “Humble” Opinion…

“Corporate America and the construction industry are continually promoting the parallels in education and raising hens: cram them into a huge building, feed them all the same, and every single one of them will come out exactly suited for their purpose.

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 by larger towns that had more members on the Board.”

~The Humble Farmer


MDOE – “Procedures For Withdrawal From A Regional School Unit”

wintervillageIn response to the many questions posed by our readers as they explore options to better serve their children, taxpayers and communities, we would like to share with you the following:

MDOE – RSU Withdrawal Procedures

Here, please find the RSU #50 Reorganization Plan.  Information regarding the cost-sharing formula is located on page 16 Section 13-B

RSU #50 Reorganization Plan

The Best-Laid Schemes o’ mice an’….. School Boards?


One of our earliest posts, and one to which our readers keep returning…..

“How many secretaries does it take to screw in a light bulb at RSU 50?”  Punchlines invariably poke fun at the top-heavy nature of RSU 50’s administrative offices.  (“They’re not laughing WITH you….”)  Laugh, cry or both – you just got heckled.  “It’s in the RSU #50 plan approved by the State.”, protested the Superintendent at last week’s Board meeting, (as though divinely etched on a chunk of rhyolite and lugged down from Katahdin).  Fair enough.  That settles it then.

Or does it?  What does the plan say students should be assured in the way of educational opportunity?  What sort of savings were taxpayers to expect?  Read it an’ weep…. “They aren’t laughing WITH you…..” Please share your thoughts in the comments section, or email me to join us as an author.

“Where Have All The Savings Gone…?”

Image“….Long Time Passing….” is certainly an apt description of School Consolidation, which began long before Governor Baldacci ran with it  (maybe even before he began school himself).  Neither he, nor other policymakers ever looked for proof — hard, empirical evidence that rural school consolidation actually saves money and helps kids.  This data exists, whether we like it or not, and holds the potential to spare us the consequences of our own assumptions.  It isn’t what we don’t know about school consolidation that inflicts the harm; it’s what we know for sure that just isn’t true.

“Timbered Classrooms” curates some very interesting reading on the subject, to cultivate deeper understanding of the issue, and is tagged accordingly.

Here, though, we offer numbers specific to RSU #50, and build on the budgets we displayed in MSAD to RSU “Where are the Savings?”.

2010-2011 School Budgets Compared

2012-13 & 2013-2014 Budgets Compared

Again, we offer these raw numbers sans comment, and hold them up to your judgement.

Imagine That!

How is the RSU model working?  Support for withdrawal from the RSU is high, but so is the (mistaken) belief that it is “too late”.  It is never too late….  As Katahdin communities prepare to fight to save their school, they may ask themselves, “If we save our school, do we want to continue to funnel our tax dollars to fund it through an RSU that wants it shuttered?  …or do we want a dedicated Board to set priorities?  Do we want to pay the additional costs levied by the RSU in the event of a vote to preserve Katahdin even if it does not, inherently, cost more?”
images-1Can you imagine why any town would want to withdraw from any School Administrative District?

~Unless they wanted to have a say in the way that their tax dollars were spent at the consolidated school.

~Or unless they discovered that sending their kids away to school had destroyed their sense of community.

~Or unless they finally figured out that it would be cheaper and even better for the kids all around if they kept them in schools in their own town.

If you didn’t think about these things — and several other substantial reasons, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a reason any small town would want to withdraw from a SAD. The humble Farmer

Riding the School Bus

RSU taxpayers are appalled by the expense of administrators traversing the distance between Katahdin and SACS.  How will they feel about busing costs for children? fuel, wear and tear…. ? ….in lost educational and involvement opportunities for children and families? 

“…Rural school busing might indeed be understood by people in the communities whose schools have been consolidated as a sort of continuing contingent damage; although the schools are gone (the initial damage), long bus rides continue to impose hardships on the community’s children (Spence 2000a; Zars, 1998). Witham (1997) argues that children’s time on long rides has economic value that is not accounted for in consolidation schemes….” image…We suggest that findings from this study might inform discussions about a) elementary enrollment levels need to assure rides of appropriate duration; b) the influence on one-campus models of district organization on length of ride; and, c) acceptable grade-span configurations for rural schools.  Enlarging schools by increasing grade span might, in fact, be preferable to enlarging schools by increasing attendance area….” Read the full study Riding the School Bus – Howley, Howley and Shamblin

The Maine Education Association Offers Advice On Advocacy…

“Public employee speech involving matters of public concern constitutes protected speech under the First Amendment….”  


The following came to us this morning, and dovetails nicely with readers’ questions.

  • Attend school Board meetings and speak up on issues that matter to students
  • Pen a letter to the editor explaining your opinion on key education issues from your perspective as an educator and perhaps as a parent..
  • …Make sure your representatives in the State Legislature hear from you on education issues…

Read more:  EdVotes

The View From One Chair – Notes On The January Meeting

canstock10014760  The number of people who attended the meeting, and ready to contribute to the discussion was a heartwarming sight on such a cold, miserable night.  The presence of concerned citizens, whatever their position, matters… The following is as rambling and raw as my notes!  Please bear with me…

The author of the Bangor Daily News, letter to the editor , Dannette Kay, stood firmly behind her sources and her decision to write it before expressing concerns about the fear people have about speaking to the Board, trust issues etc.  I similarly stood by my decision to publish a letter from a reader.  I emphatically reject Mr. Knowles assertion of “..malicious intent…”.  We are very grateful for our trusted, reliable and, yes, public spirited sources.

Skipping forward to 9b – the scenarios of consolidation, closure etc.  Here is a list of scenarios used for voting purposes last night – please note that though they are the same as the Task Force Scenarios, they are numbered differently:

january meeting scenarios

Some points from the discussion:

“We can’t afford both buildings separately.  We are going to consolidate 7-12; ‘where’ is up to the communities…” ~Chairman Greg Ryan, who wanted to keep Scenarios #2, 5 and 6 on the table.

…a “logistics headache” in a 460 square-mile rsu,…”…little six-year-olds on a school bus” ..but agreed one building is needed. He asked to keep 5 and 6 and said the community wants #1.

“change is going to happen; we can kick our feet yell and scream.  “People kick and scream because they want things the same but kick and scream because they don’t want to pay.  “Goal 1″  is to work toward a central location somewhere.

…”no one wants to lose their identity”, and did not like the idea of kids traveling.  The cost of a new building was thrown around, anywhere from $30-40 to 60 million.

“Long way to go for little ones. Don’t know the answer” … keep 3,4,5,6,8 and throw out 1,2,7,9,10 “Gotta happen. Can’t stay the way it is.”

As a nurse, Sherman’s representative likened consolidation scenarios to “..having an infection in the toe and trying to cut the whole leg off” and called on the Board to “slow down, use common sense – #8, pure and simple”.

…. “love to have  a centralized location” ….

“…size of sporting teams… …would love to see the the RSU become one… …work toward a new school 13 – 17 years down the road..”

Barbara Burton referenced her experience as a teacher would like one high school “they need to be together” “more offerings” “work for these kids”.

A motion was made to eliminate 1, 9 and 10; #1 to show a commitment to change, and 9-10 because they lacked support.  DEFEATED after ensuing discussion.  

A subsequent motion to elimininate #9-10 PASSED

Patten resident, Louise Guptill:  “…#8 is the most logical for transportation costs” “be cautious”.  She recommended the Board send a survey “Don’t ask, just listen.”  If you want to pass a budget sooner, you’d better be knowing what the people want.”

The goal of keeping children’s time on a bus to “an hour” was not a hard and fast rule, and they spoke in percentages; keeping the percentage of students on the bus within that time low… ..that could change if students move to areas busses do not currently go.  (Parents certainly do not think in terms of percentages)  A mother of young children, who lives 15 minutes from the school expressed concern but wanted more information.  “But you’re not providing an education 15 minutes away”, protested the Superintendent, who also cited loss of opportunity “…every time you cut a budget.” warning that our largest expenditure is “personnel”.

“We’re fighting EPS. Houlton only had to come up with $150 local additional and we had to come up with $1.2 million…”

Clearly worried about the public response to Board decisions about consolidation/closure, “over the next few months”  Phil Knowles was “..not feeling good about what we have to do…”

Several Board members were pleased by the public interest.  “Glad to see people here tonight.  I see so much apathy…”.

Sustainable Small Schools: A Handbook for Rural Communities

….for those who believe in the potential for excellence in small schools, the strength of the unique communities they serve, and the worth of rural children…  We at Timbered Classrooms hopes you find the work of Craig B. Howley and John M. Eckman helpful in your work….  ..we think you will, and wish you well…

“This book is for you – parents, concerned citizens and educators – and for your children, your school and your community.  We offer it to help you find resources, design school options and take action together….”

 Sustainable Small Schools

Notes on the Task Force…

Timbered Classrooms hopes that the background information on the path of the Task Force leading up to tonight’s meeting will be helpful to our readers….

“…It’s an unfortunate, but fairly common reality that intimidation and personal slurs are used against people fighting consolidation. Sometimes teachers or administrators have their jobs, or the jobs of family members, subtly threatened. Sometimes rumors are spread locally. It’s not uncommon for pro-consolidation media outlets to portray community advocates of small schools in unflattering ways, to use derogatory rural stereotypes, and to misrepresent the legitimate concerns of rural residents and parents as self-interest, commitment to local athletic teams, or ignorance of and disregard for what’s best for their own children….” ~Anything But Research Based

Timbered Classrooms...

sheep and donkey

“…they could look at a bowl of cherries and see nothing but pits…” ~Marty Strange, on the negative view of consolidation proponents toward small schools.

…an apt description of the negativity toward RSU 50’s schools for their size that permeated last Monday’s “Community Meeting”.  (A compelling essay by Mr. Strange, and other works by top researchers on school consolidation can be found in Great Plains Research Volume 23 No. 2   Abstracts are available here, and I just submitted a full copy to the Sherman Public Library yesterday).

Back to last Monday’s meeting.  I know many of you have asked for this and I’m sorry I took so long with my “homework”  At the beginning, Mrs. Hill expressed a very valid concern at the way in which meetings like this one are announced.  They should be on AlertNow.  I share her belief that people should be as informed…

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A Reader Reports on Katahdin’s Impending Closure….

This letter from a reader, to you, drew quite a bit of attention when it first came to us, which is surprising.  Scenarios that close Katahdin have been on the table officially for some time now….

For your clarification, the Agenda item reads: “Review the task force plausible scenarios and the elimination of  non-desired scenarios”.

Though no Board member can “announce” the outcome of any voting process, we have it, from highly-reliable sources that some members of the RSU 50 Board do (or did!), indeed, hope to use Monday nights’ process slated to “eliminate undesirable” scenarios, to eliminate, at the very least, all of them with a future for Katahdin.  We stand by our original decision to share this letter with you.


“It has been stated today that board members will vote to CLOSE KATAHDIN this fall at the January 12 board meeting at SACHS. Some reasons given were that “Katahdin is in such bad shape.” “There is no cafeteria at Katahdin.” and on and on……………………….. Apparently board members are only listening to what Larry Malone is telling them and not checking these things out themselves. Concerned citizens and parents have been trying to discuss these issues with Mr. Malone and the board for a year and a half. They do not want to hear what we have for input, only reports from outside sources. Some feel that it would be worth the expense to renovate at Katahdin, cafeteria, etc. Mr. Malone reported that the savings of closing KES would be $250,000 a year. Wouldn’t that $250,000 pay for renovations and keep our kids on this side of the district rather than to increase the costs of busing and everything else that will go along with a consolidation move? There are certainly other options and we know that, but are not given an opportunity to vote. Only your board reps will vote.

Time is running out to contact your board reps. It will do no good to complain after the fact! Please attend the January 12 meeting at SACHS for more information.

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

Our final installment ends where the Task Force begins – and quickly brushes past. “Keep the Current Building Array” has been dismissed by the Board as untenable. I will leave it to our readers to compare a Board member’s interview question to the Superintendent, then-candidate, “What do you know about building a new school?” research referenced here and also a cautionary tale from a parent in Searsport…

Timbered Classrooms...

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:




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?…

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“On The Table” – Scenario #8 – “What the Best and Wisest Parent Wants….

Scenario #8 under consideration by the Board, and up for elimination or further pursuit. The word of the day is “equity”….

Timbered Classrooms...

“What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children.” ~John Dewey


Lovely, isn’t it?  …and speaks to so much of our debate surrounding education too; the stark difference between what Bill Gates, President Obama, and Arne Duncan, for example, demand for their own children and the  “grit” “rigor” “not-for-STEM-and-not-even-for-selective-colleges”  CC$$I .

I’ll get back to this in a moment, if you’ll kindly bear with me…

The 8th Scenario referenced by the Futures Task Force (FTF) is closing both Katahdin and Southern Aroostook High Schools and tuitioning children, ostensibly to Houlton and East Millinocket.

Read their analysis on this and other scenarios on the table here:    RSU50Scenarios

The FTF analysis is brief; even dismissive… “It is not clear how much traction this option has in the larger RSU Community; as such the FTF is not currently aware of…

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“On The Table” – Scenario #7, ‘Classes on the Bus’

Scenario #7, on the table for the Board’s consideration, is consolidating all middle school students in the district into the Katahdin High School Building and all High School students in the district at Southern Aroostook; leaving elementary grades in place.

Timbered Classrooms...

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

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

~the humble farmer


“….thousands of Maine people can now tell you that busing kids 20 miles to school “to save money” has nothing to do with improving education…”

~the humble farmer

…or “saving money”.  (The research shows this scheme would cost MORE!)  Oh, and it would be quite a bit more than 20 miles, factoring in the distance from where children actually live, and not simply the schools themselves.  Of course, many of us commute further than that, but how long would it take you to pick up, say, 30…

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“On The Table” – Scenario #6; Promise and Principles

The sixth installment in our “On the Table” series, is particularly interesting, as it enjoys a promising degree of support in the community, and is further supported, specifically, by the research cited within. The promise may be short-lived, though, as the idea of consolidating Katahdin Elementary and High School drew vehemently negative responses from some Board members, oddly, who represent communities that would remain unaffected. Thank you for your interest, and careful consideration of this, and all scenarios as the process of elimination begins….

Timbered Classrooms...



“A major challenge is operating and maintaining a nearly full complement of RSU 50’s school buildings in spite of declining enrollments and a shrinking tax base. Every building in the district requires maintenance, some of which is already being deferred because of current fiscal constraints.  Infrastructure of each building includes wireless capability and upgrades, phone system and HVAC.  There would be no savings in student transportation. …”   

What?  …a “nearly full complement”?  Scenario #6 involves closing Katahdin Elementary, and going from three buildings to two, eliminating one of the more expensive, looming roof repairs:

Roof Systems of Maine 2012-2013 quotes for roof repair:

 KES $86,400 (building would close)

KHS $5,500

SACS $80,000-$116,000

No, there are no transportation savings; under ANY scenario, and most of them increase bussing expenses.    Scenario #6 does not, and represents the lowest cost in that area…. Where are the concerns for transportation costs, for taxpayers…

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

We continue to feature each scenrio, individully, for building configuration; consolidation closure, from which the Board will select any number for elimination at the January 12th meeting.  As always, all scenarios along with details and analyses are available by clicking “On the Table” at the top of the page.

Timbered Classrooms...

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



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…

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

Scenario #4, that will be on the table on January 12th, where the Board will eliminate any number of scenarios from consideration, involves consolidating the high school only, leaving elementary grades in place.

Timbered Classrooms...

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


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…

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

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.

Timbered Classrooms...

“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.


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

Here, we revisit each scenario of closure and consolidation that the Board will winnow down at the January 12th meeting. We begin with Scenario #2, because #1 is the status quo and clearly not under serious consideration.  Of course this and all possibilities are always available by clicking “On the Table” at the top of the page. Included is the Futures Task Force’s analysis as well as our own, based on research also available under “School Consolidation”. We strive to offer as complete a picture as possible surrounding the issues at hand.

Timbered Classrooms...

“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…


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


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…

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“On The Table” – Details and Analyses of Scenarios of Closure and/or Consolidation Under Consideration On Jan. 12th

butcher tableThe Scenarios compiled by the Task Force and slated for discussion and elimination at the RSU #50 Board Meeting are available for your consideration here 

…or simply click on the “On The Table…” tab at the top of the page.

From the Superintendent RE: January 12th Meeting


There appears to be much confusion regarding action that will taken at the January 12th Board Meeting.

The board will not be taking any action to close any schools at this meeting. The board will give consideration to the 10 plausible scenarios outlined in the Futures Task Force report and take action to eliminate scenarios that are of no interest to pursue further. The purpose is to narrow the discussion to 2-3 plausible scenarios and analyze more data before a final decision is made. (potential cost savings, educational offerings, transportation, and building needs)

We are still waiting on our facilities reports from the AMES Associates, as they are waiting estimates on recommended maintenance.

The following attachments outline procedures for any school closure in a RSU. I hope that people will see that the board can take an initial vote; however, the communities will have a vote.

Hope this is helpful.

Message from a Board Member

Thank you Dawn Merry, for sharing a Board member’s response to community concerns about Katahdin’s future: 

Philip Knowles
From Phillip Knowles Facebook page.. ·
This post is for anybody concerned with our local school system rsu 50. There has been gossip going around about the next school board meeting in a vote to close our local school. There was no item on this agenda. Never was. Some people spread some very bad misinformation at best. But we do have some very serious decisions to make in the next year or two. If you can please attend future school board meetings. Feel free to contact me I’m in the book. Or to the schools email system. I will not respond concerning school in this forum. Please repost share or copy and paste this to any forum you would like to.
Thank you.

In Memory

856422-bigthumbnailDeeply saddened by the news of the passing of Mr. Tapley, we wish his  family comfort and peace…

A strong advocate for children and fairness, his contributions were the most sought-after on our site.  Back in June, he shared this quote with us:

“I think the school board would be wise to read the following thoughts written by Kahlil Gibran in 1923. He explains so well what we all want the board to know our kids are our future and should have a voice, here are his words.”

Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing
for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not
your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell
in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in
your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek
not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries
with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the
infinite, and He bends you with His might,
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand
be for gladness:
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

RSU #50 Makes the BDN Opinion Page


We are pleased to see a letter from a Timbered Classrooms reader in the Bangor Daily News…

Letter to the Editor RE: Katahdin Schools

A “Humble” Voice of Reason…

snowy bus rideLose your school. Lose your community. 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.   But getting the control and the money back is the main thing. You will not get your schools back in town without a fight.  There’s too much money at stake.  And it’s fun to spend other people’s money.”

~Robert Karl Skoglund, “The Humble Farmer”

“…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


AGENDA – January 12th Meeting 6:30pm SACS

agendaclipartsWe’ve seen a great deal of interest in this, probably because of item #9…

AGENDA – RSU 50 January 12th Board Meeting 6:30 SACS

Reel, Humble Wisdom…

What a lovely scene of warmer weather…. ! …with a side of “Humble Wisdom”

Timbered Classrooms...

SONY DSC“We will save you money.”

That’s the bait that trolls in the suckers.

We grow old too soon. Smart too late.”

~The humble Farmer, on School Consolidation

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You Can Do It….!

Neither the official Agenda, nor the minutes from the December meeting where the vote to shutter Katahdin was reportedly placed on the Agenda is yet available….

 Whether or not the Board, indeed, casts a vote on closing Katahdin school(s) is immaterial, really. We know it is on the table, and the time for communities to make decisions about the future of education in the region and to take control is here.  Timbered Classrooms would like to offer many thanks to Mrs. Kay, who knows a great deal about this sort of thing…..

They are your children, your communities and your schools.  The buck stops with you.

silence-not-golden“Its time for all parents and community members in Katahdin school districts to get together and speak up if your against consolidating with SACHS!! It is on the table, and sooner than most people thought!!!!

Why allow “our” children to be bused so far away? Why can’t we use the $250,000, that will be (saved )to do renovations on our own schools? The school board should not be in control!!!! We all as a community should be!! We need to take the power back!

I understand that it can be intimidating when your the only one speaking up, but board members are human too. I assume they sleep fine at night whether we approve of their decisions or not!! We are adults, we won’t be bullied!! I’m well aware there are many problems within the school system itself, as there are similar problems at SACHS, but lets take a step at a time…..First, write a letter to our school board members letting them know you are opposed to what they are trying to do… I’ve heard, some board members don’t even open mail from parents, community members etc.!

ATTEND THE BOARD MEETING ON JAN.12 AT SACHS!!! Bring the letters with you and hand them to board members right there!!! Many community members are working together to take back control. Do you want your children to travel so far away on icy roads? What about sports, extra-curricular activities? I for one don’t want my children returning home from away games at 2:00am!!!! If your interested in helping, and finally being heard, feel free to call or text me….We have a lot to do in a short time, but we can do this!!! OUR STATE REPS. and MEDIA WILL BE ON BOARD!!! Thanks in advance for any help your willing to give.( Lastly, I don’t want anyone to think I am saying that the board members are corrupt, many are great people) but we are the ones who should make decisions concerning “our” children, and “our” school!!!!!”

Danette Moody Kay
32 North Rd,

School Closure Information

Our readers broke records yesterday for visitors and views; 822 and 1392 respectively. Thank you for your interst and input into the discussion – children and communities are better for your participation. We first published this outline from the State DOE on the School Building Closure process on Oct. 31, but it provides answers to your many questions. I am awaiting an update from the State on action from RSU 50 if any….

Timbered Classrooms...


Timbered Classrooms strives to bring readers all of the information to which they are entitled; we firmly believe, that means “ALL of it”.  …an ambitious goal, to be sure, of which we, unfortunately fall short.  In pursuit of it, though, we offer the Maine Statute on the Procedure for Closing Schools.  

Last week, the State confirmed, that, as yet, no action had been taken, “even informally” on #3.  As for #2, a Board member is quoted as quipping, “It would be so much easier if we could just get a building condemned” over the horrified “SSSssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhh!’s” of her colleagues…..  We know all buildings are in dire need of attention and our readers have come forward with concerns that this avenue may currently be under consideration. (See comments under “The Hobbit Effect”)

The article (bottom of page) that would be put before voters would include an estimate of the cost to keep…

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A Penny For Your Thoughts? A Reader’s Two Cents’…

image“If this latest consolidation effort goes through, it will drive a lot of families to either attempt homeschooling or try Maine Connections Academy. I would not want my child transported from this side of the district to Dyer Brook, first of all.  It will significantly limit after-school activities.  Many families cannot afford to travel back and forth to Dyer Brook for events.  And then, who wants the kids who drive to school to have to travel that far, especially in the winter?  We all know, no matter what takes place, our taxes will continue to rise…”

Welcome 2015

 “Hope smiles on the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier’. ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson


Wishing our our readers a Happy New Year…