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.

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“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.

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55 responses to “A Reader Reports on Katahdin’s Impending Closure….

  1. I do not have a copy of the agenda yet, but will post it as soon as I do.

    This came in from a reader, and I decided to pass it along immediately. It is always a good idea to let Board members know where you stand anyway.

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  2. Some have commented that the board is not yet ready to vote on a scenario, i.e. closing Katahdin. However, if not by Jan 12, they will be voting on one of the scenarios in the very near future and it is common knowledge that many of the board members who will be voting are in favor of consolidation, Katahdin moving to SACHS! So………………………………….It would be nice to see the minutes of the Dec meeting and the agenda for Jan 12.

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    • I agree. Elaine Small ( esmallsacs@sacs.csd109.k12.me.us) has been pretty good about sending Agendas and minutes. The minutes are dated, though, as she only sends those after they are approved a month after they are taken. The December minutes will not be approved until the January meeting.

      What we are sorely lacking, is press coverage – real, professional, investigative reporting. The minutes do not serve the same function.

      I haven’t received the January Agenda yet, but I am keeping my eyes open for it. I would encourage our readers to share their own copy if they get one.

      Some on the Board set their sights on closing Katahdin long ago, and hired Larry to do it. “What do you know about building a new school?” was an interview question for heaven’s sake!

      For two years, they have spent precious dollars, that better belong in the classroom by the way, on consultants and engineers in a failed attempt to create a facade of objectivity and to buy credibility. …an insult to the intelligence of our readers, and, worse, a disservice to children and communities.

      You are right. They may or may not be “ready” to vote on the 12th but it makes little difference. What they will never be ready to do, is openly debate the evidence presented here, or offer a shred of their own. They are in good company. Then-Commissioner Susan Gendron couldn’t produce any either at the time the RSU law was in its infancy.

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      • Closing Katahdin is the agenda. The other scenarios are smoke and mirrors. If the Superintendent and board members had integrity, they would have been honest about consolidation at the beginning, but they knew it would not sit well with people on this side of the district. It is disgusting that board members will not stand up and vote for what people want. The superintendent apparently has some pull, I would advise board members to think for themselves and the people they represent. Don’t tell us you care about kids. You don’t! The bus ride alone makes no sense and will cost a fortune. We need a superintendent with some integrity.

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        • You are spot on! The idea originated with certain Board members, though, who hired Larry to get it done. …pathetic how they defer to him hoping it will spare them the consequences of angry voters but the buck stops with them.

          I could respect them if they were open about what they wanted and made their case in research evidence, but no. They decided to lead communities down a very expensive rabbit hole of false objectivity and faux expertise; a well-worn script that our readers see through. They are not worthy of their positions and they most certainly are not so of our children.

          Consolidation is never about kids. It’s about money – and not for kids! If you want what is best for every. Single. Child.

          You will have to fight.

          You have numerous options.

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  3. Keep katahdin open!!!! Don’t let them close this school! fight for it!

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    • Though you will get a vote, I hope you do not wait. Keeping Katahdin open likely will not be enough. Allowing a school to be governed by those who believe it shouldn’t exist; to leave the purse strings in the hands of people who want ALL the money at SACS will not serve kids any better than consolidation.

      I do wish you well. Remember, it can be done. I’ve seen success with much longer odds.

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  4. How do you keep a school open with no money? It took three attempts to pass a budget. There is no perfect solution. With a poor economy and no money in the district, how can anyone that is not involved in the research and different scenarios process even think about disagreeing with a possible solution or automatically say that the “higher ups” don’t care. I’m not taking one side or the other, but I do know that something has to be done within the district at some point. It does no good to whine and complain and say that we want to be on our own when we can’t support our schools financially. That would be a sure way of going from bad to a lot worse.

    People don’t like or want consolidation because it involves combining the schools and people are too prideful. It doesn’t matter if you said they are going to close Katahdin and move everyone to SACS or close SACS and move everyone to Katahdin, people would have an issue.

    Just think about this, those of you who want things to go back to the way they were with Katahdin and SACS being separate, if each school were to be on their own, who would pay for it? Where would the money come from? The district is struggling as a whole, so what would happen if they were separate again? Change is hard, but sometimes, it’s necessary.

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    • Thank you for writing – you bring up a number of issues that, unfortunately, often go undiscussed.

      My skepticism toward consolidation is borne of extensive research of empirical data over decades; much is available on this site, and the academic journal volume, “Great Plains Research” – devoted to it is available at the Sherman library.

      What Great Schools Partnership did with the Task Force could not, rightly be called, “research”. A common criticism among Mr. Kesselheim’s colleagues is of his tendency to lead people to “study” issues subjectively and in relative isolation in order to “steer the ship” toward a predetermined goal. A case in point: if you look at the Scenarios themselves, you will find them highly subjective. For instance, scenarios that close SACS reference the many legitimate concerns about loss to the community and children but dismisses them in scenarios that close Katahdin. Searsport is held up as an example of a small school that should stay open differentiating it from Katahdin. I tried to ask how they arrived at these conclusions; evidence and the like, at the Task Force’s last forum, and, instead of enlightening us, the Board opted to come unhinged. A Board member has since apologized, and it’s O.K….. I was not surprised. There is ample research on the behavior of Boards et. al, toward small school advocates. We should expect the Board to back up their decisions.

      You are right about this: “…It doesn’t matter if you said they are going to close Katahdin and move everyone to SACS or close SACS and move everyone to Katahdin, people would have an issue….” The reasons, though, are more substantive than the usual tripe about pride, mascots, etc.

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

      The Superintendent predicts a savings of $250,000 closing Katahdin. Divided by the 12 towns in the district, that is <$21k per. Now the impacts of bussing have been studied, despite people's dismissal of them, and that burden falls entirely on the sending towns' children and their families. Travel, gas for involved parents, and loss of participation opportunities for children whose families cannot afford it.

      Loss of economic activity, loss if assets are also very real and measurable. You may be aware, that the Board wants to replicate Spruce Mountain's consolidation. Geographically tiny, sending schools benefit from the new, combined facility. Even so, they recognized the loss there, and ponied up $44,000 per town per year to keep the old facility open for community purposes! Are they planning to do that here? ..or saddle Katahdin's communities with the liability of abandoned infrastructure?

      RSU 50, at 460 square miles is one of the largest districts in the State. Not only do "sending towns" see no benefit from a combined, renovated school, but research shows that budgets will be more difficult to pass, not less. Fiscal support for schools decreases with distance and we are already seeing that as people are asking about how to change the cost-sharing formula from wealth to a per-pupil basis.

      As you examine the evidence, consolidation makes no sense to, say, Sherman families – the costs to them and their children far outweigh the savings even if the Superintendent's figure is correct. It isn't, of course. Consolidation proponents most always underestimate the costs. Every child matters equally, right? The RSU model takes decision makers away from kids and renders decisions that "…throw some under the bus..". Yes. The Sherman rep. Said that, out loud, about a decision he supports! ..that it "…throws our kids under the bus"!

      It would be the same if roles were reversed and SACS was threatened.

      Katahdin's communities have seen beaucoup bucks going out the door for consultants and engineers – for the Board to hide behind. I am not impugning engineers integrity – they are experts in buildings but not on weighing the costs of consolidation. As for Great Schools Partnership? If you ask a consultant, "What is 2+2?" He'll answer, "What do you have in mind?" The Board is going to have to own this decision. They cannot simply say, "We have no choice".

      Schools all over the State do quite well at similar sizes and distances from each other, and. Katahdin people believe, rightly, that their money would be better invested in local infrastructure and services. …that skilled administrators committed to children of the region could leverage the contribution of the four towns better than this one has.
      Sharing via interlocal agreements are a great way to enhance education, and I am not even ruling out consolidation – but, ethically speaking, those decisions should be made by sending towns alone without pressure from those in potentially receiving communities.

      Just think about this: Our district is struggling as a whole. Wait. I don't care about "the whole", but kids individually. All of them. Consolidation costs. It does not save. Consolidation hurts kids. Who is going to pay for it? Where is the money going to come from? ..as parents increasingly seek alternatives and towns pull funding to reflect that?

      Thank you for reading all the way to the end! I hope you will look at the research surrounding consolidation.

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  5. Consolidation would be the most economical step in the long run, IF those in charge weren’t constantly taking steps to “save” money, only to then turn around and take a chunk of that “saved” money and stuff it in the pockets of administration.

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    • “Economical”? For whom? Long bus rides not only cost a substantial sum of money, they expose taxpayers to fuel price fluctuations. ..a net loss for kids too as there is no benefit to them. …say nothing of costs to involved parents and participation opportunities. More courses? There aren’t any of any real significance by proponents’ own admissions!

      Consolidation will even further insulate those “stuffing administrators’ pockets” – namely this Board, from the vehement objections from an angry public. As it stands they still need YOU to vote to close your own school… Do you think they will be MORE responsive once they have all the control over your money and kids? Do you really believe their warped priorities will improve? Administrator compensation beyond EPS or even comparables in the shadow of Dickensian austerity for kids. It will only get worse, especially as towns pull funding; change their cost-sharing formula…. They have demonstrated that they can and will take their money off the top – always.

      It is long past time for those claiming “economy” to prove their assertions, the way we back up our own here on Timbered Classrooms.

      The most “economical thing in the long run” is for those closest to kids and taxpayers to start making decisions about them. The RSU is clearly not going to facilitate that, so it shoukd be disbanded.

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      • I’m sorry, I should have clarified. I didn’t mean consolidating schools into one building, but as an RSU. I think everyone could be happy keeping their kids where they are, perhaps combining all students into one building on that side. Cost savings can’t happen until we see a manageable amount of administration with realistic salaries for this area of the world. It makes no sense to close buildings then turn around and pay administration extravagant salaries.

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        • Oh you have no need to apologize! Thank you very much for clarifying….

          This is a great opportunity for me to clarify, too, why the RSU model undermines efficiency.

          I know, it flies in the face of business expertise, but it is an area of education where business principles do not work. It would seem that one budget; one pot of money distributed around the district by one Board should be more efficient but it isn’t from a child and taxpayer standpoint. Local Boards are very frugal and responsive to their constituents and the RSU Law wiped them out. There are so many costs involved in achieving “sameness” ( notice I did not say ” equity” because the RSU Law undermines that too.).

          You would be hard-pressed to find a community happy with the RSU model, but an AOS? …where budgets and Boards are separate but Administrative offices are shared, work better. Though accused of not playing well with others, I am all for sharing – just not pillage.

          Your idea to consolidate the Katahdin’s side is popular and the research speaks to it specifically. ….but that doesn’t send, say, Sherman tax dollars to Dyer Brook, now, does it? …so an RSU Board won’t make a decision like that.

          Get decision makers closer to kids and taxpayers and you will get the Administrative austerity we all have been calling for.

          Here is some interesting reading that supports your idea to consolidate grades rather than expanding existing grade levels into one building: https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/dollars-sense-the-cost-effectiveness-of-small-schools/

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  6. Wow, a lot to digest. A lot of people chiming in on things they know absolutely nothing about. It reminds me of high school all over again. Somebody starts a rumor and that rumor spreads like crazy until it almost becomes “factual,” when in all essence, it is not even close to reality.

    I would like to look at a few areas and then ask a few questions. These questions will be hypothetical in nature and in no way mean anything one way or another other than I want to know what people think of them or what people have heard through the “rumor mill.”

    1) People speak of combining KES and KMHS. Really? Where are they going to put everybody in the high school? I’ve walked through the school recently and there are only a few empty classrooms. How do you move K-6 grade into a school that doesn’t have the necessary rooms or facilities? Also, you could not move everybody over the elementary school because that school is not big enough and it is the old high school anyway and has issues of its own.

    2) People are saying that there will not be more course selection if the schools consolidate because right now, and I quote, ” ‘…say nothing of costs to involved parents and participation opportunities. More courses? There aren’t any of any real significance by proponents’ own admissions!’ ” At both schools their schedule is set up in 10 blocks, 5 blocks a day, for 60 minutes each. Each teacher has an average of 8 or 9 classes. Each class can have anywhere from 1-22 students in it. Speaking with the guidance counselors, class sizes vary because of Region 2 and certain students have to be there on certain days, so that throws a monkey wrench into everything and that’s how you get some classes with 1, 2, or 3 kids, and then others with 20+. Some teachers are fortunate to have two of the same classes occasionally, while others are teaching 6 or 7 different classes in their 8 or 9 class work load. I can only imagine how hard it is to prepare for several different classes, even if you are a veteran teacher. This is happening because at both schools there are only one or maybe two teachers per subject. Combining schools would allow for 2 to 4 teachers per subject, certain teachers would be allowed to only teach multiple classes of 2 or 3 different courses instead of 6 or 7, and that way more honors or AP classes could be added in or even more courses than offered now.

    3) Busing is a huge issue, no doubt. But, lets throw around the idea of a new school. It won’t happen in the near future, that’s for sure because RSU 50 is not on the list that the state of Maine has that supplies help for new schools to be built, so just for fun, lets look at it. One of the options on the table is a new school. A potential spot for it has been discussed to be in Crystal, about as central as possible that has an area that would be big enough for all the facilities that a new school would require. Even if it were to be possible, people have still come forward and said that they would not want a new school because the local towns would “lose their identities” and busing would cost too much. Busing will always be an issue to someone. Busing is an issue right now for the current schools the way they are. So I think we can take that issue off the table because there is no use in beating our heads against a wall for something that won’t change no matter what happens schools wise. Furthermore, people don’t pay their taxes now in order to support the budget they have now THAT THEY PASSED, so you know for sure that a brand new school could never be paid for, even with the assistance of the state.

    4) People complain about administrators pocketing the saved money or administrators padding their wallets with salaries they don’t deserve. I want some hard numbers that prove this. atimberedchoir you seem to be all high and mighty with your overuse of unnecessary vocabulary and “researched” facts that are coming out of your ears, so why don’t you please put up some factual salaries so we can all see what everybody is complaining about. Then, would you please compare these salaries to other districts of comparable sizes and to districts that are a little bit bigger. Before anybody goes accusing anybody else of embezzling school funds, there needs to be hard evidence.

    5) I hear people bring up the fact that the budget for RSU 50 seems high for the size of the district and the number of schools in it, which is 3 (SACS, KES, KMHS). These people mention that they want to know where all the money in this high budget is going? I agree. It would be nice to see a breakdown of how things are spent. And we’re not talking about classroom budgets for books and paper, or how much they’re paying the grounds crew to mow the lawns or anything like that. People want to know where are the bigger chunks of the budget spent. Not only that, but if something is listed in the budget costing a certain amount and all of the money for that particular listing is not spent on that particular thing, where is that saved or unused money going? You know, it’s one thing if the saved or unused money in a certain part of the budget is going towards fuel for buses or heating fuel for the schools, or repairs for the schools, but if it’s not, then where?

    6) People think it will cost more to consolidate that to stay separate. Well, think of it like this if you will; when you go shopping does it cost more or less to buy in bulk or to buy multiple regular sizes of something? For example, right now it cost $3.99 for a 12-pack of soda, but it only cost $5.99 for a 24-pack of that same soda. If you wanted to buy two 12-packs it would cost you $7.98. Why would you not buy the 24-pack? It would save you almost $2, especially after tax. So, if you look at it from a school standpoint, since there are 3 schools in the district, you wouldn’t be buying three-times the school materials, you wouldn’t be paying for three-times the principles, or three-times the administrations. If they were to combine to one school, there would most likely be one elementary principle, one middle/high school principle, and possibly an assistant principle or two somewhere, probably as a part-time teacher, part-time assistant principle, or something along those lines.

    7) If the Katahdin schools are closed would the towns be taxed on them for being abandoned buildings? Most likely no. There’s an option floating around of talk that they would turn either KES or KMHS into a rec center/adult education/community center. That makes perfect sense. Which ever one they don’t use they could gut and sell off the parts or take what is usable to the other two locations.

    8) ” ‘Just think about this: Our district is struggling as a whole. Wait. I don’t care about “the whole”, but kids individually. All of them. Consolidation costs. It does not save. Consolidation hurts kids.’ ” Ummm, you just contradicted yourself in the same statement. You said you don’t care about the whole, but the kids individually. All of them. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but if you care about all the individual kids then you care about the whole because all of the individual parts make a whole.

    I’m not on here to argue with anybody. I just hope that everybody can see that consolidation isn’t a bad alternative. There are many questions that need to be answered before any decisions can be made by anyone. Then, even when decisions are made, things won’t happen immediately. Whether the board decides to stay separate or combine it will be a while before it happens. Things are going to get messy, but they don’t have to be. Both sides need hard facts and figures to support their findings and claims. People throwing around prideful statements and unsupported accusations are only going muddy the waters and make the whole process worse than it already is. Just my 2¢.

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    • Pot meet kettle! The one “chiming in on issues they no nothing about” is, clearly, you. You are welcome, certainly, here. It is always good to bring disparate beliefs out into the sunlight.

      1). We have been assured by Representative Rick Long and others that KHS has, indeed, housed and was built for more students than are enrolled in KMHS and KES combined.

      2) Thank you for quoting me. The reference to the insignificant increase in course offerings comes from two places: the research:

      “..researchers have found that “it takes a lot of bigness to add a little variety – that is, on average, a 100% increase in enrollment yields only a 17% increase in variety of offerings..” ~ Education on a human scale is available here https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/education-on-a-human-scale/
      It is quite lengthy, but I have left a hard copy at the Sherman Library if it is easier for you.

      It also comes from the Board’s own assessment of various scenarios. At the last Task Force forum, an attendee pointed out that their own predictions for increased course offerings are relatively tiny. I would submit that research suggests they are overly optimistic but it doesn’t matter much. Either way, it likely isn’t worth the costs to Katahdin’s kids and families who will bear a larger burden than those surrounding SACS.

      3). The Superintendent said, publicly, that an interview question posed to him as a candidate was, “What do you know about building a new school?” That the desire for a new school in Crystal has been around for some time is perhaps the worst-kept secret around. You are right about one thing: it will not happen. The State will not support it any more than local communities. So why are we even talking about it? Those who posed that question long ago chose consolidation at SACS not only as a second choice to drawing more investment into their own community, but perhaps, longer term, to justify a new school to the State.

      4). Neither I, nor anyone associated with our work here has ever accused anyone of embezzlement. That is a vile fabrication and YOU, sir, or madam, are a liar.

      As for salary comparisons? We have already done that. $109,000 is way out of alignment with Houlton, (92,000) East Millinocket (62,400) to name two. Further, we have Superintendents among our readers who say “I want his job!” Superintendents, by the way, with more qualifications, experience and expertise. ..but don’t take my word for it. MaineOpenGov collects,this sort of data. While you are at it, look at this RSU’s ED279 on the MDOE website. Administrative costs are WAY over EPS, even more,so than faculty!

      So of,all the positions created since the RSU’s inception, how many are working directly with kids? How many are bureaucrats and wardens? How do teachers salaries compare to their colleagues’ in other districts? ..should be on par with administrative overages, but no. They are lower. If you can justify bureaucratic bloat, then, feel free.

      5). You are spot on about this. We need to know exactly where the money is going but the latest audit is vague – it does not break down which school the money is going to but speaks in broad categories. The Board’s own finance committee is struggling with this, and they meet at 5:30 before every regular Board meeting. We have been encouraged to attend. I hope you will.

      6). When the RSU Law was being debated, then-Comissioner Susan Gendron trotted out a report from economist Phillip Trostel of UMaine claiming savings he likened children to “..cookies baked in a batch..” as opposed to one at a time. He did not use any empirical data; case studies where it had actually been tried on children. It doesn’t work that way. Maybe if he had cookie dough bussed in from all directions….. This is where it gets frustrating: education is not a business. It does not work that way. Read the evidence. Do not simply apply the principles that spawned your last shopping trip to Sam’s Club… ..but there is also research on how people react to evidence that debunks their narrative; their assumptions about consolidation. They a) lash out in anger b) don’t believe it or c) both.

      7). I am not talking about taxes. Education infrastructure is deeply intertwined with economic activity and the health of the community. The Journal of the Center for Great Plains Research, available at the Sherman Library, outlines this extensively. Yes, at Spruce Mountain, the towns contributed to keep the closed school open for that. No one has mentioned compensating Katahdin’s communities for their loss, and, unlike Spruce Mountain, they are too far away to benefit from the new, combined school in the same way.

      8). No I do NOT have to care about the RSU to care about every child in it. Children are not regional units. The RSU model inherently creates winners and losers. It does not serve them, it was designed to close schools and children deserve better.

      I’ve been studying this since 2004, and have developed a depth of understanding in this issue. It would be easier for me if you were right but the research says you are mistaken. I take a back seat to no one on putting kids first and even traveling for opportunity. (I take our children to Ellsworth every week for orchestra and lessons.). This scheme is not about kids, but about money. They want it all 20+ miles North….. …an uncomfortable truth, but truth nonetheless. Look for yourself.

      Good talk.

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  7. Wow thought provoking! I guess I am a little concerned as to where the facts of this meeting came about as I have found no one that knew anything about this until reading it on here. One thing it certainly caused some hype. It will be interesting to get some facts.

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    • I have said that I do not have a copy of the Agenda. Whether or not the Board is prepared to vote on this on the 12th is immaterial. The outcome of such a vote is not in doubt, and neither is the desire of this Board to close Katahdin. They will keep it “rumor” until the very last… That’s how it works.

      Facts do not come from this Administration or Board – that is the trouble.

      The discussion happening here is a good one and long overdue – regardless of the Agenda for the 12th.

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  8. There is more space available at KMHS than one sees when just walking through at any given time. Has this scenario of closing KES and moving K-12 into KMHS, with renovations been explored to the extent that we know approximate dollars it would cost to renovate? I don’t think so – only hearing from Mr. Malone that it would be “too costly.” It is not fair to vote and make decisions based on the “study” done by Great Schools Partnership! There were no dollar amounts, just BS! Mr. Malone reported that we, the public, would have results from a feasibility study available in December – “on the website.” Will those now be available at the Jan 12 meeting? Yes, we need do to something to make education more affordable to our taxpayers. But, we also need a board that will listen to it’s community members that voted them in to represent us! This should cause “some hype.” Our kids deserve it as do our community members. We do not want our school taken out of our community here on the Katahdin side nor the SACHS side! A lot of these comments here are common sense, not “prideful.” There is no way that my kids will receive such a wonderfully better education through consolidation that it will make it worth it to travel to Dyer Brook. That’s how a lot of parents are feeling right now. What happens to the whole situation when many parents choose not to send their kids to SACHS if that is the vote and the rsu pays tuition to Maine Connections Academy or other alternatives? There are soooooooo many reasons why the board needs to listen and discuss with parents rather than have them shut down and put in their place by Greg Ryan and Larry Malone. If “Timbered Classrooms” was not openly discussing these issues, right or wrong, most people would not know what we are facing in this rsu as the issue of consolidation moves forward. I know for a fact that there are no untruths being revealed here and I am grateful for this space for the information being shared. Anyone can get a break down of the budget by emailng Holly Vining. It is quite an eye opener. The facts that everyone is asking for here need to come from administration and they don’t want to answer in a straightforward manner, they pacify.

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  9. I understand a lot of parents will not send their children to Sacs if it comes down to it. I hear a lot about home schooling. I hope parents think long and hard about that as a solution. Some kids flourish with home schooling. Some do not, mine wouldn’t. It is more that just academics for some kids to become productive in society. If it works for the kids I think its a wonderful option.

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    • Every child, every family is different. That is one reason RSU’s do not work well.

      Every parent must weigh the costs, benefits…. For themselves,and those will be vastly different for everyone.

      It goes to show, though, that it isn’t about mascots, identity etc. When parents believe their child will be better off online or elsewhere, they take the opportunity to go.

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  10. Why don’t more people go to the board meetings? I’ve talked with people that have gone and they said that other than the board members and the people who have been brought in to do their studies, there usually is only a handful of people in attendance. These meetings are well promoted. People say they are passionate about this issue, then they need to show up to the meetings and let their voices be heard.

    What is the graduation rate at both schools? I bet both schools are lower than people think. If the schools were consolidated and people on either side decided to take their kids out of school and have them do the Maine Connections Academy I bet the graduation rate in the district would drop even more. I’m sorry, but it’s obvious that a lot of students don’t go to school and attend classes. The dropout rate is higher than it should be. People threatening to pull their kids out of school and have them do the Maine Connection Academy route would only add to the dropout rate.

    At some points, parents, students, and community members need to stop pointing fingers and everybody else and start looking in the mirrors at themselves. An education is what you make of it. If students and parents aren’t putting the time and effort in then why are they expecting to get something out of it? This whole huge mess starts at home. Everybody’s home. Be realistic.

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    • I, in fact have attended a fair number of meetings and, yes, my voice has been heard if not necessarily welcome. Meetings are full at budget time.

      I believe you are being a bit unfair, though – it is difficult to go to meetings and I have missed some to save gas money. People who do not attend not only do care, but do have a right to be informed and heard outside meetings as well. That is why we rely on the press’s which is absent here. It would help a great deal if the Board would record meetings as they do elsewhere, especially in our 460 square mile district.

      I do not understand your finger pointing comment. It sounds as though you are telling people to turn inward. I’m sure the Board would love that! To be free from public scrutiny…. Well, civic participation in educational affairs is part of “personal responsibility” AND good parenting. In this household, we are very proud of our work in both realms.

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  11. It does start at home, which is what got concerned parents asking questions and trying to communicate with teachers and administration. We should all be able to work together. An education is what you make it, agree 100%. Kids can be successful no matter where they come from. But don’t we want the best we can give them in these small communities? I don’t feel that mine would get the best I could give them by closing their middle and high school and transporting them to Dyer Brook. Convince me this is the best we have to offer and I may feel differently.

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    • I hope you will delve into the research available here, on the “School Consolidation” tab, and elsewhere to learn and understand as much as you can yourself. Then demand that the Board prove their position.

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  12. Seems the tides have shifted a little and the focus is more on busing (time, and distance) rather than money and the academic end of things. (more on fb than here) Which has always been an issue, just more talk as of late.. I would like to hear a bus drivers perspective on the situation. From both ends of the district. Also not a solution but a thought.. In many areas There are bus stops. Not all areas have the luxury of a bus stopping at each and every house. Again I do not have all the answers just trying to get opinions and weigh all options.

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  13. There should be bus stops every so often anyways. It makes no sense for buses to travel all over the district just to pick up a few kids. It makes complete sense to have a meeting spot, like a store or parking lot, and the bus just has to stop at those few spots where all the students can get on. I’m sure that is something that is being talked about anyway. It’s a lot easier, saves on fuel, and is less time consuming for everybody to get to one spot where they can get picked up than it is for a bus to go all over the place.

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    • Hmmmmm…. I don’t know if you are talking about changing the bus routes in general? …or trying to make the long haul for Katahdin children more palatable?

      Like so many ideas to save money, this one shifts the burden onto families, who will have to drive children to central locations. Then there is the issue of supervision and safety of a larger group of children at a “store or parking lot”.

      I doubt it will change the calculation of Katahdin families, for whom the costs and benefits of consolidation at SACS simply do not add up for them. It may even make it worse.

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  14. For someone who wishes people to see their point of view, I’m noticing that you don’t share the same sentiment when it comes to others offering solutions or suggestions. You simple pose another question and then shut down any attempts at thought provoking discussion by instantly laying the burden on the families or saying the RSU is to blame. There is no easy solution that will benefit everyone. If the schools stay separate there will still be problems. If the schools consolidate, there will still be problems. You can write and write and write and close your mind to any thoughts other than your own, but in the long run, what will you have accomplished? Nothing, as it is all words with no substance. When I say you, I don’t only mean you atimberedchoir, I’m speaking to everyone who has something to say. Everyone boasts that they know what’s best for this area, yet no one listens. It’s sad to think that everyone is more worried about keeping things the same rather than looking forward to the future, whatever that future may be. Discussion is good, but we all must be able to listen and understand as well as talk.

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    • Perhaps the most frustrating thing about school consolidation issues – and others in education for that matter, is that people think they know. They are not in learning, or even listening mode – only judgement.

      I was aghast when I decided, in 2004, to study consolidation with an open mind and find out if, how, why it does or does not work. Our assumptions are soooooo wrong… Children in general have a way of challenging our assumptions don’t they?

      Thank you for supporting thoughtful discussion! We’re all about that here.

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  15. I think no matter what happens the bus routes should change.. Drop off would be a great solution. There are kids on the bus 40 minutes that live here in town. It does shift the burden on to the parents. But why not? It is their kids, their burden. I am not suggesting a 30 mile away bus stop, but several centrally located areas throughout the district. Car pooling is an option, we do it for after school activities. As far as babysitting the kids at a bus stop I for one would wait until my child got on the bus anyway, As Im sure a lot of parents would. I have been reading on some other schools going through this same issue FK/SF area its a sad time in Northern Maine.

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    • It is a sad time in Northern Maine. I would like to hear more about what is happening in Fort Kent/St. Francis? It’s good to learn from each other.

      In a 460 square mile district, how many bus stops would we need? The discussion should continue, with thoughtful questions and careful consideration.

      Yes, kids are ultimately the responsibility of their parents, but their education is the responsibility of all of us. When we cut school budgets by shifting costs to individual families, those costs fall on some much more than others – and their taxes continue to rise. Perhaps sharing those costs is preferable? Just a thought….

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  16. This is what was sent to me as an example of what other small schools in the area are going through. Not exactly the same situation but sad none the less.. Following this was a long thread of pros and cons and a whole lot of personal mud slinging it was not the adults involved most shining moment or at least I hope not. But goes to show how scared, mad, sad etc family’s are
    Ryan Pelletier
    I understand tomorrow the fate of where I went to elementary school could be decided. I attended St. Francis Elementary School when there were many more students than there are now. I had great teachers in SF, just like there are now. To me, it’s not about quality of education, or local politics, or one town vs. another. It’s about progress and change. It’s about economies of scale and reality. It’s time to close this chapter just like they did 50 years ago when they closed all of the small grammar schools in St. Francis and opened SFES. When I left SFES almost 25 years ago I found myself at a disadvantage among my Fort Kent and Wallagrass classmates. It took me all of my high school years to assimilate to the new surroundings and I firmly believe that earlier integration and diversity of all schools in SAD #27 would greatly improve individual learning and growth. I hope the SAD #27 school board finally does the right thing and vote to close SFES. The students and community will be better served.

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  17. What’s wrong with that post? He clearly stated that his involvement in a small elementary school made it hard for him to adjust to a bigger high school, so he thinks it would be good for students to start at a young age of getting used to attending a school of decent size. Good writeup of someone that went to a small school and was actually involved in process of going from a small, rural setting to a larger setting, and if he had been more prepared for it then he would have been fine.

    Has there been any headway with the Fort Kent/SF consolidation process?

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    • …he also ‘clearly stated’ , “It’s not about the quality of education… …it’s about progress and change…”? Well, for our readers it, actually, IS ‘about educational quality’!

      What else is “…wrong with this post…”? The author’s many assumptions. Why is a 50+ year-old, failed idea “progress”? Even the Sinclair Act failed to save money, and over the last several decades consolidation has fallen out of favor.

      The only reason we doggedly pursue consolidation can be summed up in one quote, “You don’t save money, but you change who gets it.” ~Marty Strange

      What, in the author’s mind, constitutes a “decent size” for a school?What factual data does he use to determine that? Numerous studies here show, consistently, that smaller is better socially and academically as well as financially. Adjusting to a new school of any kind is difficult – whether it be to one of larger, similar size or even smaller. While the author assumes he would have been at least as well prepared in a larger elementary school to face this challenge, students from smaller schools have been shown to be better equipped in this area.

      It isn’t what you don’t know about the consolidation issue that bites you; it’s what you know for sure that just isn’t so.

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  18. I have never been a fan of consolidation, but there are times when one must through in the towel and accept the change. However, that is not the case at Katahdin schools (rsu50), the numbers are still there!! 400 students are certainly enough to warrant keeping the schools open! This is about money, our children go to SACHS, so does our money! I have great respect for the excellent teachers at SACHS, but my loyalty stands behind “our” hometown school Katahdin. No, things are not perfect there, but lets fight together to make the necessary changes to help heal our own school! First by keeping those doors open!! Then taking back our power to make the right decisions for “our” children….. respectfully, danette Moody Kay

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  19. If the schools were consolidated, and if the school chosen to use were SACS, the school would no longer be called Southern Aroostook Community School. A new school name would be decided on, a new school mascot would be chosen, and new school colors would be picked. The school would be renovated to some aspects and changes would be made. For example, Jay HS and Livermore Falls HS combined 4 years ago to become Spruce Mountain HS. Jay was orange, LF was a weird green, and now they’re a dark green and black, and they are the Phoenix. 4 or 5 years ago, Georges Valley HS and Rockland HS combined to become Oceanside HS. Georges Valley was green, Rockland was orange, and now Oceanside is UNC blue, and they are the Mariners. When schools consolidate a new school identity is formed. I’ve spoken with people that have been a part of both of these consolidations and they all say the same thing; it was a process that took a few years to iron the kinks out, but everything is coming together nicely now.

    I already know what people are going to say. “Those are more heavily populated areas with stronger economies so of course things will work better. Up here there’s fewer people in a bigger area so we need small schools to keep local traditions alive.” Think of all of the consolidation that has been happening over the past 40-50 years in this area. All the small, local elementary and grammar schools slowly consolidated into local elementary schools. All the middle and junior high schools consolidated into one school, and all the local high schools/academies consolidated into one school. So instead of each town having it’s own grammar school, middle school, and high school/academy, each general area had one or two elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. But also, there were more jobs as there were three mills running in Sherman, Stacyville, and Patten, along with more businesses than there are now. It’s all relative. When you have more, there is more to go around. When there is less. There is less to go around. I find it mind-boggling that people either don’t or won’t comprehend the bigger picture.

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    • What is this fascination with Spruce Mountain? Why not talk to people in communities whose schools are small by necessity and find out how they innovate to meet the needs of their students? …how they make the most of what they have and optimize their own potential without incurring the costs inherent in consolidation?
      ….because wouldn’t liquidate “Local Schools” for Katahdin’s communities into “Regional Support” for SACS’, (to coin a phrase from Gov. Baldacci’s “Local Schools Regional Support” initiative.)

      There are a number of differences that change the equation when you apply it to our own area:
      Spruce Mountain, geographically, is smaller, meaning transportation costs to consolidate are lower and the benefits to the sending towns are higher. Are you aware that the towns of RSU 73 financially support keeping the old high school open for Adult Ed., community purposes? RSU 50 wants to shed the cost of building maintenance.

      Stop pretending distance does not matter. A cost/benefit analysis will look very different to a Livermore Falls family then a Katahdin one, who must contend with a significant increase in their own gas bill, and greater impact of travel on their children along with higher taxes to pay for those renovations. (Spruce Mountain planned on spending $5 million to alter the new school, but voters would only give them $2 million. This is not a cost-saving initiative by any stretch.)

      How on Earth do you purport to “…know what people are going to say…”? …especially if you believe mascots matter at all.

      “Up here there ARE ‘fewer people in a bigger area'” which makes the Board’s love affair with scale so absurd. Our children cannot give you the scale you demand, and you stubbornly ignore other efficiencies.

      “..all the consolidation that has gone on in this area” has, indeed been on the minds of our readers, and laugh at the notion put forth by Craig Kesselheim that these experiences will make further consolidation easier. They clearly failed to fulfill their promises as the research so decidedly predicts.

      The educational needs of our children did not disappear with Sherman Lumber, and they are not “relative” It is imperitive to wring the most out of every taxpayer dollar for them. Children are not “scalable” and neither do they stop growing to give adults a “few years to iron out the kinks”.

      Katahdin’s families are not going to sacrifice the education, health and safety of their children for your “big picture”.

      I don’t understand why people like don’t get the small picture – the one about the size of children, remember them? …to say nothing of the size of taxpayer coffers.

      It isn’t mascots – it’s math. ..and I’m rather partial to the “weird green” in my pocketbook.

      You are spot-on about one thing: your mind is pretty well “boggled”….

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  20. The above post was sent to me to read as an example of other areas going through issues as well. I do not know anyone from that area so therefore no nothing about the situation. I just found it sad that the Northern Maine area is declining. I found nothing wrong with the post and it was one persons perspective that I found interesting. I have SO many mixed feelings about this and honestly I do not think my mind will be made up until a decision is made, we try it and I can then say wow this isn’t so bad or what to heck were we thinking..And of course at that point it may be too late. BUT living on the North end of the district I do not have as much to loose. I am trying to put my feelings aside and think how would I feel if I still lived at the end of Happy Corner Rd and had the bus ride everyday. I do know what ever the decision I will do my best to make it a positive situation so the children do not suffer anymore than need be. Their hands are tied as kids its up to us adults to help them cope whether things change or stay the same.

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    • There are plenty of kids at Katahdin. Enough to keep it open. We can house everyone at the High School. I tire of hearing of the negativity on this side of the district. Just because people are not in favor of consolidation. What about our community? Take a school out of a community, what do you have? Why would a family want to move here with no school?! It hurts kids, the community, and consolidation doesn’t save money, it just shifts the power and money. The promise of more with consolidation is a lie. A bigger school does not mean better. Katahdin can thrive on it’s own.
      Why doesn’t anyone ask the question why our budget is 9. some odd million for 700 or so kids, and Houlton was at 10.2 million for double the kids we are spending too much, but where is the benefit.

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      • I agree. Numbers, when held up to research, do not in any way justify consolidation and all of its costs.

        “Negativity”? I can’t think of anything more negative than the belief a school should not exist; that there are “..not enough kids” to be worthy of local infrastructure.

        You are NOT getting the most bang for your buck, so to speak. Perhaps the audit would shed more light on why, but we got a pretty clear picture during budget time that rather warped priorities are to blame.

        Decisions to close schools should be made by the communities that send children to them. Decisions to put children on long bus rides should be made by the parents and communities that put them on that bus. The people of Katahdin’s communities deserve to know exactly how much it is costing, currently, to run Katahdin alone so that they may decide if better priorities would improve education there with existing resources. They need to compare those costs with the contribution of their four sending towns and decide for themselves how best to meet the needs of their children.

        The RSU agreement made if legal to close schools in other communities to redirect investment to their own. It didn’t make it ethical.

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  21. “…but we got a pretty clear picture during budget time that rather warped priorities are to blame.” Please explain. Whose priorities? What priorities? Thank you.

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    • Sure…. I should have been more clear.

      I was referring to the contentious debate leading up to the budget vote, about how district funds should be spent. You are likely aware of what happened there. The difference between what voters wanted and what the Board wanted could not have been more stark.

      I do not have a vote – just an observation. The debate continued here, and WAGM did a story on this as well.

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  22. I want to touch on the negativity for a moment..I have tried very hard to put myself and feelings in the shoes of people from the south end of the district. I understand the outrage. Now just for a moment put yourself in the shoes of the north end of the district. If the roles were reversed and our kids had a possibility of going to the South end, that being the school that was going to be left open and all you have heard for two years is how horrible the school is and my child will never go there. The claim that we have so much more, its not fair.. What do we have that you don’t? We all know people talk in front of their kids, kids hear way more than need be. Not only is the child going to feel like they are being thrown into the lions den but the children already there are going to feel the hostility. School and adolescence is hard enough with kids at this age level. I feel like the kids are being pitted against each other before this is even happening. You do not want your schools closed that is understandable and obvious. We do not want our school attacked. Take the administration out of the picture just focus on the kids.

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    • I have taken great care with the feelings of our children – am honest with them when they ask questions, and hope, by our example, they feel respected, valued and loved.

      That said, I am acutely aware that consolidation proponents stand ready to accuse those who advocate for small, local schools of the sort of divisiveness you describe.

      I am not privy to any students being pitted against each other. Those who say their children will go attend SACS say so due to distance alone, and are very often complimentary of SACS faculty.

      No one, child, adult or school should be “attacked” – ever.

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  23. 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.

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    • The decision whether or not to close Katahdin is, in fact, on the Agenda for discussion alongside other scenarios. 9b.

      Just as the public can never be sure if a vote will or will not take place on ANY agenda item following discussion, no Board member can determine, ahead of time, that an Agenda item will NOT be subject to a vote.

      It is wildly inappropriate for a Board member to publicly promise that a vote of this kind will not take place on an item posted for consideration. Other Board members are free to make motions to the contrary.

      Please substantiate your claim that the decision on whether or not to close Katahdin will come in the “…next year or two..” and not in some other time frame. Nothing has been decided by the Board one way or another.

      It is up to the communities to decide if they will permit that sort of uncertainty for a “year or two”, with all the difficulties in attracting and retaining faculty and the Board’s admitted reluctance to invest in a school slated to close that would entail.

      Though I did not write the letter in question, that referenced the possibility of a vote, I did allow it to be published with the qualification that I had not yet seen the Agenda. People are intelligent enough to make up their own minds; sort out fact from fiction and many are ready to join the discussion. They care little if the vote occurs on the 12th or later.

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    • Thank you Dawn, for this

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  24. TASK FORCE SCENARIOS

    The following list is a quick reference to the educational structural options the

    board will be giving consideration. The intent of the board is to work through a

    process of elimination that will result in a focal discussion of a limited number of

    options. Consideration will weigh heavily on opportunity for students and fiscal

    1.1. Schooling continues as is.

    1. New PK-12 building (central location)

    2.1. Close all schools, construct new centrally located PK-12 facility.

    1. Consolidate PK-12 North

    3.1. Close all Katahdin Schools and send all students to SA.

    1. Consolidate PK-12 South

    4.1. Close the SA Schools and send all students to Katahdin Schools

    1. Consolidate 7-12 North

    5.1. Close Katahdin M/H School and send all 7-12 students to SA

    1. Consolidate 7-12 South

    6.1. Close SA M/H School and send all 7-12 students to Katahdin

    1. New Centralized 7-12 building and retain local elementary schools
    2. Consolidate the KES and KMHS school into one building

    8.1. No change to SA Schools

    1. Consolidate the middle school students in one location and consolidate

    high schools in the other location

    1. Keep k-8 schools in local districts and tuition all high school students (No

    Details of the final report can be seen on the RSU 50 website.

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  25. The only thing being discussed on the 12th will be narrowing the options down from 10 to 3 or 4. There will be no voting on the closing of any schools.

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    • We have it on excellent authority that there was intent; a hope to narrow it down further than that….

      But that is hardly news and it doesn’t matter. The process of winnowing out has begun, and if the communities want a voice it is good to get involved at the outset.

      Like

  26. Pingback: The View From One Chair – Notes On The January Meeting | Timbered Classrooms...

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