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…”.

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2 responses to “The View From One Chair – Notes On The January Meeting

  1. We will definitely move forward in the direction that the people would like to see if people continue to attend board meetings and talk with their board reps. Board members need to hear from us in order to make decisions based on what their voters support. Thank you all for staying informed and involved! Keeping our school in our community is worth the fight!

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    • That was a wonderful take-away from Monday night’s meeting; the positive effect interested and engaged community members, who are not afraid to question, to challenge, and to expect evidence from the Board.

      The Board kept referring to how hard this is “we don’t feel good about what we have to do” etc. etc. – it looked as though they were trying to get the public to back off; some have long taken question and challenge as a personal affront, or disrespect. There was an obvious fear of public anger, and for their own feelings.

      Little has surprised me, about the obvious goal of closing Katahdin. Case studies look at the behavior of Boards and Administrators…. I can probably finish their sentences! We in Benedicta fought consolidation and won, for two years. Then Commissioner Susan Gendron always engaged, always treated me as an equal and did not take “personal offense” at hard questions or vigorous debate. That anyone, any grown-up anyway, would do so IS surprising.

      The way this Board and Administration have treated faculty, the public and even kids on a personal level sets an appallingly low standard.

      Children, taxpayers and communities must deal with more intense hardship from policymakers’ decisions than ruffled feathers, hurt feelings etc.. that concern the Board so much.

      I have been told to “shut up”, called “a bully”, publicly ‘silenced’ more than once, and been warned that there would be repercussions on our children…

      I am not afraid of their anger.

      The Board and Administration would do well to grow up, get over themselves and stop worrying about their own feelings; what’s a few ruffled feathers?

      …and stop saying “we’re doing the best we can with the information we have” when they refuse to go out and get information, and further refuse to provide a shred of evidence to back up their outlandish statements. I tried several times to paint a picture of how consolidation works for this Board, and they’ve shut me down, waved it away, “well those studies aren’t about US”.

      Serving on a Board is very difficult, and at some times more than others. School Boards bear a tremendous amount of responsibility. It isn’t supposed to be fun. Those difficult decisions deserve careful research, but minds are clearly made up. It looks like the communities, though, are VERY astute; very informed and will have the final word.

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