Monthly Archives: February 2015

Small is Beautiful….

bird-in-handTimbered Classrooms strives to put the facts surrounding school consolidation at your fingertips, on our “School Consolidation” tab at the top of the screen..  Here, though, we visit the softer side of the debate, which is no less compelling, in this beautiful piece from a school of less than 200….

“Small schools, it turns out, are not less by virtue of their size. They are more….”

Read on….

What’s So “Big” About Bigness?

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Coming Together Is A Beginning, Keeping Together Is Progress, Working Together Is A Success ~ Henry Ford

Many thanks for Mrs. Kay’s reflections on the last Board meeting…

imageAfter pondering for several days following the RSU 50 school board meeting on Feb.9,2015 @ KES, I can only come to one conclusion, we have a great community!

People are speaking out for our kids, our schools and our $$$! A great many people represented our side of the district!

I guess its about time we all start speaking out about our own. Faith in the school board is at an all time low, questions that folks have been asking for years have fallen on deaf ears. The board are supposed to work for our communities, and especially our kids! Why is it that people always feel short changed? Maybe its time to do our own research and demand those answers.

The situation has become so serious that the towns of Sherman, Stacyville, Patten and Moro, and Mt. Chase, are all in the process of gathering signatures with the “intent” to withdraw from RSU 50. People want back control of our kids, our schools and certainly our money.

It was empowering to see our community members show up to that school board meeting with the same common interest, “our Kids”, and the future of our schools, and community!

We have been made so many promises since joining RSU 50 in 2011, but why haven’t they materialized? We no longer have any control of our own money. The focus is no longer in maintaining our own schools, but lengthy discussions about narrowing down scenarios, someday possibly fixing whats already broken and , building a new 50 MILLION DOLLAR SCHOOL!!!! WHAT??

Many members of the public are outraged to see what is clearly happening, we’ve been snowballed and have had enough!! When asked by the public, the “board” could not give any projected savings on the presented “options”!!!!! WHY? How can the board eliminate scenarios, when there are no numbers to support projected savings! Lets start those savings at the administration end!!!

One mother stated, “my children have health issues, they will not be travelling to SACHS, we will sell our home and move”!, “Or,we will just give our home away, and move!!!”

Another resident from Patten asked, “when are we going to get the buildings fixed?” The boards answer, they were going to Augusta to see what was available for money! There were many questions, demands etc. and a lot of brush off “non-answers” from the board. Not many direct answers.

Several board members, ( the ones who dare speak) seem like kids that want a new bike,(a new school), the reports that we paid to have done do not support their theory. And when told no, they shut down public comments!

After what seemed to be a short period of time, of public upset and demanding answers, chairman Greg Ryan, (who portrayed a very childish, red faced, fist clenched, rolling of the eyes and constant clock watching representation of “our” board) demanded that they would take one more question, then get on with the regular school board meeting.

Mr. John Porter (Principal) certainly saved the proverbial day, by standing up and stating, “let them have their say”…….So the public asked several more questions, which received very vague answers. However, we do appreciate Mr. Porters efforts….

Without the actual projected savings(numbers folks) that for some reason the public are not privy to, how in the world can we move on by eliminating scenarios???

Our side of the district is rich in history, has so much to offer and its at the northern entrance of BSP, without a school, who will want to move to this appealing area. No school, no interest!

In closing, perhaps Mr. Malone should take Greg Ryan to the woodshed , for a lesson in how to treat your fellow man with dignity and respect. As they say, “ONE ROTTEN APPLE CAN SPOIL THE WHOLE BARREL”!!

Happy Valentine’s Day

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Timbered Readers!

Listen Online! A Timely Discussion Of Rural Education In Maine

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For our readers who see the worth of small, local schools; you are in good company.  MPBN hosted a timely and encouraging discussion yesterday with guests, Gordon A. Donaldson, Jr. Ed.D., Professor Emeritus of Education, University of Maine.  Mara Timken, Assistant Professor at Bates College and author of “Why Rural Schools Matter.”  and Todd West, principal at Deer Isle-Stonington High School.

You can still listen to the program anytime; just click below and scroll down for the podcast.  Well worth a listen!

MPBN “Maine Calling Feb. 11, 2015 – The Past Present and Future of Rural Education In Maine

Chasing the Proverbial Dream

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Chasing the proverbial dream, isn’t that what we’ve been doing since joining
districts to form RSU 50 in 2011? It seems to me and many others, that everything we were promised just hasn’t materialized… This “smoking mirror” circus act must come to an end!!

So many people have stated that, “we regret joining the RSU, I quess it sounded too good to be true”! Now here we are several years later in a worse situation than ever! Well, we the parents, community members and concerned tax payers have had enough..

Why are a handful of people, (the board) making all of the decisions that impact our kids!! Its a new day, a time to come together and take back what is ours! We have the right to be heard and speak up for what we want….
Now we know that according to the, “Ames co” report on the condition of the buildings, KES AND KMHS are absolutely fixable!!! We want our own schools in our own district!

Now is the time to demand a solution! Tonights school board meeting will be held at KMHS at 6:30. Please make an effort to be there, numbers matter. So many people are working to ensure that the future of our students be first on “our agenda”!!
Consolidation as well as the future or our schools will be discussed, and a vote can happen at any time.

Are we going to just leave that up to the board? The talk of a new school is in my opinion ridiculous!!! We lose at least 20 students a year, live in a high poverty area and want to spend 50 MILLION $$$, at least to build a new facility!!! Seriously, we need to fix the buildings and get back to the real issue, EDUCATION!!!
Lets hope that those school board members who represent our communities stand up for our children. Then maybe, just maybe some trust will be gained back…..
In all of the research I have done, I am still convinced that consolidation does not promote a better education! Bigger is not always better! Many of our ancestors had all age groups in one room with one teacher, why did those children prosper to becoming great Drs., lawyers, scientist, musicians etc.. Because people cared about education first!!!
Lets push forward, fix the external damage NOW, don’t let the buildings be starved for another 3-4 years, then “Somewhere out there where dreams come true”, we may start to discuss educational strategies……By then, it will be too late, our kids are already slipping through the cracks!!!

Breaking the Fall—Cushioning the Impact of Rural Declining Enrollment by The Rural Trust

“Kids are like fertilizer, sprinkled over too many schools….” ~Board Member Stephan Walker  

I know this came up in our last piece but stay with me here, if you would?  It speaks to a deeper sentiment:  namely, the fervor to bus children in from the countryside to “feed” infrastructure as fertilizer “feeds” crops; children as fodder to “serve” the capacity needs of buildings.  Rather than infrastructure serving; nurturing, the needs of the students we have, we find our children “thrown under the bus” (Board member Phil Knowles words; not mine) to serve the “system”.  ..the “system” here, being the RSU.

In his book, From Schoolhouse To Schooling System, Gordon Donaldson speaks to the conflict that arises between the disparate views of schuools’ obligation to serve communities? …or systems?  It’s a very interesting book, and I saw parallels here.

The refusal of this Board to consider strategies outside of the RSU before they know whether or not they would best serve kids, and the warp-speed with which they took closing all schools and tuitioning children “off the table” in order to save the Superintendent the bother of “running around trying to figure out how much tuition would cost” – is telling.

At the last regular meeting, Board members expressed a desire for “better sports teams”  (larger schools’ teams are more competitive but smaller ones’ more inclusive) and “a new facility we can be proud of” – only 20+ years and $30-60 million stand between our children and any benefits there.  …or would students be better served by the investment in their surroundings that comes from pride in what they have?

” Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Phil Knowles lamented that “We lose kids either direction we consolidate in.”  Who is “we”? Are kids “inputs” to “the system” or are they, in fact, “we”?  He also wants to “…get to EPS…” …oh, for teachers on,y of course – judging by the ED279, Administration; “Bureaucrats and Wardens” can exceed State recommendations as much as they like.  Our readers have been in contact with the State and our representatives and it will be interesting to see their view.

There is widespread agreement that the district faces dire challenges, but school,size is not necessarily one of them.  (District geographic size may well be.). It is also not something this Board can control via busing in either an educationally sound or cost-effective way.  The Board and communities find themselves talking past each other as visions of what constitutes a good education differ widely. For those who believe our children deserve every consideration, in or out of the RSU model, the Rural Trust outlines alternatives to consolidation at both the State and Local level in their report, “Breaking the Fall”…… Children-Jump-Silhouette

“The report asserts that states and local communities must act to sustain and improve small rural schools with declining enrollment. There are always students “left behind” in these communities and they have the same rights to an equal educational opportunity as those who leave. Indeed, our society’s obligation to educate is not dependent on demographic good fortune and cannot, and should not, be compromised by geography…..” Read the full report:  breaking_the_fall …or view it via the Rural Trust, host to a wealth of insight on the issue of Rural School Consolidation: Rural Trust – Breaking the Fall

RSU #50 Building Condition Assessments

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We extend our thanks to community members, who posed such thoughtful questions to the kind and responsive professionals of Ames Associates ….

Read the full analysis of RSU 50 facilities here:  RSU 50 Bldg Condition Assesment

…or view it on the RSU 50 website

AGENDA – February 9th Board Meeting KES @6:30pm

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Though not mentioned on the Agenda here, Chairman Ryan reminded attendees at last night’s presentation from AMES Associates that the Board will be discussing scenarios, including consolidation/closure and may make motions to vote at any time on them.  We hope you join those who posed such insightful questions last night in this process….

The RSU #50 Board will meet at Katahdin Elementary School @6:30pm, on Monday, February 9th

AGENDA 2/9/2015

AGENDA – Special Meeting February 4th 6:30pm Katahdin High School

agendafeb4“Presentation of final report prepared by  AMES Associates, LLC. on the current condition of the facilities within the RSU.  Representatives from the AMES firm will make this presentation to the Board and will entertain questions at the conclusion of the report.”

Public comment will follow.  As you formulate your questions, read the Agenda in full:  AGENDA Feb. 4th 2015

How To Know If Your School Or District Is Threatened With Consolidation – And What To Do About It

“…Don’t wait until your school is directly threatened. Build a strong school and community now…”

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  • “Realize that the consolidators already know that you don’t want your school closed, and that you will oppose their plans. So, don’t rely on testifying about how good your school is or what it means to your community. They don’t believe, or they don’t care, or both. Instead, strategize, organize, multiply, and get the buzz and energy in your region on your side. School boards and other public officials need to understand that the people who want strong schools in local communities are prepared to act to keep their schools….”
  • …Don’t let consolidators pit you against other small school communities. Too often, communities are told they won’t be consolidated if they lay low or if they let another school be closed. Very often those schools do, in fact, get consolidated anyway within a few years.

“…Don’t quit or get discouraged. Even if you lose your school you have shown your children that you will fight on their behalf and if you keep fighting you might get your school back…”

For more timely advice, and other valuable resources, visit the Rural Trust here

“Our Kids, Our School, Our $$$$$….”

Please welcome our newest author…..

paper_hawaii_petition“OUR KIDS, OUR SCHOOL, OUR $$$$$” by Dannette-Moody Kay

A few weeks ago I decided to speak up (along with my husband) about the pending issues of consolidation between Katahdin schools and SACHS.

After everything I have researched about the pros and cons of consolidation, we firmly believe that moving our children from their own community to another, would certainly not be in their best interest. This consolidation does not benefit anyone, except perhaps administration. Certainly our tax dollars will be stretched even thinner! Consolidation costs, has cost, will cost! Maybe if the board were serious about savings, they would not be pushing for a new school and would not already have taken closing both of our schools, “off the table’!!
The good people of our communities, Sherman, Patten, Moro, Mt. Chase, Silver Ridge, and Benedicta have a right to speak up, our kids, our school, our money.

Why is there so much intimidation? The very first amendment of our constitution is still firmly in place, (“The Freedom of Speech”)
Our communities have come together, starting with getting signatures on petitions, with the “intent to withdraw”, from RSU 50. We are all working together to do what is in the best interest of our kids, our school,our $$!!
Withdrawal is a lengthy process, but if we all do this together, things will go along much more smoothly. We will also be supported by Rep. Rick Long as well as our senator and other reps.
If a change “must” happen we need to keep our kids on this side of the district!
We have waited a very long time to view the facilitators report, regarding the condition of our school buildings. How much money are we looking at in repairs? I can’t begin to understand after all or this time, why that public report is not released to the public!
The school board will go over these results in a special meeting, on Feb.4,2015, at 6:30pm, at KES with the public, please try to be there.
Also, the next scheduled school board meeting is on Feb. 9th, at 6:30pm, also at KES. This will be a great opportunity to voice our plans and any concerns we have to the board. Its very important that the Superintendent as well as the board realize that we all mean business and will not back down!
I have been made aware that staff members have been made to feel uncomfortable…. Faculty and staff are NOT to be held responsible or face retaliation in any form for community efforts to withdraw from this RSU!!! To threaten employment status in any way is not only unethical, but illegal!!
Rep. Rick Long is working on setting up a public meeting with officials from Augusta, we will post this information as soon as it has been set up. Write your questions down, as these are the folks who work for us and our children.
We have great communities right at our fingertips, supermarkets,churches, a pharmacy, hardware store, health care facilities, as well as several auto repair blds. Our community is an appealing place for people who may have an interest in moving here. People with children will not won’t to send their kids to a school so far away! We need our school, in our district! Lets fix the outside, and focus on the real concern, education!!
If you have not signed a petition in the towns of Sherman, Patten, Moro, and Stacyville and would like to do so , please either PM me or call 528-2266, and I will tell you who you can reach to sign, “the intent to withdraw”.
Thank you all for the support and hard work you are all putting into this process!

School Consolidation: What Is It Good For?

“…Let’s make consolidation the absolute last resort. Instead, let’s recognize that merging districts with financial problems and falling enrollment will not make them better off financially and educationally. Let’s focus on what’s really important — the resources (financial and otherwise) that strong community and school leaders can leverage to improve…”  

“…Consolidation robs communities of important assets: their children and their schools. imageConsolidation may seem efficient based on pupil-to-teacher ratios, costs per pupil, and the promise of improved curriculum and higher test scores. But it is hardly efficient, given the costs of transportation and the time children spend away from the school and their families.

School and community leaders who promote consolidation may think they have the well-being of children in mind, but their emphasis on per-unit cost treats students as if they are assembly-line products and not children with differing needs, personalities, and dreams….”

Read the article, in full, here:

http://www.dailyyonder.com/consolidation-what-it-good/2010/06/22/2810

“There is a stubbornness….

“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others.  My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”

~ Jane Austen

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Jack and the Giant School

image“…Curriculum: Even the smallest schools (100-200 students) are able to offer core curricula comparable to schools of more than 1,200. Moreover, small schools tend to be more flexible and allow teachers to exercise greater control over curricula. As a result, small schools more often apply innovative teaching methods, such as team teaching, integrated curriculum and multi-age grouping, all of which have been shown to improve student achievement….”

Read this compelling essay by Stacy Mitchell, courtesy of the institute for Local Self Reliance, in its entirety, here:

http://www.ilsr.org/equity/article/jack-and-giant-school/