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


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