I’ve long been struck by the Board apparently “deciding” whether to pursue growing school size by consolidation/construction OR “innovating” in order to make the most of small schools.
Lest this Board and Superintendent forget, you ARE running small schools for the time being, and by NOT “innovating” to optimize the educational experience for kids; by pursuing consolidation and, inexplicably, construction in LEIU of innovation…. .You are squandering opportunity that they will NEVER GET BACK.
That is no small thing, and the travesty that drives this blog perhaps more than the prospect of consolidation. These children cannot wait for you to sort things out – they need and deserve an optimal, effective education now. Size, scale are not only unnecessary, but expensive and unwanted.
“..but you’re not providing a good education 15 minutes from your house!” ~the Superintendent to a parent who spoke to her children’s current commute to school. An admission? Yes. Acceptable? No.
Now let’s stop assuming that large schools are better. There is a reason this Board offers no proof – they aren’t at all preferable, and in fact, small schools are superior educationally and fiscally, evidence to which Timbered Classrooms has compiled.
The fact that investment in K-12 yields the greatest return on Economic Development dollars is very well established, but size/scale is anathema to this. Perhaps Mr. Walker is thinking of Economic Development opportunity by supporting a new school. Perhaps he believes real estate customers will stop “skipping to Houlton” if it were built. Clearly buyers would “skip” even more readily, as you pile on crushing new building costs? So, if you could just “get to EPS” the state would pay, what, a small fraction? Enrollment will continue to decline, in some ways because of EPS demands. Children are not “concentrated” in one community and neither should be their educational resources. Shuttering the assets of neighboring communities is a tempting option for struggling communities, but it doesn’t work – fiscally or ethically.
The number one quality parents look for in schools is NOT buildings at all but something that flows naturally in small schools: individual attention. EPS will not provide this – it was designed to close small schools, not enhance their quality. The ED279 tells us that this Board is not interested in “getting to EPS” for administration, far surpassing recommendations. Small schools do not need expensive management, curriculum coordinators and the like. Just accomplished, professional teachers and innovative supportive leadership. With the ready availability of online resources… The possibilities are endless.
“….grades 7-12 over here (SACS)..bottom line…” ~Chairman Greg Ryan
….a quote, perhaps paraphrased a bit, that came to us from a reader present at Monday night’s meeting. (Past quips include, “We are going to be consolidated somewhere!”)
Neither the Ames Associates report, nor the empirical research justifies this proclamation, to which, evidently, no Board member objected.
Is it enough to stop Katahdin’s closure if the leadership lacks the expertise and buy-in to optimize its potential? If Katahdin remains open within an RSU governance structure that is determined to subject it to fiscal asphyxiation, parents will surely continue to pursue other options for their children. What will be the effect then? If communities vote to keep Katahdin open, then the RSU will levy all the extra costs. What is the point then, of remaining in, and paying into an RSU that does not share the costs equitably?
A bright young teacher said of declining enrollment, “We should be able to afford to give them more not less..”.
Why wish for “scale” that rural children can never give you and families reject? Why waste money in an EPS model that makes no fiscal sense to small rural schools?
Why cling an RSU model that clearly is not working for kids?
It doesn’t matter why. The Board has never wavered, and will not. The communities will have to fight.
“..But getting the control and the money back is the main thing. You will not get your schools back in town without a fight. There’s too much money at stake. And it’s fun to spend other people’s money.”
~Robert Karl Skoglund, “The Humble Farmer”