Above the Fold…

boy boot“RSU 50 Adopts Budget”

..reads this week’s Houlton Pioneer Headline:

“…On June 2, the RSU 50 budget meeting will be held in Island Falls at the Municipal Building to act on the proposed school budget for fiscal year 2016.  The Budget meeting is at 7 pm. …”

“…Driving the increase in the budget is Career and Technical with the addition of a new electrical program, transportation with a new bus lease, facilities maintenance with the addition of two roofing projects, and student and staff support with the addition of a Curriculum Coordinator for $60,000, as well as salary increases and increases in retirement costs and health insurance.

Budget reductions were found in regular instruction with a retirement and resignation of two classroom teachers and the retirement of a music educator.  In Special Education, costs were saved with the elimination of three Ed Tech positions and two part-time teaching positions, and in the School Administration line, there was the reduction of one secretary position….”

“…RSU #50 does have some teaching openings – Katahdin Middle School Math, Southern Aroostook Life Science, Katahdin and Southern Aroostook high school math and world language positions – which have been advertised…” 

“…’Hiring for vacant positions is a concern for us.  We advertised the week before (April) vacation, so we have been four weeks out.  Other than some inquiry that has occurred in-house, there have been no outside candidates…’…”

Read the entire article in the Houlton Pioneer Times, May 13, 2014 edition.

Note:  Timbered Classrooms has looked at high-performing schools of similar size, and is unable to find a “Curriculum Coordinator” on any of their faculty and staff rosters.  That is not to say they do not exist – we couldn’t find any, and we welcome input from readers on this issue and staffing practices of comparable schools they would like to emulate.  We find in small schools, such things as: Combination Superintendent/Principal, teaching principals… ….we are told that the duties of a Curriculum Coordinator are at times given to faculty members, adding to their compensation of course…. Cutting the Katahdin music faculty in half has raised concerns, certainly; any savings would be consumed – and more! …by the addition of a Curriculum Coordinator, which, by all accounts, is unnecessary.  


6 responses to “Above the Fold…

  1. This ridiculousness is not going to end until we withdraw from RSU 50 and take back our small, local school. These positions, Curriculum Coordinator, Facilities Manager, etc. as well as increases in Administrative costs are not increasing the value of education for our children. Every move that has been made in the last three years has been made as a move towards consolidation – KMHS to SACHS.


    • You’re absolutely right – except that it’s worse. Not only has “every move been toward consolidation at SACS”, but the Board has made a decent education for children contingent on it, and has no interest in pursuing efficiencies not dependent on scale. Why would they, when well-run small schools actually undermine their efforts to shift all money to one place? . “…but you’re not providing a good education ’15 minutes from your house’!” protested the Superintendent to a parent who stated she liked having her children attend school close by. …a stunning admission by a man paid handsomely to provide exactly that.

      Even more surprising, however, is the degree to which these people get away with it. Having talked to many supporters who feel as you do, I have learned that teachers are (rightly!) afraid for their livelihoods, parents are afraid of retaliation against their children, and business owners are afraid to alienate potential customers who may disagree with them should they stand up. The only thing that scares me, is the prospect of children in a school not run as well as it could be – the Board and Administration’s anger toward opponents is unfortunate, but I am not afraid of it.

      The withdrawal is a prerequisite for any meaningful change. EVEN if people want to remain in partnership, such an AOS type model, each preK-12 unit; the children in them desperately need their own Board. Sherman Representative Phil Knowles, for example, indicated a willingness to “…throw our kids under the bus because SACS is closer to Region II.” Now. If he were sitting on a Board representing JUST Katahdin children, would he suggest “throwing them under the bus” for ANY reason? Of course not! …but that is where the RSU model is flawed — it puts distance between policymakers and children, so that they are willing to harm some to benefit others.

      Also, an RSU drives the addition of layers of bureaucracy to “oversee” two distant SAUs that neither needed to begin with. Taxpayers who expected administration to be cut in half are understandably frustrated. Barbara Burton said at a recent meeting, “The curriculum coordinator is the most important person in the building. I’ve never been in a school without a curriculum coordinator.” No. Small schools do not NEED curriculum coordinators. That is their advantage, not a shortcoming!

      To be fair, Mrs. Burton’s large school background shapes her mindset. It isn’t any wonder she and others assume small schools are less efficient because they see them as the same bloated bureaucracy serving fewer children. That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works. Small schools employ such things as combination Superintendent/Principal, Principal/Teacher, and Teacher/Curriculum Coordinator. They may use Tandberg, online – any number of innovations. I wish the Board would visit small schools and learn about them, but I do not believe it will happen. The Board will continue to try and prove that small schools are inferior, even inviable. …a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one. Meanwhile, our children will not get these precious years back.

      “..you won’t get your schools back without a fight. There is too much money at stake, and it’s fun to spend other people’s money…” ~Robert Karl Skoglund, “The Humble Farmer”


      • It is pretty poor that the Superintendent would take a raise in lieu of putting the money into our children. A curriculum coordinator is such a joke. Teachers can do this, they are the ones with the expertise. Apparently the board enjoys spending our money. And they wonder why people get upset with how our district is being run. It is not a money issue, it is a spending issue. Withdraw from the RSU and gain our local control back.


        • …even “poorer” that the Board would offer the Superintendent a raise, on top of a salary utterly unjustifiable when compared to the much lower pay of even his more experienced colleagues. Board members did not do their homework, and have largely escaped culpability – for now.

          The Curriculum Coordinator idea is downright farcical – I suspect intentionally so. What foolishness might slip through the budget process while people are focused on scuttling the idea?

          “…’Hiring for vacant positions is a concern for us. We advertised the week before (April) vacation, so we have been four weeks out. Other than some inquiry that has occurred in-house, there have been no outside candidates…’…” The Board needs to find out why top educators would rather eat bees than submit a resume…

          The shift of resources out of the classroom and into bureaucratic nonsense is also deliberate; a reflection not only of values but of strategy toward their long-term goals of a new school, or a consolidated SACS. ….. and will continue as long as the people who are determined to use it have the power to do so.

          The good news? No one has more power than you do. I hope you will attend the special meeting on the 27th, and help shape the budget as well.


          • I wonder if we don’t get many applicants as teachers because of a poor reputation.


            • There is no denying that the district’s reputation as an employer is hardly enviable. The Board would undoubtedly argue that their reputation is underserved, but that will not change the perceptions – OR the reality. It also does nothing to improve either.


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