Monthly Archives: June 2015

From the Sherman Town Office

Gazebo Shaped Bandstand in the Park in Sherman Village

Gazebo Shaped Bandstand in the Park in Sherman Village

This is a “heads up people” reminder that there will be another budget process and subsequent vote. So please pay attention and plan to vote.

Also as a reminder citizens can contact their respective town offices to find out the date for the next school budget referendum vote.

The Town of Sherman posts this information at the town office and the Sherman Thriftway. The town office contact information is 365-4260 and our email address is

Your Vote Counts! Final Budget Referendum Results

Timbered Classrooms...

1-65764-Your Vote Counts

Final: Referendum results  Yes=191   NO=221

Sherman      –      No =57              Yes=11

Island Falls    –    No = 33            Yes = 31

Mt. Chase          –             Yes = 14                 No = 11

Symrna                              Yes = 11                 No = 7

Merrill                  No = 14            Yes = 7

Stacyville              No = 32              Yes = 8                                

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Your Vote Counts! Final Budget Referendum Results

1-65764-Your Vote Counts

Final: Referendum results  Yes=191   NO=221

Sherman      –      No =57              Yes=11

Island Falls    –    No = 33            Yes = 31

Mt. Chase          –             Yes = 14                 No = 11

Symrna                              Yes = 11                 No = 7

Merrill                  No = 14            Yes = 7

Stacyville              No = 32              Yes = 8                                

Patten                               Yes = 40                No = 38

Hersey                               Yes = 4                  No = 0

Moro                       No = 4                Yes = 0

Dyer Brook                         Yes = 20               No = 10

Crystal                                 Yes = 12               No = 5

Oakfield                               Yes = 33               No = 10

Vote As You Please, But Please Vote!

The RSU #50 Budget Referendum will be held Tuesday, June 16th at local polling places.  Are you happy with the priorities outlined in the budget?  …or does it need work?

View the budget Annual Report SY15 and FY16 Budget Report – Final 151905


…the Other Side of the Fence…

fence and roses

“….we’ve discussed a $600.00 hockey program for over an hour, but vote in a $65,000 curriculum coordinator in the blink of an eye, I don’t get it!….”

…said a Board member at the Budget meeting whose name our sources didn’t catch.  Let’s just call him, “Voice of Reason”.

It is always an imperative to maximize opportunity for kids, according to their needs and aspirations.  The chance to play for a mere $600; a rounding error for more controversial budget items and with such a tremendous impact on the young people involved, is too good to pass up.  Even those who have raised concerns that Katahdin youth live too far away to benefit do not want to deprive SACS students – but do want parity, pure and simple.

Now, about that fence.  Pretty isn’t it?  It’s the sort over which I would ask the gardener’s advice when their roses bloom brighter and their “grass is greener” so to speak.  Gardeners in my experience delight in being asked advice, and share the secrets of their success, and lessons of their failures, gladly.

As we look “over the fence” toward Hodgdon, the obvious question the Board should be asking is, “How does a high school that enrolls 150 kids or so field a hockey team at all?”

Hodgdon has been gracious enough to host Southern Aroostook players, surely they would be equally so in sharing their successes and struggles.

Every district, of every size, faces challenges.  Communicating with, and learning from each other is what “working together” looks like in a real, efficient and fair sense.

“How do you maintain full-time access to your library?”  “How are you able to fund a Gifted and Talented program?” “What do you consider your advantages in serving each and every child?” “What are your biggest challenges and how do you deal with them?”.  “When you advertise for open faculty positions, do they go unanswered the way ours do?” “How do you maintain highly-qualified faculty?” “What are your top priorities in your budget?” “What needs go unmet?”

Our Board’s view of small schools generally, including our own is so awash in negativity as to miss our advantages even IF they wanted to find them.  Doing so in our current configuration, however, undermines the efforts of powerful Board members to infuse education resources into their own community for their own purposes.  ….a divisive disincentive to say the least.  Their firm belief in consolidation/closure as the “only” option (close THEIR school and bring kid$ HERE of course and NOT the other way around); an option they failed even to bring up for a vote, means that they have failed children not only by parents’ measure – parents who are increasingly seeking other options – but by their own standard.

Providing children with a good education and value for taxpayers’ dollars is the most pressing one at the moment, and more important, even, than the consolidation controversy.

Let’s look “over the fence” to schools that are doing more for less, and craft a budget to emulate them.


Where It Matters – Effects Of Increased School Size At The Student Level

Found at Vermont Schools Rock……

View data from a Nebraska study about curriculum offerings and student participation rates in high schools of various sizes

Course offerings generally go up as school size increases, as does total participation (enrollment units). However, enrollment units per student decline; students do less when offered more.

The smaller the school, the more kids are doing in both academic and non-academic classes. Not presented here is a finding that study hall participation rate increased as school size increased.

This is consistent with the idea that curriculum enrichment enriches a few but not most students. Many students may do less in a big school because their lack of participation is not noticed and perhaps, if they are not good test takers, unwanted.

Voices of Reason from Vermont


“..It is the 21st century.  Closing schools and putting kids on busses for long rides to bigger schools so they can have more curriculum is a 20th century solution….”  “…We have many more options of getting curriculum; content to kids besides just putting them on busses….” ~Marty Strange, Vermonters for Schools and Community

The RSU #50 Board has long refused to leverage those options for kids because doing so would undermine their desire to shift resources from the Katahdin campus to communities on the Northern side of the district for their own purposes – none of which they can begin to prove benefit children or taxpayers.

That small schools; schools in our current configuration, cannot afford a quality education for children is a stubbornly held view of the RSU #50 Board that threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophecy if parents and communities do not engage.  As Board members seek to prove the inferiority of small schools, and punish Katahdin’s communities for their own failure  – our children are shortchanged irreparably…..

Many towns have escaped the harsh consequences of the RSU Law by withdrawing from their RSUs, pre-emptively seeking (and winning) exemptions and opting for AOS models of consolidation.  Too many, in fact, to garner State attention to the plight of RSU #50, where the LSRS law ran roughshod over the interests of children and communities.  Here, the law worked as intended, though even a State official who supports consolidation admits, “Geographically large districts are ‘problematic'”.

The following video from Vermont speaks to the advantages of small schools, and strategies to make the most of them, particularly in the testimony of Mr. Chris Tormey, High School Science teacher in a large school and parent/board member in a small one.

Meeting Minutes – …or Hours?

meeting-minutes-picMinutes of recent meetings are now available, and include staffing plans and status of closure and consolidation scenarios.

“….Research also suggests that impoverished regions in particular often benefit from smaller schools and districts, and they can suffer irreversible damage if  consolidation occurs

That made clear, saving a building for a year neither ensures a quality education for the children within or value for taxpayers’ dollars.  That will require robust public engagement with the Board resolute accountability.  Though the following is long, it is worth a read:

Meeting Minutes

Meeting Tonight!

Agenda-icon-yellowThe RSU #50 School Board will meet tonight, June 8, 2015 at Katahdin Elementary School 6:30 pm.


Music Hath Charm…

325694-cute-love-loves-u-music-pretty-quote-quotes….and is a vital part of the education of a child.  At tonight’s meeting our readers ask that you pay special attention to Article 5 on the back page.  Here a new Curriculum Coordinator is funded $59,545 + $4500 in supplies.

This is Perhaps the most contentious item in the budget as that money should be used to find and fill the Music position vacated by a retiring Mrs. Cox.


cuckoo-clock…and the taxpayers and communities who support and are supported by RSU #50 schools.

“The greatest gift you can give someone is your time.”

The annual budget meeting/vote will be held this evening, June 2nd @7pm at the Island Falls Municipal Building.  

If past is prologue, the Board will make much of the “time” they spent crafting the proposed budget; how hard they worked on it, the implication being that members take umbrage when those they serve seek changes.

Kids are worth it.

Taxpayers are worth it.

The communities they support and are supported by are worth it.

Though the Board has and will likely continue to claim otherwise, spending priorities expressed to Timbered Classrooms by community members are less costly than those endorsed by the Board – not more as the Board often claims.

Readers have been very clear that they want a music teacher to continue the position held by Mrs. Cox, rather than a more expensive and unnecessary curriculum coordinator, three principals instead of four….  More teachers and fewer bureaucrats, with equitable compensation.

Certain Board members cynically accuse those who disagree with them of personal vitriol, ignorance and being against the Flag, Mom and Apple Pie….  …of being insensitive to struggling taxpayers no matter how much  more efficient and inexpensive their demands are compared to the Board’s budget!

Timbered Classrooms wishes the communities well, hopes for a robust turnout – whatever one’s views….

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

BUDGET MEETING JUNE 2nd @7pm Island Falls Municipal Building – It’s YOUR Money…..

Budget…and the RSU 50 Board may need a bit of reminding, during what has become the most farcical time of year – budget time.  Items for which taxpayers are unwilling to pay – bureaucratic bloat to name one, are cloaked in a veil of inevitability (“you’re going to pay for administration one way or another” ~Supt. Larry Malone).  Meanwhile, what people have demonstrated that they want – namely faculty, is cut both in terms of salaries, programs and positions.

“…a curriculum coordinator is no longer a luxury…”

“The Curriculum Coordinator is the most important person in the building”

“One principal for two schools stretches administration too thin”

“You’re going to pay for administration one way or another.”

Please read the wonderful post written by a very popular student author of whom we could not be more proud.  It echoes the many concerns in the community that the music program at Katahdin is to be cut in half as the Board opts not to fill the position left vacant by the retirement of Mrs. Cox.

Why is it acceptable for distant schools to share teachers – leaving children without access to them half the time, but not principals?

Why is a curriculum coordinator necessary here when such a thing is glaringly absent from the staff rosters of high-quality schools similar in size to our own?

How much has the district spent on pre-packaged curricula, mediocre and fraught with errors but with very expensive “Common Core Aligned” stickers?  Why not let the teachers develop curriculum as they have been trained to do?

What positions have we added to “oversee” the two distant schools in the district that neither school needed before?

How much has this district spent on consultants?  Architects?  ..not only to asses the buildings, but also to travel to Augusta and discuss a new school?

Why are bureaucrats and wardens paid so far above State averages, while teachers earnings stay stubbornly below?  …even as advertisements for vacant positions draw “0” applicants?  Shouldn’t pay scales be the same across the board?

“I sat across the (negotiating) table for two years and no one (teachers) offered to take less.’ ~Supt. Larry Malone

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Children cannot wait.  You have more power than you think.

Thank you all for sharing your ideas from highly effective, efficient, small schools around the state you would like to emulate in this district. Thank you for advocating for policies that truly honor every child equally, and that respects every penny provided by taxpayers.