…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.



2 responses to “…the Other Side of the Fence…

  1. While in attendance of the last board meeting it was great to hear the discussion amongst board members regarding the hockey cooperative and how they made sure they understood all aspects before making a decision.
    With that said, it is important to note that Hodgdon does not administer their own hockey program. The program is administered through Houlton. Hodgdon formed a cooperative with Houlton in same manner as RSU50 has and has limited number of kids on the team.
    This is an opportunity for RSU50 kids regardless of where they live to play the game that they have put so much time and effort into.
    I hope the kids in the Katahdin area towns and Southern Aroostook area towns continue to play knowing there is opportunity beyond age 14. I also hope this sparks interest for young kids of RSU 50 who want to try something different.
    I know the parents of katahdin area towns have a greater travel time commitment but know that they do it to provide their kid the opportunity. As a hockey parent you know getting them to practice is typically the easy part!

    I Would like to thank the board for making an informed decision!



    • I believe the Board member quoted wanted more discussion about the addition of a Curriculum Coordinator, and not necessarily less about the hockey opportunity. …and I agree. Though I wasn’t at the meeting, from what I understand the hockey debate should serve as a model for other decisions undertaken by this Board.

      The sort of cooperation that takes place between Hodgdon and Houlton is exactly the sort that Katahdin and Southern Aroostook should emulate. It is not at all the same, at present. Houlton and Hodgdon, RSU 29 and RSU/MSAD 70 respectively, maintain their own governance structure, Boards and budgets. That is exactly what we need, as I have spoken to before



      On a personal note, we travel for opportunity for our own children, driving to Ellsworth each week for youth orchestra and guitar lessons. We do so happily, but not all families are able.

      We recognize and accept that more opportunities present themselves to children who live closer to Houlton. Hockey is one of those, and I am not alone in supporting the participation of children in our district in the sport, or any other program. When it comes to opportunities we do control, however, we must present them in an equitable way, sensitive to the distance families must travel and the social capital communities contribute.

      Education is a very personal thing, in spite of our dogged desire for “scale”. Individual attention is parents’ number one priority, and an oft-cited reason for seeking out alternatives to our public school system. Local boards are so much better at this, and are more sensitive to taxpayers as well. Larger regional boards are prone to cost-shifting, and building expensive bureaucracies to “oversee” the schools within that neither needed previously.

      Thank you so much for your comment, and your interest in the children of this district. I hope you will continue to join us, and encourage Board members to consider other decisions as carefully as they undertook hockey. .


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