“One More Nail…” Superintendent Hammer on Closing Katahdin

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Timbered Classrooms is grateful to our readers who shared the following letter from the Superintendent’s office in which Mr. Hammer projects consolidation cost “savings”.

It would be silly to pretend that Katahdin and SACS are in equal jeopardy here, so I won’t….

“…These are strong estimates, they do not include any necessary upgrades in infrastructure….”
-RSU 50 Interim Superintendent Mike Hammer

Projections that ignore costs are anything but “strong” for those who nonetheless must PAY them and for whom those costs erase those “savings”. 

His projections come from a State formula that ignores the cost of these “necessary renovations”  but these so-called “savings” WILL, nonetheless, appear on the ballot when voters decide whether or not to close their school.

In the event Voters elect to keep, Katahdin open, the district will levy that sum IN ADDITION to Katahdin communities’ share as determined by the cost-sharing formula.

The district is under no obligation to spend that extra money on Katahdin or for the benefit of its children whatsoever; protection from a continuing campaign of fiscal asphyxiation is virtually nonexistent.

Community members will continue to pay more for less under the current leadership and do to the inherent disadvantages of the RSU model itself.

Here is Mr. Hammer’s letter in its entirety:

“To All Staff,

At last night’s board meeting I presented to the board specific cost savings for the closure of KES, SACS 7-12, and KMHS. Specifically, closing KES and moving the students to KMHS, this would net 110,000 dollars annually. Secondly, closing KMHS and moving the students North as previously discussed (577,000 annually). Lastly, closing part of SACS and moving 7-12 students South with yield an estimated 515,000 annually. These are strong estimates, they do not include any necessary upgrades in infrastructure. We used formulas and background data provided to us from the state that we would use in the event of a vote to close a school. There were no decisions made on any of the information that I provided last night. My purpose was to give factual information to the board, I feel that they are at a point were something must be decided.

In either case of closure of a 7-12 scenario we save upwards of 500,000 unfortunately the savings come on the backs of lost positions, some of those could be presently unfilled positions. There is more information to gather in terms of what makes for the best scenario to put 7-12 students together and the ultimate intent is to provide the highest quality education. We are also planning for the long term, in order to remain a viable district.

There is more information that we will be gathering. We will need to inform the communities through forums and in one scenario the local voters would have to decide if they want to bare the burden of increased taxes to keep KMHS open. I truly do not believe the combination of KES and KMHS is a viable option and would venture to say it was taken off the table.

We hope to keep communication lines open, there will be many difficult decisions that will need to be made as the process unfolds. Please remember that when the dust settles there will be a decision based on what is best for students balanced with what this area can sustain for the long term. Students must be kept in the loop as well and ultimately will get to make decisions on what their future could hold.
Mike Hammer

Interim Superintendent
RSU 50
mhammer@rsu50.org
207-757-8223 (O)
207-944-7751 (C)”

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18 responses to ““One More Nail…” Superintendent Hammer on Closing Katahdin

  1. So we trade one bad Superintendent for another. Great. One huge problem here is that they spend too much money. How about cutting the amount of training, that is useless until the next fad in education is implemented. Our poor kids are like guinea pigs, and have had no consistency for the last 4 years.
    My question is this why are they in such a hurry to transfer our kids to SACs. How about SACS close it’s doors and come to Katahdin. Everybody over here knows that option has never been truly considered. Let’s just close Katahdin, make kids travel way to far, for the promise of more which is a lie. People need some say in where their kids are going.
    It is fascinating how we hire people that other districts cannot wait to get rid of.

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  2. Has the transportation been thought about, I graduate from KHS and had to travel far enough and be up early to catch the bus in the morning. That would take quite a bit of travel time to get to the school if it was moved to SACHS. Wake up people cut some of the expenses that are not needed… Mr. Interim Superintendent, you need to really think hard about this or even better get on the bus in the early a.m. on the Kelly Hill Road,, and wait for all of the students to get on the bus at their home, and ride all the way to SACHS and please let us know how long it takes you to get there.. Don’t look for just $$$ signs, think!!!! Do you want the students sleeping in class, what time will they need to get on the bus and what time will they make it home? How about if they want to participate in sports??

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    • Amen, long bus rides, kids are the ones that suffer. Sports, the SACS kids will get the benefit not the Katahdin kids. School should be part of the community as is in Staceyville, not “the Community.” This isn’t about kids, it is about the bureaucratic bloat in our system. Money could be saved, just spend less.

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    • You raise some excellent points.

      According to Paula Gravelle, who is in charge of school closures and RSU Withdrawals for the Maine Department of Education, the State formula for projecting cost savings does account for transportation cost increases – fuel, etc.

      The savings number on the ballot does NOT include the “necessary renovations” to SACS that the architectural firm, AMES Associates has deemed expensive: https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/an-ounce-of-prevention/

      Rural school consolidation rarely yields more programs .
      But you are right – even where it does, participation rates decrease as families cannot shoulder the expense.

      Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Mr. Hammer and the Board are well aware of the devastating impact on the “sending” communities.

      They do not care.

      You do not save money with consolidation but you change who gets it. There are winners and losers. They want that money in Dyer Brook. I’ve been involved in the consolidation issue for years. If there is a limit to how far powers that be will put other people’s children on a bus to shift their parents’ money to their community? I have not yet seen it.

      If this sounds harsh that’s because it is. Please make no mistake – you will not persuade these people to choose the well being of your children over the money they want so badly.

      Persuasion will not work but standing up and fighting will. Call your Board members, State representatives and the Press.

      Here is some advice from the Rural Trust on how to save your school: https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/how-to-know-if-your-school-or-district-is-threatened-with-consolidation-and-what-to-do-about-it/

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you Diana for raising such thoughtful questions. I wish you well.

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  3. My children go to Katahdin and already have to wake up at 5 am so they can catch the bus at 6:30 am, arriving at school at 7:45, followed by not getting home until 3:30 pm. If they close this school then homeschooling may be our only option. My children enjoy the time with their friends and participate in almost all programs the school has to offer. This would be taken away from them. Keep us open For the kids not for $$$$$

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  4. We need someone to organize a rally. Packing the next board meeting with 200 to 300 people will send a huge message that we don’t want to lose our school and that OPTION 1(combining KES and KHMS) IS AN OPTION WHERE EVERYONE WINS. Come on, less complaining and more effort into organizing a rally where everyone can show disapproval in numbers. We can not afford to consolidate high schools.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great idea! Not many people come to meetings. Cause everything seems to fall on deaf ears.

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    • A strong message to the Board is exactly what they need to help them remember who is in charge. Consolidation schemes are stories of cost shifts NOT cost savings, and the creation of winners and losers – kids and taxpayers inevitably among the latter.

      You will not regret the fight.

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  5. Money? What money? There is no money…..on either side. That is why RSU 50 is in this mess to begin with. One of the three schools is going to close and there will be consolidation of some kind. People aren’t thinking realistically as far as keeping educational facilities open. Everyone is stubborn and just wants to talk about which side is getting “the money” because everyone thinks that each side has these master plans of how they’re going to get people from the “other side” to pay for things. That’s not how it is at all and people don’t understand that. It’s not an “us against them” decision that has to be made. It’s a “we unfortunately have to do something drastic in order to keep two educational facilities open” decision and no matter what, certain people are going to be upset. If either 7-12 school were to shut down both sides would be facing the same issues, it wouldn’t just be the Katahdin side with a long travel. If SACS had to close they would have a long travel, so that argument is a wash and can be thrown out. Both 7-12 facilities need major renovation and upgrades, so that argument is a wash and can be thrown out. All teachers would have to re-apply and be re-interviewed for their position, and who knows, maybe someone better who isn’t any of the current teachers gets hired, and none of the current teachers for a certain position gets to keep their position, so that argument is a wash and can be thrown out.

    Here is what is certain; 1) KES is the worst building of the three and probably should even have people in it right now, 2) if KMHS were to be made into a K-12 facility or be the 7-12 facility for the entire RSU, then since there is not adequate room, trailers would most likely be brought in for use of classrooms and nobody wants trailers, 4) KMHS does not have a fully operating kitchen. Food must be made at the elementary school and brought over, 5) SACS is large enough for all students in the district 7-12 plus the K-6 on the SACS side, and there would still be enough room for more students if the enrollment were to grow, which is highly unlikely as the enrollments have mainly shrunk over the past 10 years due to businesses/jobs leaving and the local populations declining, and 6) the RSU 50 district is not an ideal place where many people want to move to or set up a new business since there is not much in the area.

    No matter which decision gets made it’s going to be hard on someone. Feasibly or monetarily the decision in most people’s minds or not, the correct decision is to close KES, consolidate all of the 7-12 students in the RSU at SACHS, and move the elementary school at Katahdin to the current KMHS building. It’s not a popular choice, but it’s the correct choice to make that fits all of the issues involved. No matter what decision is finally made, there are going to be issues. Even if the people of Katahdin get their way and manage to keep all of the schools separate and open, there are still going to be major downfalls within the next few years. Thinking clearly, it’s better to see kids and faculties get together and try to create something new and special, then it is to see either community slowly wither away and die. If people choose to do the same thing that they’ve been doing for the past 20-30 years they will inevitably be putting the “nail in their own coffin” by not taking advantage of a situation that could help them survive. People in that area don’t like change, but change is needed. No matter what happens, I’m sure there are plans down the road for getting aid from the state to help build a more locally centered campus for RSU 50. For right now though, they’ve got to work with what they’ve got, which isn’t a whole lot on the positive side.

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    • Everybody knows that consolidation means Katahdin shifts to SACS, not the other way around. When the schools leave our area (Patten, Sherman, Staceyville, etc.), it is not good for the kids our communities, our businesses. We could remain separate and viable, but the school system spends too much money. Talk to people who homeschool, they spend far less to educate their children than the school does per student. Money is always the excuse, cut spending, we sure pay enough for a superintendent and administration.

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    • You are ‘certain’ KES is the ‘worst’? Why? ..when the highly respected and HIGHLY PAID Ames Associates says it is SACS.

      Stop making things up and LOOK them up: https://atimberedchoir.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/an-ounce-of-prevention/

      You rail against the cost of installing a kitchen into KHS but believe the “correct decision” is to move elementary children in there? They will need a kitchen then!

      There is no “us” and “them” . There never has been. Every community; every family weighs the costs and benefits of consolidation for themselves. Transportation costs will be nil for the receiving school and prohibitively high for the sending school. Same for the costs to community and families – all higher for the “sender”.

      There is no “us” and “them” ..just communities trying to do the best for their own children and taxpayers. …without regard to anyone else.

      “Some people are going to be upset”?

      When you launch a scheme that creates winners and losers don’t be surprised when people fight back.

      No one is willing to “throw their kids under the bus” for ANY “them”.

      Stop demanding that they do.

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  6. We need to see real numbers on the cost to consolidate KES to KMHS. Larry Malone stated at a public meeting that if KES was to close and move the students, it would save the district $250,000 a year just in heat and insurance. This is exactly what he said and that is a lot more money than is being discussed now? The only way for us to get real answers is, I agree, to have hundreds of citizens attend the next board meeting! If there is just a handful there, they don’t get real and just pacify.

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    • I would urge caution; figures surrounding the cost to install a kitchen are highly subjective. When those numbers are compiled by an administrator already committed to closing KHS it should give you pause.

      The idea of consolidating KES and KHS scares people who are determined to shift those kids money and infrastructure north.

      It would not surprise me if it made more economic sense for Katahdin’s communities to leave the district and focus on excellence in a k-12 building. …but you will never find that out from those who want that money for a new school or SACS.

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  7. No good solutions. Leave them both alone and let the district die out.

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    • You are correct that the school is “dying” and the process of killing it has gone on for three years now.

      Is this O.K. with you? What are children supposed to do? They will not get this relatively enormous chunk of their education back!

      People do not understand that saving their school will not happen at the ballot box. What is a school if the Board refuses to run it properly? What good is a school that those in charge of it want to liquidate?

      Children deserve better and cannot wait.

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