Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Hammer Falls….

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…on Katahdin.

CORRECTION: A requisite Public Forum on closing Katahdin will be held November 9th 5:30pm

The Regular Board Meeting will follow at 6:30 but the PUBLIC FORUM IS AT 5:30 – ISLAND FALLS MUNICIPAL BUILDING

at THE ISLAND FALLS MUNICIPAL BUILDING. 

The Regular Board Meeting will follow at ISLAND FALLS MUNICIPAL BUILDING where the Board will most likely vote to bring the hammer down on Katahdin in a more official capacity than it has done for over 3 years.

The RSU that falsely promised to save you money has instead taken your most important assets; your children …and infrastructure.

….and still has your checkbook.

It does not matter how much more efficient for taxpayers or better for kids a small scale local education is, people want the money elsewhere and for other purposes.

“‘We will save you money…’ that is the bait that trolls in the suckers. We grow old too soon; smart too late.” -The Humble Farmer

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The Accidental Author

il_170x135.352935919_954aAnonymous | October 17, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Reply | Edit

From the comments section, a community member who did not intend to join the author roll, but belongs there:

The Superintendent must believe that parents will all send their kids to SACS.

I think a better education is definitely needed, but not by sending our kids way over there. I don’t think people have anything against people on either side of the district, it has to do with keeping our school in our community.

If the schools are gone at Katahdin, why would anyone in their right mind move here with kids. It hurts our kids and our communities.

Why should we have to pay taxes to a school that takes from our community. The whole idea that more can be offered is a big lie.

Had the board and the other supt been honest with their intentions in the first place, you wouldn’t have so much discussion.

I don’t believe you want to hear anything that isn’t in line with your consolidation idea. The reason people do not attend board meetings is they do not feel listened to.

Closing Katahdin will hurt our kids and community bottom line.

“The Lie Is Falling!”

Our readers would not soon forgive me if I let such a popular guest author hide in the “comments” section.

Brace yourselves, the big lie on which the liquidation of Katahdin is predicated; that small schools are untenable, is about to fall…. “Timmmmmmmberrrrrrr!”

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They need to look at the big picture. Easton Schools is roughly 15 minutes from Presque Isle High School, exactly half of the travel time from Katahdin to SACHS.

However, Easton chooses to keep their Class D School (which by the way is much smaller than Katahdin in terms of enrollment) open, even though they are so close to a large school.

With that aside, Easton manages to have one of the highest graduation rates in Aroostook County, one of the the largest percentage of honor students in the county, and many extracurricular groups to help their students thrive (a math team is one example).

If Easton can manage this with approximately 2/3 the enrollment of Katahdin, while providing a good education and plenty of educational opportunities, then there is no reason why Katahdin can’t. Washburn also does the same thing!

The problem lies internally. Consolidation is going to merely consolidate problems, not consolidate students.

I believe that the education that I gained from Katahdin was well rounded and it prepared me well for college. However, I had the option to take classes like shop, chorus, band, etc. These positions have simply been removed not due to a lack of student interest, but due to the fact that without them, they can toy the idea that “consolidation brings more opportunities.”

What needs to happen is the school needs to backtrack about 4-5 years and reestablish the same programs and morale that kept students and staff happy.

The voters are never going to approve consolidation, so you might as well not waste any more air Mr. Hammer.

A Letter From The Superintendent

fountain_pen_writing_paper_with_black_ink_313098Below this Timbered Classrooms commentary, you will find a letter that was issued by the Superintendent; his perspective on the recent Board meeting, and developments since.  

The expertise of faculty and staff is invaluable, and their absence from free and open discussion, as is their legally protected right has been a terrible missed opportunity.  The Superintendent’s invitation to remain involved is a welcome change. 

Taxpayers paid $60,000 for AMES Associates to asses district buildings, and their reports should have de-politicized the issue.  The Architects’ report vs. Board insistence that SACS is “…closer to Region 2…” will NOT be settled without “discussion”, as much as the Board, committed to a decision for which AMES denies the Board political cover, would like to avoid it.  

I could not agree more with the call to stop “pitting one side against the other”.  The decision on how to best educate one’s children is a deeply personal one and is made without prejudice or malice of any kind, though without regard to the priorities of Board members. 

The Board has admitted that Consolidation causes hardships for “some children”; the opposite of “every child matters equally”.   No one should ever be expected to sacrifice the well-being of even one child, or maligned for using their civic  or individual power on a child’s behalf – least of all by Board Members through a microphone.  This sort of vituperative rhetoric is part of a tired old strategy, and I agree –  stop it. 

Our readers will be familiar with Kathreen Harrison who speaks so universally yet brilliantly to issues here.  She has written about the middle school years, and gives credence to the scenario to move Middle School grades to Katahdin Elementary.  

That said, the assumption that Katahdin Elementary is somehow safe from fiscal asphyxiation, and closure by this district are unsubstantiated.  Enrollment will continue to decline.  If the Board plans to employ alternatives to consolidation for KES then, why are they rejecting those proven child-centered strategies for the local high school?  No, the pressure to bus will remain as long as there is money at the end of our little ones’ long bus ride.  Cue the “tough choices” rhetoric.

Here is Superintendent’s letter in its entirety:

“To All Staff,

I wanted to give you another update regarding this week’s board meeting. I offered up another potential scenario regarding our school configuration for the future brought to me by a member of the public. I also discussed this option with a couple groups of staff members. In this scenario we would move the 7th and 8th graders from KMHS to KES and have the 9th through 12 graders move to SACS. The potential saving for this ideas is around (621K). There is room for these students in each of the buildings. This idea has the potential for some very positive outcomes, in my opinion. First the 7th and 8th graders would be in their home community for a couple more years for instruction, maturation and athletic opportunities. There is further savings in transportation and I assume shorter length of bus ride due to fewer students. I do not have firm transportation ride times due to not knowing what the board will choose to do. The 9th through 12th graders should be able to handle a longer bus ride though.

The building and grounds committee has also had a chance to look over each building and they fit our needs for any scenario in terms of space and immediate need. As is the case in any district, each building will have needed repairs in both the near and distance future. We need to thoughtfully plan for these items for any scenario chosen by the board.

There was important sentiment from both the public and board indicating that the conversation needs to switch in a couple of ways. First, from pitting one side of the district against the other and secondly, from discussing the benefits/detriment of each building to the educational opportunity that can be provided for all of our students. I believe this is incredibly important.

On behalf of the board chair and myself, I appreciate the staff that made the commitment to be involved in the public comment and by being present at the board meeting. Your input is valued and I am confident that all board members appreciate what you have to say. They, (the board) are close to making some form of decision (motions to vote) on the many options presented to them recently and in the past. Please remain involved.
Thank you,

Mike Hammer

Interim Superintendent
RSU 50″

Calculating Costs ….and More Costs

Much of the difficulty surrounding consolidation efforts stems from the fact that cost/benefit analyses differ wildly depending on where one lives in a district, particularly one as geographically large as RSU 50. It should come as no surprise that the math is night and day between sending and receiving schools.

“All children matter equally”?

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Cost savings figures touted by the Superintendent and others are determined by a State formula that considers transportation alone as the ONLY negative cost savings.

There are others, to which the AMES Associates REPORT attests. Click HERE for a brief synopsis of needs.

The public is entitled to independent evidence that children are protected from mold and by working sprinkler systems.

When the decision to close Katahdin goes to voters, the State sanctioned “savings” figure will appear on the ballot. A vote to keep Katahdin open will levy that amount of money on Katahdin’s communities IN ADDITION to their contribution under the cost sharing formula. That extra money will not stay at Katahdin but will be spread around the District at Board discretion, and Board priorities.

Add to that the cost to families who must transport children long distances to participate in extracurricular activities and likely the cost to decommission Katahdin’s abandoned building.

Yes, the Board has publicly expressed a desire to turn the building AND ITS COSTS back to Katahdin’s communities alone.

The RSU likes to tout Spruce Mountain ad nauseum…. Fine. Those communities contribute a sum of approximately $44,000 each to keep the “sending school” open for Adult Ed and other community functions. The RSU has NEVER expressed a willingness to do this but has spoken of dumping it on the original MSAD 25 towns.

Katahdin voters will see that “savings” figure often repeated by the Superintendent, unaware of the costs that consume it many times over.

For school closure procedures click here.

For those communities seeking to regain control over their money via RSU withdrawal? Maybe looking to tuition their children back in?

The RSU cannot charge $20,000 per child but must abide by State guidelines. …though apparently not ethical ones that would preclude lying to people one is hired to serve.

Such abominable behavior goes right to credibility.

The RSU claims elementary children will be spared long bus rides and will keep their school. ..as enrollment continued to decline and the same pressure to consolidate mounts on those little shoulders?

If you believe them…

Experience and Wisdom

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Sometimes the “comments” section isn’t enough.  We are grateful to our neighbor and Board member for sharing his experience and understanding of the issues facing RSU 50. Thank you Mr. Stanley

Greg Stanley on October 12, 2015 at 7:28 pm

This is sad, I have served on the Medway school committee for about 16 years. Several years ago we had a Super, that said Medway would not be able to have a school due to cost. Well, at that point on, the School board took control of the budget. I’m happy to tell you that Medway still has a school, and one that is in very good financial shape and we offer children more now, then we did then. I would also like to add that during this time we put several hundred thousand dollars in building and grounds improvements, these were paid for with no borrowing. Please don’t let Administration, with no ties to the community, tell you it can’t be done. We did it and so can you.

Greg Stanley

Closure Agenda

I apologize!  It has been brought to my attention that the AGENDA was not under the text – it should be so now….image

Below please find the Agenda for the RSU 50 Board Meeting on Tuesday, October 13 @6:30pm Katahdin Elementary School.

The long looming issue of closing Katahdin will be discussed.

Many thanks to our readers who report that the Board intends to reconsider closing Katahdin should a sufficient show of community opposition appear Tuesday night.

Our readers have done exactly that, only to be told they are outvoted by the throngs of people who never attend meetings yet are demanding consolidation…. I call shenanigans.

It isn’t just the loss of educational infrastructure, but the fiscal starvation of a school that inevitably results in closure.  This RSU Board has demonstrated an unwavering unwillingness and appalling inability to provide the quality education for which taxpayers are paying.

It is up to the communities; up to you, if you want your school back; your children, your tax dollars and your schools.

AGENDA Oct. 13