Below 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.