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″

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6 responses to “A Letter From The Superintendent

  1. 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.

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  2. 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.

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    • The difference is Easton has McCains which covers a nice portion of taxes. The fact that the RSU 50 areas is the largest (land wise) and has lost major companies like National Starch and Sherman Lumber, not only made people leave but the tax support left as well forcing the remaining citizens to absorb the increase in not just the taxes but the town water bills increased because National Starch paid 2/3 of thes town water cost. Those are just three factors that make RSU 50 differ from Easton schools. While I agree they are similar in numbers they just have a smaller area with more commercial help then RSU 50.

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      • Easton also receives less state money than just about anyone – a “difference” you fail to mention. Their town manager said this in 2013:

        “We’ve got the big guys … we’ve got McCain and Huber, as well as an agricultural base,” he said, “but we’ve also got the lowest receiving school in the state of Maine. We’re lower than Cape Elizabeth, we’re lower than Bar Harbor … we’re the lowest.

        State GPA Subsidy:

        Easton – $ 71,660.05
        RSU 50 – $4,808,614.00

        There is no free lunch – not even your “red herring”.

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        • The real “difference” between Easton and RSU 50 is quality.

          “Positive outcomes ” are light years apart.

          Take a look at what Easton spends to provide a high quality education!

          ..then look at what RSU 50 spends for nothing but excuses.

          Save it.

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      • I used to work in Economic Development and well understand the devastating nature of the loss of National Starch as well as Sherman Lumber. It also means I understand the utter wrongheadedness both from a financial and moral standpoint, of trying to close schools in other communities so you can have the money.

        If you truly believe consolidation will help you “pay your water bills” then by all means shutter your own school and bus your kids anywhere you like. The decision should belong to Sacs residents alone and not any potential receiving school.

        No? I didn’t think so…

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