“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!”


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.

22 responses to ““The Lie Is Falling!”

  1. Where are you going to get the money for everything you want?


    • Have you asked your Board that question?

      “Consolidation does not save money but you change who gets it.” -Marty Strange

      The RSU has done nothing but take from children and taxpayers who are paying enough to fund a good education.

      They need only to take it back.


    • “…School consolidation thus involves a great expense of time and money that might be better spent in the education and upbringing of children.”

      ~Wendell Berry


  2. If the schools were to be separate again, whether it be because of this whole fiasco or just theoretically, where would you get the money to fund Katahdin as it’s own AOS?


  3. If the schools were to be separate again, either because of this whole fiasco or just from a theoretical standpoint, how would Katahdin get the funds to support itself if it were in its own AOS?


    • An AOS does not describe Katahdin as an autonomous unit but is, in fact, a model of consolidation in which each K-12 unit creates its own budget with its own money but shares everything an RSU does.

      If a community decides that closing their school and tuitioning them out is best for THEIR children they are free to do so.

      I have long supported that idea.

      I’m sorry I don’t quite understand what you are getting at but I will try and answer you:

      Katahdin communities would decide how much money to raise in the same way districts around them do; as Medway, for example does.

      The RSU did not fulfill its ptomise and is a tool to transfer wealth from one community to the other; not preserve it.


  4. What I am asking is simple…..if Katahdin were to be on its own, like it was previous to being in RSU 50 (MSAD 25 I believe it was), and there were just the elementary school (K-6) and the middle/high school (7-12), how would you and all of the other supporters of keeping the schools separate, propose that the Katahdin communites fund their schools? As it is right now, budgets pass, but they keep getting frozen because there are insufficient funds and both sides of the district keep falling deeper in with money issues. If Katahdin is having issues now, which they have been over the past several years, and it looks as though things will continue to keep sliding downward, even with the RSU and things being separate yet under one board, then how do people propose they will be able to sufficiently fund themselves while on their own? People bring up the fact that there are no big businesses to help with support from tax monies, and people also bring up the fact that the towns are slowly dying as people are moving out from lack of no jobs and education slowly going down the drain. People don’t want to consolidate and obviously want to be left alone in their little bubble. How do you and all the supporters of the movement suggest that happens?


    • “Separate vs Together” is mindlessly simplistic and designed to cast local school proponents, unfairly, in a negative light.

      I reject your premise that ceding control of their money to an RSU that has no interest in “funding Katahdin” at all, somehow makes doing so easier.

      The RSU has been merciless cutting to the heart of children’s education – the education their families paid for.

      Budgets do not “freeze” themselves. Here is an excerpt from a letter from a staff member:

      “..restricting resources to Katahdin buildings started last year, I remember PO purchases for needed resources going nowhere last year, but whenever I traveled to Southern Aroostook, I always saw boxes in the Super’s office, no freeze ever took place there from what I could tell. If a Board approves a budget and expenditures for a school, then that school should get what was approved. That must be happening again this year. Making SACS a priority so kids lose out in the Katahdin region. I think that we have way too much administration, RSU50 formation was suppose to cut back administrative posts, but that has not happened, it’s very top heavy. KMHS’s curriculum has gone down hill and less experienced people remain…”

      I also have a letter from a former Supt. admitting “cost shifting”.

      At a meeting of the Maine Small Schools Coalition 10 years ago, Superintendents in attendence candidly predicted this; when all the money in a district goes to one central office, like Dyer Brook, it is politically difficult to send money “..out to other schools..” ..even though it is their money!

      The RSU was supposed to save money and cut administrative costs. It did neither. Voters in the Katahdin side have desperately tried to cut administration and even gave $100k in additional funds to restore two teaching positions. (The Supt. at the time attempted to take that money for other purposes – should have been political suicide!)

      Stop assuming that Katahdin has benefited in any way from being in this RSU. It is difficult to get out of by design – the State knew this would happen.

      I do not want to be presumptuous but I am guessing you are from the Northern end of the district? You clearly do not want to “run three buildings” and that is fine. Run SACS. You have no moral right to force Katahdin to close against the architects report because you are having trouble “paying water bills”.

      Money is supposed to be used to educate children not children to make money. There will be no profit for you or your town via consolidation. You are not pressing to close SACS because you know full well such a thing would be as devastating to your community as the loss of National Starch or Sherman Lumber – even if you do not fully appreciate harm to children.

      Katahdin has been so ill served by the RSU, regaining control over their money will surely improve the lot of their children.

      Your suggestion that Katahdin’s communities cannot fund their schools better than a district that has been trying to destroy them is asinine.


      • I am not from the RSU 50 district at all. I just don’t understand why you and the people who obviously do not want to be a part of that RSU, and obviously want to be a separate MSAD like Katahdin used to be, won’t give any suggestions on how Katahdin would be able to financially support itself if it were able to get free of the RSU? You do a very good job of skirting many questions by throwing quotes and doumented statistics that supports the points that you are trying to make, yet you don’t fully straight-out answer questions when people ask you things that you don’t side with.

        I think you’re finding difficult to comprehend that a lot of people that read your propaganda don’t necessarily disagree with you, but they would like to see some good suggestions/ideas/plans that will show and support your desires of being a separate entity from RSU 50 and how you aspire to bring those plans to fruition. Posting articles on a blog, attending public hearings, and talking with/posting articles on people who have “been there and done that” are great, but it doesn’t help people understand how you and you supporters plan on accomplishing you mission. You can say here’s what’s wrong and here’s what it should be like, but that doesn’t tell you how to get from A to B. Detailed steps, explanations, proposed plans, suggested committees, etc, are required. Right now, whether you are being viewed by you supporters, non-supporters, or neutral parties, a lot of you articles and postings are coming across as smear campaigns and can be compared to and looked at no better than what some of the disastrous political campaigns come up with. You’re trying to do something good and positive but not all of it comes across like that.


        • It is a huge problem to take a school out of a community. Kids lose first and foremost. The people and businesses on this end of the district suffer, and for what to pay taxes to a school that doesn’t even exist in our community. I think people were sold a big lie when we joined the RSU, it will save more, we can offer more. Ummm I would have to say that sure hasn’t happened. Money seems to be the issue, but I argue spending and priorities are the issue. We are top heavy in administration, we are overpaying another supt who wants to close Katahdin. How about the district divide their money up and go their separate ways, ok I know that can’t happen. Lose your school lose your community. The agenda is shameful.


        • I skirt nothing.

          I bristled at the premise of your question; that an MSAD is somehow more expensive than this RSU.

          How do those communities fund the RSU at present?

          How did they fund the MSAD previously?

          How do schools statewide who are not in an RSU fund their schools?

          People want to use the money they currently pay to the RSU and fund their schools.

          If those communities want to do this, they would elect a Board and do so via a budget process as they do now.

          I am not suggesting it will be easy, but Katahdin desperately needs a Board dedicated to running it well rather than closing it.

          What would you have people do with a Board that does not deliver even what pay for?

          I will give you an example: the budget provided for a music program and the Chairman defiantly and publicly expressed his disinterest in filling the position. Privately staff confirmed this because they plan to close Katahdin. Our daughter was heartsick, and the tears!

          Consolidation harms children but also the divestment leading up to it.

          I hope I was more clear this time.


          • I smear no one.

            This isn’t my first rodeo and accusations of “negativity” are de rigueur and strategic.

            I stand by the way I have conducted myself on this site from being factual to respectful.

            Now for my MEA culpa:

            Looking through my more recent writing I have noticed my writing has developed an edge.

            I am sorry.


  5. It’s sad to say but Katahdin will be closed eventually, whether through consolidation or attrition. No likes to see small communities lose their schools, but because of diminishing enrollments, shrinking communities, and loss of money from multiple means many schools will be closing and consolidating in the very near future. Limestone is in discussions right now to consolidate with Caribou. Small schools that have the means and we’re set up correctly, like Easton, are lucky and far and few between. It is disheartening, yes, but inevitable nontheless. A process that was started several years ago will ultimately come to fruition no matter what obstacles are put in front of it. Put up a good fight, but it is a losing battle, and people hate to admit defeat, especially when it’s their communities identities and their children’s education at stake. Sad but forthcoming.


    • Why don’t we close SACS instead. That would make more sense. All there is there is a school. In Patten and Sherman we have businesses a community. It hurts our end more. I don’t understand why Katahdin has always been on the chopping block. Why not SACS?


      • …because the people so aggressively fighting to close Katahdin do not want THEIR children taxpayers and communities to suffer the costs they are inflicting on Katahdin.

        Every single argument they make that “Katahdin is dying! It is inevitable!” …can be used in spades to close SACS.

        Notice how they talk about the condition of the buildings per the AMES architects report with false parity? SACS is in much worse shape yet they shrug and call it a wash? That and have “ordered” people not to talk about it in a ham handed act of imaginary authority.

        The entire Board case could easily be reversed but it would still be without merit.

        I would never condone using these self serving tactics because just as most SACS residents respect Katahdin I do SACS.


        • If SACS is in worse repair, wouldn’t it make sense to close that building. Also the biggest issue for all these kids is a very long bus ride. That isn’t fair to kids on either side. Education can improve, but selling out kids for s long bus ride is not the way to go.


          • They are so committed to SACS that no matter what “makes sense”; regardless of what the $60k Ames report says..

            They are DETERMINED to argue that only one school can survive and that SACS is it.

            When enrollment continues to decline they will be back for the elementary school.

            You are right. The attitude that there can be only one school in 460 square miles is dreadfully unfair to everyone.


    • You are right: not that Katahdin “will” close. It is already gone.

      The “sad” part is the way children have done without a good education for at least three years.

      It is not dying a natural death but is being actively killed by people who refuse to see it’s potential because they want the money for themselves.

      ..people who will not bear the costs.

      The evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of small local schools BOTH in terms of costs and outcomes – especially for populations of kids struggling with poverty.

      Why on Earth do people continue to believe that a high school enrollment of between 150 and 200 is a death sentence when the evidence is screaming at them that it is ideal?

      Still, you are entitled to their personal preferences for single grade classes of 20, etc. even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

      You are NOT entitled to take children from neighboring towns and put them on a bus to nowhere to fulfill your size preference!

      If you want a large school bus your own kids to Houlton.

      Why do people view school size as a matter of choice?

      You mention Limestone.

      Three things essential to the success of consolidation are 1) proximity 2) excellence, and 3) autonomy.

      Limestone has all three. Caribou is 10 miles away, is already an excellent school and Limestone retains the right to decide for itself. (Caribou is not forcing them to close because they want they money.)

      RSU 50 strikes out here.

      You are presuming that the closure of Katahdin is inevitable with the tenor of your letter. It is a political technique to dampen opposition “resistance is futile”…. etc…. Also to shield Board members from the responsibility of their choices; active choices that have already hurt kids taxpayers and communities.

      That sort of thing will not fly here.

      The same technique would work better with SACS because of the Ames report – it is the more expensive building.

      I would never condone using it and respect the communities of SACS and their right to control their own building.


  6. If a closure of Katahdin happens. Our kids do have another option. I have it on good authority that Schenck would welcome our children. They will even provide a bus to pick up our children. They offer Region Three and college course credits during junior and senior year. Just another option if sending your kid to SACHS is not the way you want to go. Maybe we should look into this. They can’t legally campaign for our kids so we have to spread the word for them. I would rather my kids go there than Oakfield if Katahdin is no longer an option.


    • Yes. Families rightly have transfer options.

      I believe an arrangement with Schenck like the one you describe is certainly feasible though more difficult for towns that remain in the RSU where individual families must obtain transfers and tuition payments through RSU 50 via Superintendents’ agreements. (Augusta has routinely overridden refusals to cooperate on the part of Superintendents giving families de facto school choice). Were Sherman out of the RSU, the town would be able to negotiate with Schenck directly.

      Just as the RSU model is the root of so many problems in our schools, withdrawal is key to solutions.

      Why does anyone want to stay in RSU 50? I am not being snarky here I really am curious.

      At a meeting with Great Schools Partnership last year, a woman stood up and said to me, as a resident of Benedicta, “You are nothing! You are not a town and you have no say!” then turned to the Superintendent and asked, “Benedicta is contractually obligated to send their children to us right?” ….in the same breath!

      The RSU has warned that homeschoolers will be “closely monitored”.

      Look at what this RSU has done already trying to fill the SACS building. They will fight back. Better to take away their standing to do so.



      • People that home school need to make sure they have legal representation ready if bullied to rein role. All the homeschool kids are is numbers to them. They should be asking what can we do so that you want to send your kids to school.


        • The decision to homeschool is a personal one and yes, the RSU should be asking all parents of enrolled children as well how they can improve.

          I asked the previous Supt. if he had spoken with any parents who seek other options and he replied “A couple” without elaborating.

          At least one district homeschool parent is a member of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association http://www.hslda.org/


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