Category Archives: Leadership

The Best-Laid Schemes o’ mice an’….. School Boards?

detour

One of our earliest posts, and one to which our readers keep returning…..

“How many secretaries does it take to screw in a light bulb at RSU 50?”  Punchlines invariably poke fun at the top-heavy nature of RSU 50’s administrative offices.  (“They’re not laughing WITH you….”)  Laugh, cry or both – you just got heckled.  “It’s in the RSU #50 plan approved by the State.”, protested the Superintendent at last week’s Board meeting, (as though divinely etched on a chunk of rhyolite and lugged down from Katahdin).  Fair enough.  That settles it then.

Or does it?  What does the plan say students should be assured in the way of educational opportunity?  What sort of savings were taxpayers to expect?  Read it an’ weep…. “They aren’t laughing WITH you…..” https://docs.google.com/a/rsu50.org/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=cnN1NTAub3JnfHd3d3xneDo1ZjUxZTdiMGQ4MDc4ZDI0 Please share your thoughts in the comments section, or email me to join us as an author. atimberedchoir@gmail.com

A Sneak Peek At The Times

The following has been submitted to the Houlton Pioneer Times for publication.  Please join Timbered Classrooms in thanking the author, David Robinson, both for speaking out, and for offering our readers a first  look…

 

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“I am concerned about the RSU 50 budget negotiations because of my lack of confidence in the superintendent. During the budget validation meeting of 2013-2014 superintendent Malone pointed out to the citizens that he was under no obligation to abide by any agreement he may enter into during the process. Further he made clear that he also is not obligated to operate within the budget guidelines once a budget is approved. for example; a town manager is required to spend the towns money as set out in each of the warrants approved during the towns annual budget meeting, the superintendent is under no such requirement. The RSU 50 business manager numerous times during the meeting had to speak for the superintendent as he seemed to be adrift on the inner workings of the budget.


How can I vote for the 2014-2015 budget that doesn’t pass the stink test. We have reportedly got between 700 and 800 students with a budget of nearly 10 million dollars this is ridiculous.


We voted down this years budget and what does the board do ? Agree to cutting building maintenance and resubmit the budget to the public for a 29 July validation meeting. Well, this was last years threat, why cut building maintenance? Here is why, the superintendent wants a new school, so, if he cuts the maintenance of buildings he can down the line, blame the public for the poor condition of the buildings and enhance his argument for needing a new school. I have no idea what is going to happen with this money if the budget is approved. For sure though I know the superintendent will hire who ever he wants, and let go who ever he wants. He will spend the funds however he wants. He will tell us whatever is needed to pass a budget. It is time for the school board to act and find a superintendent with integrity and a budget that makes sense.    No excuses.”  ~David Robinson
 

 

 

 

 

A Timbered Bookshelf – “From Schoolhouse to Schooling System: Maine Public Education in the 20th Century” by Gordon A. Donaldson Jr. Ed.D.

“From Schoolhouse to Schooling System traces Maine’s efforts to educate its children and youth through the twentieth century. It is a story of high ambitions, changing economic fortunes, and the struggle to shape widespread community schools into a coherent system. Donaldson’s book offers a richly detailed description of the past and the lessons it serves up for the future.” ~Maine Authors Publishing

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“From Schoolhouse to Schooling System: Maine Public Education in the 20th Century examines schools in six communities, Peru, Anson, Lubec, Houlton, Cumberland, and Bangor…”

“…The state’s forced consolidation of schools “was a case of 1920s-style thinking being applied to the 21st century world,” Donaldson said.  He also said the trend of grouping teachers in larger schools for the purpose of professional improvement was outdated by 1980.  “By that time, professional development and knowledge were readily available, and sending students to larger schools held no value.” he said.  “So the 2007 consolidation law made next to zero sense educationally”, Donaldson said

Read the entire review from “The Ellsworth American” here

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Teachers Need a Seat at the Table | Rethinking Education

there_is_an_apple_on_the_table-1“…schools that include teachers as equal players are the ones that soar above the others in terms of student achievement. Those are the schools where teachers love to work, where they are energized, hopeful that they can meet the needs of their students, not just devoted to them but confident that what they do will make a difference…” ~Kathreen Harrison

 

via Teachers Need a Seat at the Table | Rethinking Education.

As School Budgeting Season Heats Up Remember the Crucial Middle School Years | Rethinking Education

Kathreen Harrison’s advice for Board members is pure gold, especially as they contemplate (or march toward!) school closure… Our gratitude to Kathreen Harrison for sharing her wisdom in “Rethinking Education”, and, YOU! …our readers for sharing, and discussing it with your Board representative….

“…Student achievement at the eighth grade level in higher poverty schools is better statewide in K – 8 schools than in middle schools. This is particularly true of K – 8 schools with a sizable percentage of teachers holding master’s degrees.

The data about K – 8 schools should impact school board discussions about merging, closing, and consolidating schools. Before school boards move to close any community schools they should be prepared to explain to their stakeholders why student achievement in the case of their particular schools will not suffer….”

Timbered Classrooms...

frenchgirlbyrichardvanek “…high poverty K – 8 schools seem to be doing a better job of educating their older students than high poverty middle schools. Student achievement at the eighth grade level in higher poverty schools is better statewide in K – 8 schools than in middle schools. This is particularly true of K – 8 schools with a sizable percentage of teachers holding master’s degrees.

The data about K – 8 schools should impact school board discussions about merging, closing, and consolidating schools. Before school boards move to close any community schools they should be prepared to explain to their stakeholders why student achievement in the case of their particular schools will not suffer.

Overall in Maine the trend is for achievement in students in higher poverty schools to begin to decline after the elementary school years. The middle school years, in other words, are the vulnerable point in our system.

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Should our taxes pay for arts education in school? | Rethinking Education

…a wonderful, timely reminder of what real, child-centered priorities look like by Kathreen Harrison!

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“…In this world that seems to incline more and more toward standardization we should remember the benefits of project-based learning and artistic expression and we should remember that school subjects are best learned intertwined. The old labels of ‘core subjects’ and ‘specials’ are outdated. A complete education demands the benefits of all disciplines, academic and otherwise.

And when we work with children – and this is key to facilitating successful learning – a sense of joy should permeate the process – the kind of joy that usually accompanies artistic enterprise. All too often today the schoolroom feels like a workhouse, as attention focuses heavily on scores and data and school report cards.

Children want to learn. They are learning machines! Think of the enormous tasks they accomplish during their first years of life – how to walk, how to understand what others mean when they make sounds,  and finally how to talk themselves. Why do they do it?  The desire to learn is inborn in us. We need to be sure our schools keep that desire to learn alive.”

via Should our taxes pay for arts education in school? | Rethinking Education.

Is it really that important for students in Maine to learn a second language? | Rethinking Education

In a word:   “Oui”!…

image“…Language study is a key element of a 21st century education. Students in rural areas should not be left behind in the acquisition of these skills that will enable them to participate in the global economy. Funding elementary and middle school language programs does come with a modest price tag, but we cannot put our heads in the sand and pretend our way back to another century. We need to embrace the present….”

Another wonderful post from Kathreen Harrison of the Bangor Daily News’ “Rethinking Education”!  Read on, here:

Is it really that important for students in Maine to learn a second language? | Rethinking Education.

Where are the block buildings and the dress-up clothes? | Rethinking Education

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“…Reading will come easier to most if we just wait for the appropriate developmental stage. There is a reason Russia and Finland don’t present formal reading lessons in kindergarten.”

“Parents need to speak out to their local school boards and administrators if they do not want their kindergartens to be watered-down second and third grades. Childhood is precious. It doesn’t come twice in a lifetime. The work of young children is play. There is an enormous amount of learning that takes place in the worlds of dress-up and block building and outside pretend play.” ~Kathreen Harrison

 

What a worthwhile read! …a dose of wisdom, that is just what the doctor ordered. The piece, in its entirety, is available here:

Where are the block buildings and the dress-up clothes? | Rethinking Education.

School Board Candidates Should Show Serious Engagement With Current Topics in Education | Rethinking Education

This should be required reading for School Board members, and those considering a seat!  ….as should Kathreen Harrison’s blog, “Rethinking Education”, featured on the Bangor Daily News’ Blogroll.

How might her suggestions help us improve education in RSU #50?

image“‘…an understanding of history, civics, geography, mathematics, and science, so they may comprehend unforeseen events and act wisely; the ability to speak, write, and read English well; mastery of a foreign language; engagement in the arts, to enrich their lives; close encounters with great literature, to gain insight into timeless dilemmas and the human condition; a love of learning, so they continue to develop their minds when their formal schooling ends; self-discipline, to pursue their goals to completion; ethical and moral character; the social skills to collaborate fruitfully with others; the ability to use technology wisely; the ability to make and repair useful objects, for personal independence; and the ability to play a musical instrument, for personal satisfaction.’~Diane Ravitch

“Many Maine school districts mention 21st century skills in their mission statements and strategic plans – yet most of our plans of study, and classrooms, remain essentially as they were half a century ago. We have adopted the rhetoric of school change while remaining fundamentally unchanged.

School boards, administrators, and teachers all contribute to setting the direction of a school district, however a district’s school board is the final decision-maker. If we want the less forward-thinking of our schools in Maine to catch up to those many years ahead of us in the direction of positive school change, we need school board members who are familiar with the educational landscape outside their own towns.

I suggest that potential candidates for school board should be required to visit exemplary schools in Maine and elsewhere before announcing their candidacy. They should be asked to share with the electorate their vision of excellent schools and their ideas for how to help schools achieve that vision. They should be required to demonstrate an informed engagement with topics in the national educational dialogue.

Decisions made by school boards impact the lives of students in their care. Those decisions should be based on knowledge about education. I urge school boards to adopt policies that will guarantee rigorous debate and informed decision-making.”

via School Board Candidates Should Show Serious Engagement With Current Topics in Education | Rethinking Education.

My school system is abuzz with the Common Core: is this a good thing? | Rethinking Education

To be fair, the switch to Standards-Based Education, and the Common Core does treat poor children as though they were rich in one aspect:  they have to pay handsomely.  With towns and the State slashing even the most vital areas, where do we find the resources?  Our thanks to Kathreen Harrison for this spot-on piece:

tiger-bee-inside-an-apple-ivan-rijhoffMy school system is abuzz with the Common Core: is this a good thing? | Rethinking Education

“I don’t like it when wealthy children are treated to one kind of education and the rest are treated to something different. It makes me suspect the children of the lower and middle classes are probably getting a rotten deal.  Here’s how three of these private schools introduce their schools to prospective parents. Note that while these extracts are admittedly brief, when I browsed the websites I found no mention at all of either standards-based education or the Common Core.”

“…we need to refrain from burdening our teachers with ever-increasing rules and regulations. Our focus should be on attracting and training top students to the teaching profession, candidates who find fulfillment in exploring their intellectual and artistic passions with young minds. To attract these students we need to give teachers conditions in which they will thrive: abundant time for thinking, planning and collaborating with their colleagues; salaries that compete with those of pharmacists, lawyers, and engineers; respect from administrators and the public; freedom to do the best work of which they are capable.

The Common Core is not the answer. If it were, the schools for training the future elite would be embracing it, and they are not. Instead they are heavily promoting  intellectually and artistically rich communities. All students deserve schools like these.

Read the full, and thought-provoking post here:

My school system is abuzz with the Common Core: is this a good thing? | Rethinking Education.

Dear Legislators: What’s the point of issuing education mandates that you’re not going to fund? | Rethinking Education

…a question that cries out for an answer.  Many thanks to Kathreen Harrison for posing it, and outlining what so many of us may not know about what requirements entail:

Snail house. French children's bookhttp://rethinkingeducation.bangordailynews.com/2014/02/16/home/unfunded-mandates-when-will-the-state-and-federal-governments-put-their-money-where-their-mouths-are-when-it-comes-to-education/

 Dear Legislators: What’s the point of issuing education mandates that you’re not going to fund? | Rethinking Education.

“…The Maine Legislature passed LD 1422 in 2012. This is the law that mandates that schools transition to a standards-based education system. The transition does not come cheap. One superintendent estimated the total costs involved in standards-based education were at least approximately $60,000 per year; another district administrator said they had spent roughly $500,000 on professional development regarding standards-based education implementation. Yet the state decreased its financial contribution to education just at the time it passed this expensive mandate. The intent is for the local taxpayer to pay more……”

http://rethinkingeducation.bangordailynews.com/2014/02/16/home/unfunded-mandates-when-will-the-state-and-federal-governments-put-their-money-where-their-mouths-are-when-it-comes-to-education/

When the principal’s load is too heavy … | Rethinking Education

hands-on-seedling-370x229.png?1326218065“Dysfunction on a school board or in a superintendent’s office or at the state level impacts what goes on in the classroom, but the quality of teachers is what matters most…”

via When the principal’s load is too heavy … | Rethinking Education.

Great Things Come in Small Packages…

As the Board prepares to reconfigure our communities’ educational infrastructure…

The Real Role Of Leadership…

image “The real role of leadership in education … is not and should not be command and control. The real role of leadership is climate control, creating a climate of possibility.” ~Ken Robinson

 

As School Budgeting Season Heats Up Remember the Crucial Middle School Years | Rethinking Education

frenchgirlbyrichardvanek“…high poverty K – 8 schools seem to be doing a better job of educating their older students than high poverty middle schools. Student achievement at the eighth grade level in higher poverty schools is better statewide in K – 8 schools than in middle schools. This is particularly true of K – 8 schools with a sizable percentage of teachers holding master’s degrees.

The data about K – 8 schools should impact school board discussions about merging, closing, and consolidating schools. Before school boards move to close any community schools they should be prepared to explain to their stakeholders why student achievement in the case of their particular schools will not suffer.

Overall in Maine the trend is for achievement in students in higher poverty schools to begin to decline after the elementary school years. The middle school years, in other words, are the vulnerable point in our system.

School boards should therefore think very carefully about the decisions they make that involve middle schools. I suggest they reach out to experts on this one to help them make decisions that will reverse the trend toward declining achievement at the middle school level in higher poverty schools.

If I were on a school board that was considering change at the middle school level I would get in touch with the Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation at the University of Southern Maine. I would ask where to turn  for guidance on how to configure the schools in my district…”

Read Kathreen Harrison’s post in its entirety, including a link to the study referenced, here:

As School Budgeting Season Heats Up Remember the Crucial Middle School Years | Rethinking Education.

Why are some schools with the same population and the same basic amount of money more successful than others. | Rethinking Education

a1If ever a question merits an answer; if ever our children deserve a high-quality education.  This thoughtful piece by Kathreen Harrison is a good place to start….

“Intriguing and hopeful both is the study’s important conclusion that some schools prove the exception – their students are poor but their achievement is relatively high. The study encourages using the example of such schools to help less successful schools reach their students more effectively. Makes sense to me. You’d think educators would be scrambling to go over the findings of this study.

Here’s the reality: those who most definitely need to heed studies like this one – school board members; superintendents; principals in low-income school districts – will probably not even read them.”

Why are some schools with the same population and the same basic amount of money more successful than others. | Rethinking Education.

….or go directly to the study: poverty_achievement_Web(1)

Standards-Based; A Maine Case Study

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“It’s hard for a parent to hear, ‘Give me a year or two, and we’ll fix that.’ Because their kid doesn’t have a year or two….

This case study paints a picture of the experiences of RSU 2; their transition to a proficiency-based grading system….  Whether you favor a standards-based system, or not; whether you are familiar with the subject, or still have unanswered questions….. What strikes a chord with you?

rsu_2_case_study

Stakeholders in RSU 13 and Other Districts Must Guard the Future of Schools | Rethinking Education

holdinghands“…How RSU 13 handles their current troubles can serve as a model for other districts eager to move forward. Their top-down model of running schools belongs to a less complex, more naïve, previous era. The model for the 21st century is one where administrators, teachers, parents, and other taxpayers work in partnership to make decisions. Educational decisions in this century require far too complex an analysis to leave to just a few players. The public fiasco the taxpayers of RSU 13 are living with now should serve as a wake-up call to look deeply at how that district – and others – works. In the same way that it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the energy of district stakeholders to make sure their school districts are transparent in the way they go about safeguarding the future of the students in their care….”

Stakeholders in RSU 13 and Other Districts Must Guard the Future of Schools | Rethinking Education.

Poll!

green_soapboxGet up on YOUR soapbox, and air YOUR views! Click on the title, (or the adorable picture) to take our very brief poll.
Very brief, yes, but there IS ample space for you to make it your own in the comments section.  We look forward to your responses:)

Inspired School Directors More Important than Evaluation Systems | Rethinking Education

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“I believe that small schools run by inspired directors have the best chance of meeting the needs of both teachers and students. The essential element in such a school is the close relationships between educators based on the work at hand. If a group of teachers, guided by a master teacher/principal, keeps their eye on the prize of excellence, then student growth will follow. This is more fundamental to a strong outcome than all the evaluation tools – standards and tests and forms of all kinds – at use in so many of our schools across the country.

The bottom line is that a principal needs to provide for the growth and development of her teachers. She needs to find ways for the best teachers to continue to be challenged throughout their careers. The principal should consistently articulate to the teachers that nothing is more important to the success of the school than their own growth and development. Supervision, in other words, should mostly be focused on encouraging teachers to learn more about the art and craft of teaching. Evaluation should not be confused with the more important work of this sort of supervision. The current scramble to standardize and evaluate threatens to obscure the goal.”

via Inspired School Directors More Important than Evaluation Systems | Rethinking Education.

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About The EPS Funding Model… ….But We’re Afraid To Ask…

tumblr_maekpoNZkV1rpbbf5o1_500How inequity is baked in to the EPS School Funding Model; how EPS became hijacked as a spending cap…..

For thoughtful, comprehensive and independent analysis of Essential Programs and Services, click here:

http://forum.mdischools.net/state/EPS

Great Things Come in Small Packages…

Image“…trying to make all schools like our largest ones may be disadvantageous to small schools.  The “one best system” of education envisioned by many businessmen and lawmakers may be counterproductive to producing effective small, rural schools.  When organizational members of small schools strive to become like large schools, not only do they develop an inferiority complex, they also lose sight of their strengths — their potential for developing positive relations among adults and students, for attaining a sense of community, for developing relevant educational programming, and for knowing students so well they do not need to be labeled…..”

“…small schools are not necessarily weak schools.  In fact, it seems to me, now, that rural schools are some of our finest American educational institutions.  Instead of being unfortunate institutions in regions too isolated to be harvested by the consolidation combine, small, rural schools are often places where educational excellence flows naturally.  Instead of being weeds in the educational landscape, rural schools are often vines that bear rich fruit and healthy nourishment for young people. ”

~ excerpted from Leadership for Rural Schools:   Lessons for All Educators

by Donald M. Chalker

Maine School Consolidation: a Reorganization Report Card, and Food for Thought in RSU #50

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“A wave of research from around the country shows that consolidation does not improve schools or lead to better academic results.  Spending on education does not go down; indeed, budgets often balloon with increased transportation costs and more administrators to run enlarged districts.  Consolidation leads to schools closing and to bigger schools, with less parental involvement and community participation.  And, in many parts of the United States, it has led to children on unconscionable bus rides lasting several hours a day.”

Elaine McArdle  “Together We Won’t”

The Boston Sunday Globe  March 8, 2009 p. C3

A concise, thoughtful statewide assessment of how Maine’s RSU Law has performed relative to its goals of Efficiency, Equity and Quality, along with his recommendations to improve the lot of Maine schoolchildren.

Maine School Consolidation Report Card

What would YOUR “report card” for RSU #50 look like?

~ Are schools in RSU 50 really more efficient than before?

~  Are children in RSU 50 educated more equitably with wealthier areas of the state than before 2011?

~  Has the quality of education for children of RSU 50 improved since the 2011 reorganization?

Would you please share your thoughts and/or experiences? We look forward to hearing from you!

“Yes, Virginia…. There IS a PTSO.” …..and other thoughts on the RSU 50 Board’s October meeting.

OldDesignShop_SilhouetteFamily1912“There isn’t one!”  barked one Board member to another’s suggestion to look to the Parent Organization for volunteers to serve on the working group to shape a vision for RSU #50.  It was an awkward moment, for which I feel compelled to offer clarification — AND an apology for not doing so on the spot:

Continue reading

“Cost-shifting threatens local education”

Timbered Classrooms...

An insightful piece by Rep. Brian Hubbell about why local communities are so strained.

 

“No wonder local communities are frustrated and angry,  They are paying more than ever and their schools are still being forced to cut school programs.”

 

http://www.mainehousedistrict35.com/cost-shifting-threatens-local-education/

 

Add to this, the “cost-shifting” within the district; from the more powerful school to the one targeted for closure.  Taxpayers and children alike bear the brunt…..

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Divorce? Not necessarily…. RSU & AOS compared.

Could the AOS option please everyone?

Timbered Classrooms...

According to our recent survey, 44 out of 49 respondants (with three abstentions) support the RSU Withdrawal initiative spearheaded by the communities of former MSAD #25.  A whopping 89.8%!

But to those who want our communities to remain connected?  Take heart! 

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Divorce? Not necessarily…. RSU & AOS compared.

According to our recent survey, 44 out of 49 respondants (with three abstentions) support the RSU Withdrawal initiative spearheaded by the communities of former MSAD #25.  A whopping 89.8%!

But to those who want our communities to remain connected?  Take heart!  Continue reading