Category Archives: Notes from the Gallery

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…

 

image

“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
 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Visions and Values: A Close Reading of RSU 50 Mission and Purpose

ImageIf you needed “close reading” to fill out your Buzzword Bingo card, “You’re welcome!”

Perhaps it’s found some utility here, too, as I look closely at RSU 50’s Mission and Purpose statements.

I hope you will do the same!  Revise them… Revise my revisions, too, if you like — I can take it:)  In the end, these statements should well reflect your own core beliefs.

To that end, the Visions Committee invited attendees to their Public Forum to offer revisions, and I will pass along any suggestions you make here.  Here’s my own!

I love language…. Language matters, and words spark associations and frame the issue for the reader.  Has anyone read, “Don’t Think Of An Elephant” by George Lakoff?  (You just thought of an elephant, didn’t you?  Well, the book will tell you why….).

RSU 50 Vision Statement (The Schools We Strive For)

“ProvideCreate” an equitable, challenging, engaging and personalized student  Student-centered education system, which fosters cultivates, or nurtures  excitement a passion for learning that prepares as each student prepares for  citizenship,  local, national and global, college, and careers. and global citizenship.”

Anyway, in my own view, “provide” suggest passivity suggesting that there is a “receiver” or “consumer”…. …how about “create”; there is more room for students, families and communities.  I would put citizenship first, and of course include local as well as global.

RSU 50 Mission Statement (What We Do To Get There)

“Develop and advocate for uphold sustainable student-centered educational policies, and build mutually-beneficial, strong community relationships, supported by effective school leadership, challenging rich curriculum, proven instructional practices, expert, professional educators and diverse individualized, student-centered learning models provided in and cultivate a culture of respect between students, teachers and communities in a safe, healthy, and respectful environment built on strong community partnerships.”

I probably would have put “expert professional educators” closer to the top.  I don’t mean to suggest that teachers do not need to use “proven instructional practices” — teaching is a profession, and it has been said that there is no “…recipe for being a great teacher”.  It stands to reason that a great teacher practices his/or her art well.

RSU 50 Core Beliefs (What We Act Upon)

1)  “We believe students success are our top priority, and their voices will be heard.”

2)  “We believe that it is the responsibility of each school  to provides a safe, caring, and supportive learning environment that fosters innovation, creativity, wellness, teamwork, and self-expression for everyone through diverse experiences.  This is achieved by celebrating the preserving the unique character of our communities, where families and schools are in partnership.

3)  “We believe success full human potential, or “best bloom” is attainable for all students, holding them to high expectations.  This is achieved by providing instruction by high-quality teachers who will provide students with skills, behaviors and knowledge to be productive citizens by modeling civic responsibility, social justice and multicultural understanding.”

None of these represent a more stark divergence from current policy than number one, and it is my fervent hope that it is intended to rebuke, and not simply obscure, the behavior of the RSU 50 Administration and Board in response to respectful, public, and constructively critical civic engagement on the part of students.  Citizenship lies at the heart of public education, and respect for the pupil is paramount.  Last Spring, the only reference made by the Board to a student surveymonkey petition, hand-delivered to the Superintendent besides “We never saw it!” was, “It wouldn’t have mattered anyway!”.   As student “Letters to the Editor” have been, by all accounts, almost punatively received, “Timbered Classrooms” is proud to provide a safe space for everyone.  We also welcome a change of heart on the part of policymakers.

On to number 2: “..preserving the unique character of our communities” is wonderful for everyone. It is also, sadly, substantively impossible under the looming threat of liquidation of Katahdin; the impact of which on the “unique character of ITS communities” are as resonating as they are costly.  (Even if we at “Timbered Classrooms” were not so fortunate to have an impressive depth of educational expertise among our readers, the Superintendent’s refreshing, yet surprising candor about his intentions here is hard to refute.)  I hope policymakers will honor this second one, and consider scenarios that not only make sense, but are popular with our readers; keep K-12 on both sides, and consider merging the two buildings on the Katahdin side if necessary.  Invest optimally and equitably in every child in every school.

O.K.  Number 3:  What?  I crossed out “success”?  Who can be against “success”?  Don’t worry!  I’m not anti-success here, but it is a bit of loaded word.  What does “success” mean?  Is it a child’s potential as an educated person?  A truly educated person is surely “college and career ready”, but does this work in reverse?

I would like to add one word, and I don’t care where: Excellence.  Its absence struck me…. Surely there is room?  As it isn’t necessarily about money, and small schools enjoy an advantage here.  Excellence, its lifelong pursuit and its joy.

Many thanks to the Visions Committee for taking written revisions, though I am a bit late on my homework!

Visions and Values; Pondering the Public Forum…

6a00e5509ea6a1883401901d26bffd970bMany thanks to everyone who came out to the Visions Committee’s Public Forum last night, and sharing your core values with those who will be making some very serious decisions, and soon.

If you were there — read on!  I welcome additions/corrections in the “Comments” section; if not — read on!  It is not too late to let the Committee know how YOU envision the future of education here.

Table discussions revolved around changes in the community and the economy in addition to schools, and a gallery of post-it notes illustrated the feelings; the values of the people present.  Just before adjourning, we were given copies of draft Vision Statement, Mission Statement and Core Beliefs on which to scribble suggestions.  Here they are!  Any suggestions YOU make to revise them will be shared with the committee…..

RSU 50 Vision Statement (The Schools We Strive For)

“Provide an equitable, challenging, and personalized student education system, which fosters an excitement for learning that prepares each student for college, careers and global citizenship.”

RSU 50 Mission Statement (What We Do To Get There)

“Develop and advocate for sustainable educational policies, effective school leadership, challenging curriculum, proven instructional practices, and diverse student-centered learning models provided in a safe, healthy, and respectful environment built on strong community partnerships.”

RSU 50 Core Beliefs (What We Act Upon)

1)  “We believe student success is our top priority, and their voices will be heard.”

2)  “We believe each school provides a safe, caring, and supportive learning environment that fosters innovation, creativity, wellness, teamwork, and self-expression for everyone through diverse experiences.  This is achieved by celebrating the preserving the unique character of our communities, where families and schools are in partnership.

3)  “We believe success is attainable for all students, holding them to high expectations.  This is achieved by providing instruction by high-quality teachers who will provide students with skills, behaviors and knowledge to be productive citizens by modeling civic responsibility, social justice and multicultural understanding.”

“*Core beliefs will be reviewed based on the work provided tonight.  Please feel free to add comments as well.”

The emphasis on that last bit is my own.  The Committee will be revising the above statements based on what they hear from YOU.  The next meeting date is, as yet, unavailable, but when I find out I’ll post it.  It doesn’t matter how you choose to contact the Committee — either directly, or, of course, if you want to post here I will see that they have it….  But please, get in touch.  Have your say.

“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