Vote As You Please, But Please Vote!

The RSU #50 Budget Referendum will be held Tuesday, June 16th at local polling places.  Are you happy with the priorities outlined in the budget?  …or does it need work?

View the budget Annual Report SY15 and FY16 Budget Report – Final 151905

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…the Other Side of the Fence…

fence and roses

“….we’ve discussed a $600.00 hockey program for over an hour, but vote in a $65,000 curriculum coordinator in the blink of an eye, I don’t get it!….”

…said a Board member at the Budget meeting whose name our sources didn’t catch.  Let’s just call him, “Voice of Reason”.

It is always an imperative to maximize opportunity for kids, according to their needs and aspirations.  The chance to play for a mere $600; a rounding error for more controversial budget items and with such a tremendous impact on the young people involved, is too good to pass up.  Even those who have raised concerns that Katahdin youth live too far away to benefit do not want to deprive SACS students – but do want parity, pure and simple.

Now, about that fence.  Pretty isn’t it?  It’s the sort over which I would ask the gardener’s advice when their roses bloom brighter and their “grass is greener” so to speak.  Gardeners in my experience delight in being asked advice, and share the secrets of their success, and lessons of their failures, gladly.

As we look “over the fence” toward Hodgdon, the obvious question the Board should be asking is, “How does a high school that enrolls 150 kids or so field a hockey team at all?”

Hodgdon has been gracious enough to host Southern Aroostook players, surely they would be equally so in sharing their successes and struggles.

Every district, of every size, faces challenges.  Communicating with, and learning from each other is what “working together” looks like in a real, efficient and fair sense.

“How do you maintain full-time access to your library?”  “How are you able to fund a Gifted and Talented program?” “What do you consider your advantages in serving each and every child?” “What are your biggest challenges and how do you deal with them?”.  “When you advertise for open faculty positions, do they go unanswered the way ours do?” “How do you maintain highly-qualified faculty?” “What are your top priorities in your budget?” “What needs go unmet?”

Our Board’s view of small schools generally, including our own is so awash in negativity as to miss our advantages even IF they wanted to find them.  Doing so in our current configuration, however, undermines the efforts of powerful Board members to infuse education resources into their own community for their own purposes.  ….a divisive disincentive to say the least.  Their firm belief in consolidation/closure as the “only” option (close THEIR school and bring kid$ HERE of course and NOT the other way around); an option they failed even to bring up for a vote, means that they have failed children not only by parents’ measure – parents who are increasingly seeking other options – but by their own standard.

Providing children with a good education and value for taxpayers’ dollars is the most pressing one at the moment, and more important, even, than the consolidation controversy.

Let’s look “over the fence” to schools that are doing more for less, and craft a budget to emulate them.

 

Where It Matters – Effects Of Increased School Size At The Student Level

Found at Vermont Schools Rock……

View data from a Nebraska study about curriculum offerings and student participation rates in high schools of various sizes

Course offerings generally go up as school size increases, as does total participation (enrollment units). However, enrollment units per student decline; students do less when offered more.

The smaller the school, the more kids are doing in both academic and non-academic classes. Not presented here is a finding that study hall participation rate increased as school size increased.

This is consistent with the idea that curriculum enrichment enriches a few but not most students. Many students may do less in a big school because their lack of participation is not noticed and perhaps, if they are not good test takers, unwanted.

Voices of Reason from Vermont

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“..It is the 21st century.  Closing schools and putting kids on busses for long rides to bigger schools so they can have more curriculum is a 20th century solution….”  “…We have many more options of getting curriculum; content to kids besides just putting them on busses….” ~Marty Strange, Vermonters for Schools and Community

The RSU #50 Board has long refused to leverage those options for kids because doing so would undermine their desire to shift resources from the Katahdin campus to communities on the Northern side of the district for their own purposes – none of which they can begin to prove benefit children or taxpayers.

That small schools; schools in our current configuration, cannot afford a quality education for children is a stubbornly held view of the RSU #50 Board that threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophecy if parents and communities do not engage.  As Board members seek to prove the inferiority of small schools, and punish Katahdin’s communities for their own failure  – our children are shortchanged irreparably…..

Many towns have escaped the harsh consequences of the RSU Law by withdrawing from their RSUs, pre-emptively seeking (and winning) exemptions and opting for AOS models of consolidation.  Too many, in fact, to garner State attention to the plight of RSU #50, where the LSRS law ran roughshod over the interests of children and communities.  Here, the law worked as intended, though even a State official who supports consolidation admits, “Geographically large districts are ‘problematic'”.

The following video from Vermont speaks to the advantages of small schools, and strategies to make the most of them, particularly in the testimony of Mr. Chris Tormey, High School Science teacher in a large school and parent/board member in a small one.

http://vp.telvue.com/player?id=T01221&video=224669&mini=true

Meeting Minutes – …or Hours?

meeting-minutes-picMinutes of recent meetings are now available, and include staffing plans and status of closure and consolidation scenarios.

“….Research also suggests that impoverished regions in particular often benefit from smaller schools and districts, and they can suffer irreversible damage if  consolidation occurs

That made clear, saving a building for a year neither ensures a quality education for the children within or value for taxpayers’ dollars.  That will require robust public engagement with the Board resolute accountability.  Though the following is long, it is worth a read:

Meeting Minutes

Meeting Tonight!

Agenda-icon-yellowThe RSU #50 School Board will meet tonight, June 8, 2015 at Katahdin Elementary School 6:30 pm.

AGENGA June 8

Music Hath Charm…

325694-cute-love-loves-u-music-pretty-quote-quotes….and is a vital part of the education of a child.  At tonight’s meeting our readers ask that you pay special attention to Article 5 on the back page.  Here a new Curriculum Coordinator is funded $59,545 + $4500 in supplies.

This is Perhaps the most contentious item in the budget as that money should be used to find and fill the Music position vacated by a retiring Mrs. Cox.

BUDGET MEETING TONIGHT! – Time for Kids….

cuckoo-clock…and the taxpayers and communities who support and are supported by RSU #50 schools.

“The greatest gift you can give someone is your time.”

The annual budget meeting/vote will be held this evening, June 2nd @7pm at the Island Falls Municipal Building.  

If past is prologue, the Board will make much of the “time” they spent crafting the proposed budget; how hard they worked on it, the implication being that members take umbrage when those they serve seek changes.

Kids are worth it.

Taxpayers are worth it.

The communities they support and are supported by are worth it.

Though the Board has and will likely continue to claim otherwise, spending priorities expressed to Timbered Classrooms by community members are less costly than those endorsed by the Board – not more as the Board often claims.

Readers have been very clear that they want a music teacher to continue the position held by Mrs. Cox, rather than a more expensive and unnecessary curriculum coordinator, three principals instead of four….  More teachers and fewer bureaucrats, with equitable compensation.

Certain Board members cynically accuse those who disagree with them of personal vitriol, ignorance and being against the Flag, Mom and Apple Pie….  …of being insensitive to struggling taxpayers no matter how much  more efficient and inexpensive their demands are compared to the Board’s budget!

Timbered Classrooms wishes the communities well, hopes for a robust turnout – whatever one’s views….

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

BUDGET MEETING JUNE 2nd @7pm Island Falls Municipal Building – It’s YOUR Money…..

Budget…and the RSU 50 Board may need a bit of reminding, during what has become the most farcical time of year – budget time.  Items for which taxpayers are unwilling to pay – bureaucratic bloat to name one, are cloaked in a veil of inevitability (“you’re going to pay for administration one way or another” ~Supt. Larry Malone).  Meanwhile, what people have demonstrated that they want – namely faculty, is cut both in terms of salaries, programs and positions.

“…a curriculum coordinator is no longer a luxury…”

“The Curriculum Coordinator is the most important person in the building”

“One principal for two schools stretches administration too thin”

“You’re going to pay for administration one way or another.”

Please read the wonderful post written by a very popular student author of whom we could not be more proud.  It echoes the many concerns in the community that the music program at Katahdin is to be cut in half as the Board opts not to fill the position left vacant by the retirement of Mrs. Cox.

Why is it acceptable for distant schools to share teachers – leaving children without access to them half the time, but not principals?

Why is a curriculum coordinator necessary here when such a thing is glaringly absent from the staff rosters of high-quality schools similar in size to our own?

How much has the district spent on pre-packaged curricula, mediocre and fraught with errors but with very expensive “Common Core Aligned” stickers?  Why not let the teachers develop curriculum as they have been trained to do?

What positions have we added to “oversee” the two distant schools in the district that neither school needed before?

How much has this district spent on consultants?  Architects?  ..not only to asses the buildings, but also to travel to Augusta and discuss a new school?

Why are bureaucrats and wardens paid so far above State averages, while teachers earnings stay stubbornly below?  …even as advertisements for vacant positions draw “0” applicants?  Shouldn’t pay scales be the same across the board?

“I sat across the (negotiating) table for two years and no one (teachers) offered to take less.’ ~Supt. Larry Malone

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Children cannot wait.  You have more power than you think.

Thank you all for sharing your ideas from highly effective, efficient, small schools around the state you would like to emulate in this district. Thank you for advocating for policies that truly honor every child equally, and that respects every penny provided by taxpayers.

Politics, Pearls, and Perfidy….

The RSU #50 Board met on Wednesday evening to discuss and eliminate scenarios of consolidation and building closure, electing keep the following scenarios on the table :

  • No change – though the Board has long deemed it untenable, and the Chairman has repeatedly blamed the district’s troubles on “too many buildings”…..    The Board is hesitant to vote it off the table.
  • Consolidate 7-12 to SACS – no change elementary
  • Consolidate 7-12 Katahdin – no change elementary
  • Consolidate Katahdin Elementary into the Katahdin High School building. –again, garners strong objections from those on the Board, though remains the most 2nd most popular option to “No Change” among Katahdin’s communities.

Clutching-Pearls“…It’s an unfortunate, but fairly common reality that intimidation and personal slurs are used against people fighting consolidation. Sometimes teachers or administrators have their jobs, or the jobs of family members, subtly threatened. Sometimes rumors are spread locally. It’s not uncommon for pro-consolidation media outlets to portray community advocates of small schools in unflattering ways, to use derogatory rural stereotypes, and to misrepresent the legitimate concerns of rural residents and parents as self-interest, commitment to local athletic teams, or ignorance of and disregard for what’s best for their own children….” Anything But Research Based

Board member Stephan Walker’s pearl-clutching self-righteous indignation toward parents who want a future for Katahdin echoed by Superintendent Larry Malone and Chairman Greg Ryan – all taking “it personally”, is nothing new in consolidation schemes . “We are all one community!” said Stephan Walker “….I don’t think you want to be.” retorted the Superintendent.  In Mr. Walker’s world, “one community”, apparently means that the costs; the losses are no more equally shared than the unsubstantiated benefits.  He went on to accuse families on the losing end of depriving their own children of  opportunities he promises at a consolidated SACS for the sake of personal “animosity” and “mascots”, etc. ignoring vehement objections from those in attendance .

I began studying school consolidation 10 years ago, and developed my position on the subject midst a wave of research-based evidence, and an utter absence of any to the contrary.  It is easy for me to forget that debunked assumptions about savings/opportunity continue to drive policy, and though they are shielded largely from debate, I reject them.  I further reject any notion of vitriol toward anyone – regardless of their views.

Timbered Classrooms values every one of our many readers – from every corner of the district and beyond.  We are grateful for equally widespread support we have received and for the expertise among our readers that they so freely share with us.

Thank you.

NOTE:  Mr. Malone has since tendered his resignation.  Though we view his tenure; his policies and vision as an insurmountable obstacle to realizing the full potential of local education to serve our children and communities – we wish him no ill-will.

Student Author: Let’s Not Forget About the Arts

music-notes-clip-art-png-139835101453As it currently stands, the Katahdin Schools have always held a successful choral program. Mrs. Bonny Cox has been teaching chorus and general music to the students of the Katahdin schools since they first opened. This year, she recently announced that after 41 years of being involved with the music program in our area schools, she will be retiring. While her retirement is well deserved, there is one thing that is not. As it stands, the administration has made no plans to fill her position that will be left vacant in less than a month.

For the past thirteen years, I have been involved in the music program at Katahdin. I have had the privilege of being a student of Mrs. Cox since the start of my kindergarten year. I have had Mrs. Cox as a teacher for general music in elementary school, middle school chorus, and high school chorus. I, along with many other students, could not possibly explain how much the music program has positively influenced my education over the years.

It has been proven by studies that the music student is more actively engaged in school, statistically better in their studies than students who do not participate in music courses. From personal experience, I can tell you that I have found this to be true. For some students, having shop class was what made their schooling enjoyable. When this program was taken away, many of the students that enjoyed this program became uninterested in school altogether.  For the approximately thirty high school students that participate in chorus (almost 1/3 of the whole high school), this would also be the case if this vital position is not filled. We have cut too many elective courses that the students truly enjoy, and chorus does not need to be added to this list.

Although I will no longer be a student of Katahdin High School after June, I do not want to see this fabulous program disappear from the course offerings. Mrs. Cox has worked hard to build up the music program at the Katahdin schools. Our students are very musically talented. Whether it is one of the choruses, the PACK performances, our All Aroostook Chorus, or our students that go to All State Chorus, our school’s music program has became well known and recognized across the state.  Considering Katahdin is one of the smaller schools in Aroostook County, it speaks wonders that our school sends one of the biggest groups of students to the All Aroostook Music Festival. Our choral program is well ran, structured, and appreciated, and it does not deserve to be cut after this year. There are many students who will be left heartbroken without this program next year.

Since the time of budget downfalls, the arts have always been the target. Over my high school career, I have seen our music program always be the first on the list of programs to be cut. Thankfully, due to the caring community members, voters, parents, etc., we have not lost any of our music programs. This time around, it has been kept on the down low. Many community members and voters are unaware that there have been no intentions to fill the vacancy left by Mrs. Cox. Therefore, there has been no attention brought towards the fact that this program could potentially not exist next year. To all of the parents, community members, faculty members, and voters: Please do not let our music program be cut. This needs to be brought up, and a strong battle needs to be raised to keep this program alive in our schools. As the students, we are helpless without the help of our community members. Please help us to speak out before it is too late to save our music program.

In closing, I would like to thank Mrs. Cox for the great work that she has done for the students of the Katahdin schools. You have made a positive impact in the education and lives of many. Not only have you been a teacher, but you have been a caring friend to the many students who love your courses. You have helped myself and many others grow as choral students. You have been a dedicated, selfless educator for many years, and I wish you well in your retirement.

IMPORTANT MEETING TONIGHT!

“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” ~Michael Enzi

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A special Board meeting to discuss scenarios of consolidation closure etc. will be held tonight at 6:30pm at the Island Falls Municipal Building

Special Board Meeting Agenda

Above the Fold…

boy boot“RSU 50 Adopts Budget”

..reads this week’s Houlton Pioneer Headline:

“…On June 2, the RSU 50 budget meeting will be held in Island Falls at the Municipal Building to act on the proposed school budget for fiscal year 2016.  The Budget meeting is at 7 pm. …”

“…Driving the increase in the budget is Career and Technical with the addition of a new electrical program, transportation with a new bus lease, facilities maintenance with the addition of two roofing projects, and student and staff support with the addition of a Curriculum Coordinator for $60,000, as well as salary increases and increases in retirement costs and health insurance.

Budget reductions were found in regular instruction with a retirement and resignation of two classroom teachers and the retirement of a music educator.  In Special Education, costs were saved with the elimination of three Ed Tech positions and two part-time teaching positions, and in the School Administration line, there was the reduction of one secretary position….”

“…RSU #50 does have some teaching openings – Katahdin Middle School Math, Southern Aroostook Life Science, Katahdin and Southern Aroostook high school math and world language positions – which have been advertised…” 

“…’Hiring for vacant positions is a concern for us.  We advertised the week before (April) vacation, so we have been four weeks out.  Other than some inquiry that has occurred in-house, there have been no outside candidates…’…”

Read the entire article in the Houlton Pioneer Times, May 13, 2014 edition.

Note:  Timbered Classrooms has looked at high-performing schools of similar size, and is unable to find a “Curriculum Coordinator” on any of their faculty and staff rosters.  That is not to say they do not exist – we couldn’t find any, and we welcome input from readers on this issue and staffing practices of comparable schools they would like to emulate.  We find in small schools, such things as: Combination Superintendent/Principal, teaching principals… ….we are told that the duties of a Curriculum Coordinator are at times given to faculty members, adding to their compensation of course…. Cutting the Katahdin music faculty in half has raised concerns, certainly; any savings would be consumed – and more! …by the addition of a Curriculum Coordinator, which, by all accounts, is unnecessary.  

SPECIAL BOARD MEETING – Agenda

A special RSU #50 Board meeting will be held on WednesdayMay 27th 2015, 6:30 pm at the Island Falls Municipal Building.

The only item on the Agenda (save for “Call to Order” and “Adjournment”) is:

“Review and discussion of Task Force Scenarios currently under consideration”. 

AGENDA Special Meeting May 27, 2015 Island Falls Municipal Building 6:30pm

Scenarios up for discussion have rightly raised serious concerns in the community, as they involve consolidation, closure and costs.

Consider our “On The Table” series, here, or at the top of the page for Timbered Classrooms’ review of scenarios, and compare and contrast with the Futures Task Force final report here.

“Sign” for Fairness…..

petition2Though Maine is, technically, a local-control state, State policymakers nonetheless wield a tremendous amount of influence over local education. All too often, local school Boards treat decisions at the State level as acts of nature; beyond their control, and fail to show significant engagement.  Here is an opportunity for you to bring about a review of State funding practices that have defied local logic for too long.

“…In theory, one would think that the funding is split fairly evenly, with a larger portion going to school districts in greater need. Yet, when one looks at the way state funding is disbursed you see that that is not always the case….”

Change.org Petition for EPS Equity

Here is a statement by the petition’s author:

May 11, 2015 — My name is Kirsten Cronin, and I started the petition being discussed here. I am a mother of 3 children and a homeowner, I do not work in the school system or in politics. I do not proclaim to be a math whiz, nor to have all the answers.

Last year I was asked to be on a subcommittee of our local school board to review some of our options to create a better system in our RSU. Utilizing ONLY information provided by the state on their Department of Education Data Warehouse, we began to see some trends in the EPS funding formula that did not make sense, to us. These same concerns had been raised by a few of our school board members in the past. As a result, once our subcommittee was finished, I decided to look into it further. Our funding formula is very confusing. It is 6 pages long for each district. The line by line explanation is 24 pages long.

Frankly, I could not wrap my mind around all of the different percentages and calculations to better understand the way the formula works. That in and of itself seems to be a problem. Before submitting my petition on Change.org, I met with my superintendent and business manager to make sure I was not completely off the mark.
The statements in comments are true. Average Household Income and Cost of Living is not included. The state instead uses: “The Regional Adjustment for Salaries, Benefits, & Substitutes is necessary due to the variations in Income Levels and Housing Costs throughout the State of Maine.” [page 7http://www.maine.gov/education/data/eps/ED279linebyline.pdf]. The way this is calculated is not the same as the Average Household Income or Cost of Living. Why not? I agree that it is important to make sure teachers can afford to live in the area that they teach, but what about everyone else? When the average is so much less than the teachers are we being equitable?
On property tax and income, one person states “income is not relevant to the amount towns can pay toward education.” True, according the to the states formula it is not, but shouldn’t it be? In the example I used in the petition Yarmouth has a property value of $14.5 billion and RSU13 of $2 billion. So, in theory, because Yarmouth has a higher property value they can afford to pay more and yet, they pay less per student.
I am sorry that I can not comment on the “donor” towns, as I’m not sure exactly what is meant by that.
Again, I don’t have the answers, nor am I claiming to. The bottom line is the formula needs to be reviewed in order to ensure equality. The current formula was put into practice in 2005 and there have been numerous calls in the past to have it reviewed. If you would like more information regarding the formula and studies please feel free to reviewhttp://www2.umaine.edu/mepri/sites/default/files/EPS2011.pdf, by David Silvernail, Co-Director of the Maine Education Policy Research Institute in January 2011. Or http://www.ruraledu.org/articles.php?id=2709, by The Rural School and Community Trust and finallyhttp://www.falmouthschools.org/File/Supt/Review_of_EPS.pdf, by the Maine School Management Association.

Two Minutes for Two Meetings

vintagesecretaryMinutes for the April Regular Board Meeting on 4/13/15 and the Special Budget Meeting on 4/28/15 are now available.  These reports do not quite capture the objections raised over budget priorities, specifically the addition of a Curriculum Coordinator position.  In spite of this, the Board voted 12 to 1 in favor of the budget as presented:

Minutes 4/13/15 and 4/28/15

Meeting Tonight! Agenda…

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The RSU #50 Board Meeting will be held tonight, May 11th at Southern Aroostook Community School @6:30pm.  The Agenda follows:

AGENDA May 11, 2015

Meeting Tonight!!!

Please accept my apology for the short notice – I am just learning of this myself, and given the exasperating misinformation surrounding withdrawal, I hope people will attend.  We have been informed that support among selectmen of Mt. Chase and Stacyville for the joint withdrawal effort of Katahdin’s communities has waned, though the process has a long way to go.

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The Sherman Municipal Officers will meet tonight at 6:30 at the Sherman Town Office, where withdrawal from the RSU will be discussed.  

The public is welcome.

Truth and Laughter

“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh,
otherwise they’ll kill you.” ~Oscar Wilde

Here it is, the truth laid bare with rare and stunning clarity by the perspicacious wit of John Oliver (…also a bit risqué – our more delicate readers have been warned, but it is the facts surrounding testing that are downright obscene.)

Appreciation For Teachers…

32189760-apples-and-flowers-on-the-wooden-tableIt’s Teacher Appreciation Week!  …though many of us agree that they deserve our gratitude all the time.

“Lets take a few minutes to talk about teachers. What teacher has changed your life? Soulpancake hit the streets to ask people about that teacher, you know, the one you will always be thankful for…”

“In honor of teacher appreciation week, SoulPancake and Edutopia asked teachers to write a letter to themselves on their first day teaching. What teacher do you appreciate? Share this video with them to let them know #TeachersMatter!”

When Words Fail, Numbers….

moneyquote…after all, the numbers you are about to see, are the reason words fail me – for the moment, anyway….

I hope they will not fail you at the budget meeting tomorrow evening:

Special Meeting on the RSU #50 Budget

April 28th

Island Falls Municipal Building 

7:30pm

Statewide Average Superintendents’ Salary = $91,731.88

                                                              RSU #50 = $109,446

Statewide Average Teachers’ Salary = $51,347.12

                                                RSU #50 = $42,701.97 **

**NOTE:  The above includes administrative salaries, that average $72,731 – the Statewide average salary for classroom teachers is $49,379.30, and RSU #50 classroom teachers is $39,598.68.  (Scroll to table below or click the MEDMS Report Portal link for details.)

Explore these, and other data reports at the following link:

MEDMS Report Portal

…or scroll for a snapshot:

Screen shot 2015-04-27 at 8.26.47 AMScreen shot 2015-04-27 at 8.27.27 AM

Screen shot 2015-04-27 at 8.49.45 AM

Back “On The Table”

Our children deserve schools run in the most optimal way possible…. If leadership believes a good education is impossible in a small school, then, it’s prophecy is self-fulfilling…

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Here, we revisit our “On the Table” series; Timbered Classrooms’ exploration of the scenarios of consolidation/closure in front of the Board.

The Board attempted to eliminate the following scenario, #1 “Keep the Current Building Array” but the vote failed.

Whether the Board likes it or not, (and it clearly does NOT), the “current building array” is the one in which our children will receive at least a year of their education; a year they will not get back.

The Board and Administration has shown little interest and less expertise in running small schools, opting instead to focus energy and resources on running either a consolidated SACS or shiny new (and expensive) building in Crystal.

…but our children need leadership that will not squander the inherent advantage of small scale schooling.  …and now.

There are no “do-overs”.

Timbered Classrooms has learned that in small schools, “curriculum coordinators” often teach as well.  Also, that running two small schools in one district is often less efficient than running them separately and sharing via inter-local agreements.  Online/Tandberg opportunities abound, but must NOT replace the mentoring of skilled educators in the classroom…..

Given this Board’s propensity for creating a layer of bureaucracy to “oversee” two distant SAUs; management neither needed before, our readers will likely agree, that consolidation has replaced educators with bureaucrats and wardens.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us, and I hope you will continue to help give our children the education they deserve and taxpayers value for their dollars.

Scenario #1 – Keep the Current Building Array

State Recognizes 21 High-Performing, Improving Schools – BANGOR DAILY NEWS

canstock5750656BDN State Recognizes 21 High-Performing, Improving Schools

“The Maine Department of Education on Thursday commended 21 schools across the state for high or improved academic performance….” “…The department pointed out that at two-thirds of the schools more than half the students are eligible for free and reduced lunch under federal poverty guidelines. Studies have shown that schools with high rates of poverty tend to be at a disadvantage, because students whose families struggle with financial issues may struggle to focus or be invested in school and might not have supports at home that are as strong as a more financially “well-off” household….”

Timbered Classrooms has added enrollment figures to the BDN list, that our readers can see similarities in enrollment.  The BDN has already attested to the similarities in socio-economic status.  Research has shown that small size; human scale is the best tool for ameliorating the effects of poverty on learning.

 First, schools identified as “high-performing”:

Farrington School, Augusta – 375

Edgecomb Eddy School – 81

Fayette Central School – 69

Beech Hill School – 95

Dresden Elementary School (RSU 2) – 104

Durham Community School (RSU 5) – 426

Minot Consolidated School (RSU 16) – 240

South Hiram Elementary School (MSAD 55) – 260

Woodstock School – 81

Daniel Merit School – 147

Coastal Ridge Elementary (York) – 323

Bradford Elementary – 94

Next, schools identified as “Progress Reward” and their enrollment numbers:

Beals Elementary School – 58

Dike-Newell School (RSU 1) – 333

Edna Drinkwater School (Northport) – 92

Harrington Elementary School – 161

Kenduskeag Elementary School – 133

Palermo Consolidated School (RSU 12) – 132

Stetson Elementary School (RSU 64) – 46

Upper Kennebec Valley Senior High School, Bingham – 72

Whiting Village School – 43

Stop telling people that their small schools are somehow inviable due to their size.  Their size is advantageous in numerous ways, and squandered in many more…..

Anger and Opportunity…

paulrevereHappy Belated Patriots’ Day!

Please mark your calendars for this Special Meeting, and make a note that it will be held at the Island Falls Municipal Building, and not the usual venue rotation (because reasons):

Special RSU #50 Board Meeting on the Budget

Tuesday, April 28th 2015 @7:30pm

Island Falls Municipal Building

Turn your anger to opportunity.

Take the reins……

RSU #50 Budget by Cost Center DRAFT 1

Budgets and Bureaucracy

image“If you find the offer of commensurate faculty salaries to bureaucrats and wardens “inappropriate” or even, somehow, “insulting”…

….Congratulations!  You are the problem….”

RSU #50 Budget by Cost Center DRAFT 1

The RSU #50 Budget – Mark Your Calendars….

town meetingFor your calendars, a timeline of when the RSU #50 Budget will be formed.  Thank you to our readers who have shared your thoughts with me – it seems you are of a mind regarding bureaucratic bloat relative to other districts of similar size… ….but the Board is clearly of a different one.  To create a budget that reflects YOUR priorities and values, please, have your say….

RSU 50 Budget Development Timeline

Here is the first draft of the budget, as distributed at the meeting Monday night:

RSU #50 Budget by Cost Center DRAFT 1

A look at the Faculty and Staff Directories of Schools similar in size to each school in RSU #50 on their own websites gives us a picture of the size of their bureaucracies.  The Maine Department of Education publishes ED279s, as well, to see how we compare to their goals, and other districts: http://www.maine.gov/doe/eps/

The Maine Heritage Policy Center keeps a list of top Superintendents’ salaries:   http://mainepolicy.org/maines-school-superintendents-salaries/

We hope this helps.

It’s Your Money…

money geese…and they are your children.  They need every dollar taxpayers struggle to provide for their education to work exceedingly hard, maximizing opportunity for them, and their communities.

Budget season is here, on the wings of northward-flying geese.  Below, please find the first draft of the budget to aid in your preparations.  The more detailed format is welcome!

RSU #50 Budget by Cost Center DRAFT 1

UPDATE: RSU Withdrawal – Questions and Answers

twochildrenholdinghands“The Town of Sherman has been presented with a valid petition for withdrawal from RSU #50. We are attempting to obtain as much information as possible and want to share it with everyone.” ~Debra O’Roak, Sherman Town Manager

Many thanks to Mrs. O’Roak for keeping our readers informed, and also for the online questions she posed to Paula Gravelle, of the Maine Department of Education in charge of the withdrawal process.

Read their correspondence; questions and answers, here:

Q&A With The Maine Department of Education Re: RSU Withdrawal

Lessons from Rural Schools

townsquare“When so many districts struggle to provide good educational programs, administrators should consider staying small, involving parents and nurturing ties to the community…”

Read the full article, by Barbara Kent Lawrence, here

Confronting Scale…


ringaroundtherosy“We need to confront honestly the issue of scale. Bigness has a charm and a drama that are seductive, especially to politicians and financiers; but bigness promotes greed, indifference, and damage, and often bigness is not necessary…”

~Wendell Berry

AGENDA: April Board Meeting

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The RSU #50 Board will hold its April Board meeting on April 13th, @6:30pm, Katahdin Elementary School.

In addition to the budget, the Board has consequential decisions surrounding consolidation/closure on the table.

For the official Agenda, click here.

For scenarios under consideration, visit our “On The Table” series.

Be heard.

Show Me The Money! A Budget Detail….

budget seasonIf Timbered Classrooms had a list of “Frequently Asked Questions”, then, “Where is all the money going?” would have to be on it.  Though communities paying more and getting less need answers, it is a difficult one.  We are grateful, then, to a civic-minded reader for submitting the following detailed budget, broken down by school, grade level, program etc.  so that you can answer the question; for your fellow readers and the Board as budget decisions loom….

RSU #50 Detailed Budget by Acct

Be Careful What You Wish For – You Just Might Get It

be-careful-what-you-wish-for-4Let’s assume, just for a moment that it’s true, that large schools with which the Board is so enamored are somehow “better” for kids.  (Please stay with me here….)

I’ve long been struck by the Board apparently “deciding” whether to pursue growing school size by consolidation/construction OR “innovating” in order to make the most of small schools.

What?

Lest this Board and Superintendent forget, you ARE running small schools for the time being, and by NOT “innovating” to optimize the educational experience for kids; by pursuing consolidation and, inexplicably, construction in LEIU of innovation…. .You are squandering opportunity that they will NEVER GET BACK.

That is no small thing, and the travesty that drives this blog perhaps more than the prospect of consolidation.  These children cannot wait for you to sort things out – they need and deserve an optimal, effective education now.  Size, scale are not only unnecessary, but expensive and unwanted.

“..but you’re not providing a good education 15 minutes from your house!” ~the Superintendent to a parent who spoke to her children’s current commute to school.  An admission?  Yes.  Acceptable?  No.

Now let’s stop assuming that large schools are better.  There is a reason this Board offers no proof – they aren’t at all preferable, and in fact, small schools are superior educationally and fiscally, evidence to which Timbered Classrooms has compiled.

The fact that investment in K-12 yields the greatest return on Economic Development dollars is very well established, but size/scale is anathema to this.  Perhaps Mr. Walker is thinking of Economic Development opportunity by supporting a new school.  Perhaps he believes real estate customers will stop “skipping to Houlton” if it were built.    Clearly buyers would “skip” even more readily, as you pile on crushing new building costs?  So, if you could just “get to EPS” the state would pay, what, a small fraction?  Enrollment will continue to decline, in some ways because of EPS demands.  Children are not “concentrated” in one community and neither should be their educational resources.  Shuttering the assets of neighboring communities is a tempting option for struggling communities, but it doesn’t work – fiscally or ethically.

The number one quality parents look for in schools is NOT buildings at all but something that flows naturally in small schools:  individual attention.  EPS will not provide this – it was designed to close small schools, not enhance their quality.  The ED279 tells us that this Board is not interested in “getting to EPS” for administration, far surpassing recommendations.  Small schools do not need expensive management, curriculum coordinators and the like.  Just accomplished, professional teachers and innovative supportive leadership.  With the ready availability of online resources… The possibilities are endless.

“….grades 7-12 over here (SACS)..bottom line…”  ~Chairman Greg Ryan

….a quote, perhaps paraphrased a bit, that came to us from a reader present at Monday night’s meeting.  (Past quips include, “We are going to be consolidated somewhere!”)

Neither the Ames Associates report, nor the empirical research justifies this proclamation, to which, evidently, no Board member objected.

Is it enough to stop Katahdin’s closure if the leadership lacks the expertise and buy-in to optimize its potential?  If Katahdin remains open within an RSU governance structure that is determined to subject it to fiscal asphyxiation, parents will surely continue to pursue other options for their children.  What will be the effect then?  If communities vote to keep Katahdin open, then the RSU will levy all the extra costs.  What is the point then, of remaining in, and paying into an RSU that does not share the costs equitably?

A bright young teacher said of declining enrollment, “We should be able to afford to give them more not less..”.

Why wish for “scale” that rural children can never give you and families reject?  Why waste money in an EPS model that makes no fiscal sense to small rural schools?

Why cling an RSU model that clearly is not working for kids?

It doesn’t matter why.  The Board has never wavered, and will not.  The communities will have to fight.

“..But getting the control and the money back is the main thing. You will not get your schools back in town without a fight.  There’s too much money at stake.  And it’s fun to spend other people’s money.”

~Robert Karl Skoglund, “The Humble Farmer”

Small School; BIG Difference….

With a current enrollment of 104, Isleboro exemplifies the potential for excellence in small scale education, and offers lessons for our own policymakers:1gefs“…a 100 percent graduation rate over the past six years and also has a strong ability to individualize education by tailoring academics to a student’s particular needs and strengths….”

Mainland Students Pulled to Island School

Board Meeting Minutes February 9th, 2015

OldDesignShop_BlickensderferTypewriter1897“…a curriculum coordinator is no longer a luxury but rather a necessity…”

For other news of the rather eventful meeting of February 9th, click below:

Minutes February 9th, 2015

March School Board Meeting (“Yes, I said “SURPLUS””)

squirrelDon’t forget that the March school board meeting is coming right up!! (I wish they would put them on the alert now phone messages, we may get better turn outs!) The meeting is on March 9, at SACHS @ 6;30.

Its really important to try and attend, despite the frigid weather!  These are the meetings that will count, decisions will be made as to what happens to our school and our children this fall…..They will start voting!!!! That has been on the past agendas….It won’t just go away!

Now we are armed with an extensive amount of knowledge, such as, the “task force” report, The “Ames co. facility report”, the “audit report”, we know facts that are pertinent to us all being involved and having a say in what happens to our own!

It may not be “comfortable” to demand answers, but after poor decisions are made its too late! Our schools are worthy of the work necessary to deem them a well maintained, safe environment for our children… Why didn’t the board use the “SURPLUS”, yes, I said, “SURPLUS” money we had in the budget to do these repairs last year??? Its in black and white, we had money to do repairs, but failed to do so!  Who did that benefit? Our kids, our school, our community? I think not, it just choked us out a little more… WE are far from throwing in the towel, there has been an enormous support in withdrawing from the district. Promises were made in 2011, that just haven’t been kept!! Have we really saved all the money they said we would,NO!!!

One ant can’t move a mountain, but this colony can!!! We have a say!!!  I’m not anti school board, I’m pro whats right for “OUR KIDS, OUR SCHOOL, OUR MONEY”

Please spread the word about the upcoming meeting, everyone of us can make a difference!!!

Small is Beautiful….

bird-in-handTimbered Classrooms strives to put the facts surrounding school consolidation at your fingertips, on our “School Consolidation” tab at the top of the screen..  Here, though, we visit the softer side of the debate, which is no less compelling, in this beautiful piece from a school of less than 200….

“Small schools, it turns out, are not less by virtue of their size. They are more….”

Read on….

What’s So “Big” About Bigness?

Coming Together Is A Beginning, Keeping Together Is Progress, Working Together Is A Success ~ Henry Ford

Many thanks for Mrs. Kay’s reflections on the last Board meeting…

imageAfter pondering for several days following the RSU 50 school board meeting on Feb.9,2015 @ KES, I can only come to one conclusion, we have a great community!

People are speaking out for our kids, our schools and our $$$! A great many people represented our side of the district!

I guess its about time we all start speaking out about our own. Faith in the school board is at an all time low, questions that folks have been asking for years have fallen on deaf ears. The board are supposed to work for our communities, and especially our kids! Why is it that people always feel short changed? Maybe its time to do our own research and demand those answers.

The situation has become so serious that the towns of Sherman, Stacyville, Patten and Moro, and Mt. Chase, are all in the process of gathering signatures with the “intent” to withdraw from RSU 50. People want back control of our kids, our schools and certainly our money.

It was empowering to see our community members show up to that school board meeting with the same common interest, “our Kids”, and the future of our schools, and community!

We have been made so many promises since joining RSU 50 in 2011, but why haven’t they materialized? We no longer have any control of our own money. The focus is no longer in maintaining our own schools, but lengthy discussions about narrowing down scenarios, someday possibly fixing whats already broken and , building a new 50 MILLION DOLLAR SCHOOL!!!! WHAT??

Many members of the public are outraged to see what is clearly happening, we’ve been snowballed and have had enough!! When asked by the public, the “board” could not give any projected savings on the presented “options”!!!!! WHY? How can the board eliminate scenarios, when there are no numbers to support projected savings! Lets start those savings at the administration end!!!

One mother stated, “my children have health issues, they will not be travelling to SACHS, we will sell our home and move”!, “Or,we will just give our home away, and move!!!”

Another resident from Patten asked, “when are we going to get the buildings fixed?” The boards answer, they were going to Augusta to see what was available for money! There were many questions, demands etc. and a lot of brush off “non-answers” from the board. Not many direct answers.

Several board members, ( the ones who dare speak) seem like kids that want a new bike,(a new school), the reports that we paid to have done do not support their theory. And when told no, they shut down public comments!

After what seemed to be a short period of time, of public upset and demanding answers, chairman Greg Ryan, (who portrayed a very childish, red faced, fist clenched, rolling of the eyes and constant clock watching representation of “our” board) demanded that they would take one more question, then get on with the regular school board meeting.

Mr. John Porter (Principal) certainly saved the proverbial day, by standing up and stating, “let them have their say”…….So the public asked several more questions, which received very vague answers. However, we do appreciate Mr. Porters efforts….

Without the actual projected savings(numbers folks) that for some reason the public are not privy to, how in the world can we move on by eliminating scenarios???

Our side of the district is rich in history, has so much to offer and its at the northern entrance of BSP, without a school, who will want to move to this appealing area. No school, no interest!

In closing, perhaps Mr. Malone should take Greg Ryan to the woodshed , for a lesson in how to treat your fellow man with dignity and respect. As they say, “ONE ROTTEN APPLE CAN SPOIL THE WHOLE BARREL”!!

Happy Valentine’s Day

valentine's day

Happy Valentine’s Day, Timbered Readers!

Listen Online! A Timely Discussion Of Rural Education In Maine

image

For our readers who see the worth of small, local schools; you are in good company.  MPBN hosted a timely and encouraging discussion yesterday with guests, Gordon A. Donaldson, Jr. Ed.D., Professor Emeritus of Education, University of Maine.  Mara Timken, Assistant Professor at Bates College and author of “Why Rural Schools Matter.”  and Todd West, principal at Deer Isle-Stonington High School.

You can still listen to the program anytime; just click below and scroll down for the podcast.  Well worth a listen!

MPBN “Maine Calling Feb. 11, 2015 – The Past Present and Future of Rural Education In Maine

Chasing the Proverbial Dream

image

Chasing the proverbial dream, isn’t that what we’ve been doing since joining
districts to form RSU 50 in 2011? It seems to me and many others, that everything we were promised just hasn’t materialized… This “smoking mirror” circus act must come to an end!!

So many people have stated that, “we regret joining the RSU, I quess it sounded too good to be true”! Now here we are several years later in a worse situation than ever! Well, we the parents, community members and concerned tax payers have had enough..

Why are a handful of people, (the board) making all of the decisions that impact our kids!! Its a new day, a time to come together and take back what is ours! We have the right to be heard and speak up for what we want….
Now we know that according to the, “Ames co” report on the condition of the buildings, KES AND KMHS are absolutely fixable!!! We want our own schools in our own district!

Now is the time to demand a solution! Tonights school board meeting will be held at KMHS at 6:30. Please make an effort to be there, numbers matter. So many people are working to ensure that the future of our students be first on “our agenda”!!
Consolidation as well as the future or our schools will be discussed, and a vote can happen at any time.

Are we going to just leave that up to the board? The talk of a new school is in my opinion ridiculous!!! We lose at least 20 students a year, live in a high poverty area and want to spend 50 MILLION $$$, at least to build a new facility!!! Seriously, we need to fix the buildings and get back to the real issue, EDUCATION!!!
Lets hope that those school board members who represent our communities stand up for our children. Then maybe, just maybe some trust will be gained back…..
In all of the research I have done, I am still convinced that consolidation does not promote a better education! Bigger is not always better! Many of our ancestors had all age groups in one room with one teacher, why did those children prosper to becoming great Drs., lawyers, scientist, musicians etc.. Because people cared about education first!!!
Lets push forward, fix the external damage NOW, don’t let the buildings be starved for another 3-4 years, then “Somewhere out there where dreams come true”, we may start to discuss educational strategies……By then, it will be too late, our kids are already slipping through the cracks!!!

Breaking the Fall—Cushioning the Impact of Rural Declining Enrollment by The Rural Trust

“Kids are like fertilizer, sprinkled over too many schools….” ~Board Member Stephan Walker  

I know this came up in our last piece but stay with me here, if you would?  It speaks to a deeper sentiment:  namely, the fervor to bus children in from the countryside to “feed” infrastructure as fertilizer “feeds” crops; children as fodder to “serve” the capacity needs of buildings.  Rather than infrastructure serving; nurturing, the needs of the students we have, we find our children “thrown under the bus” (Board member Phil Knowles words; not mine) to serve the “system”.  ..the “system” here, being the RSU.

In his book, From Schoolhouse To Schooling System, Gordon Donaldson speaks to the conflict that arises between the disparate views of schuools’ obligation to serve communities? …or systems?  It’s a very interesting book, and I saw parallels here.

The refusal of this Board to consider strategies outside of the RSU before they know whether or not they would best serve kids, and the warp-speed with which they took closing all schools and tuitioning children “off the table” in order to save the Superintendent the bother of “running around trying to figure out how much tuition would cost” – is telling.

At the last regular meeting, Board members expressed a desire for “better sports teams”  (larger schools’ teams are more competitive but smaller ones’ more inclusive) and “a new facility we can be proud of” – only 20+ years and $30-60 million stand between our children and any benefits there.  …or would students be better served by the investment in their surroundings that comes from pride in what they have?

” Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Phil Knowles lamented that “We lose kids either direction we consolidate in.”  Who is “we”? Are kids “inputs” to “the system” or are they, in fact, “we”?  He also wants to “…get to EPS…” …oh, for teachers on,y of course – judging by the ED279, Administration; “Bureaucrats and Wardens” can exceed State recommendations as much as they like.  Our readers have been in contact with the State and our representatives and it will be interesting to see their view.

There is widespread agreement that the district faces dire challenges, but school,size is not necessarily one of them.  (District geographic size may well be.). It is also not something this Board can control via busing in either an educationally sound or cost-effective way.  The Board and communities find themselves talking past each other as visions of what constitutes a good education differ widely. For those who believe our children deserve every consideration, in or out of the RSU model, the Rural Trust outlines alternatives to consolidation at both the State and Local level in their report, “Breaking the Fall”…… Children-Jump-Silhouette

“The report asserts that states and local communities must act to sustain and improve small rural schools with declining enrollment. There are always students “left behind” in these communities and they have the same rights to an equal educational opportunity as those who leave. Indeed, our society’s obligation to educate is not dependent on demographic good fortune and cannot, and should not, be compromised by geography…..” Read the full report:  breaking_the_fall …or view it via the Rural Trust, host to a wealth of insight on the issue of Rural School Consolidation: Rural Trust – Breaking the Fall

RSU #50 Building Condition Assessments

Screen shot 2015-02-05 at 8.40.50 AM

We extend our thanks to community members, who posed such thoughtful questions to the kind and responsive professionals of Ames Associates ….

Read the full analysis of RSU 50 facilities here:  RSU 50 Bldg Condition Assesment

…or view it on the RSU 50 website

AGENDA – February 9th Board Meeting KES @6:30pm

keep-calm-and-follow-the-agenda

Though not mentioned on the Agenda here, Chairman Ryan reminded attendees at last night’s presentation from AMES Associates that the Board will be discussing scenarios, including consolidation/closure and may make motions to vote at any time on them.  We hope you join those who posed such insightful questions last night in this process….

The RSU #50 Board will meet at Katahdin Elementary School @6:30pm, on Monday, February 9th

AGENDA 2/9/2015

AGENDA – Special Meeting February 4th 6:30pm Katahdin High School

agendafeb4“Presentation of final report prepared by  AMES Associates, LLC. on the current condition of the facilities within the RSU.  Representatives from the AMES firm will make this presentation to the Board and will entertain questions at the conclusion of the report.”

Public comment will follow.  As you formulate your questions, read the Agenda in full:  AGENDA Feb. 4th 2015

How To Know If Your School Or District Is Threatened With Consolidation – And What To Do About It

“…Don’t wait until your school is directly threatened. Build a strong school and community now…”

bordedup wondiw

  • “Realize that the consolidators already know that you don’t want your school closed, and that you will oppose their plans. So, don’t rely on testifying about how good your school is or what it means to your community. They don’t believe, or they don’t care, or both. Instead, strategize, organize, multiply, and get the buzz and energy in your region on your side. School boards and other public officials need to understand that the people who want strong schools in local communities are prepared to act to keep their schools….”
  • …Don’t let consolidators pit you against other small school communities. Too often, communities are told they won’t be consolidated if they lay low or if they let another school be closed. Very often those schools do, in fact, get consolidated anyway within a few years.

“…Don’t quit or get discouraged. Even if you lose your school you have shown your children that you will fight on their behalf and if you keep fighting you might get your school back…”

For more timely advice, and other valuable resources, visit the Rural Trust here

“Our Kids, Our School, Our $$$$$….”

Please welcome our newest author…..

paper_hawaii_petition“OUR KIDS, OUR SCHOOL, OUR $$$$$” by Dannette-Moody Kay

A few weeks ago I decided to speak up (along with my husband) about the pending issues of consolidation between Katahdin schools and SACHS.

After everything I have researched about the pros and cons of consolidation, we firmly believe that moving our children from their own community to another, would certainly not be in their best interest. This consolidation does not benefit anyone, except perhaps administration. Certainly our tax dollars will be stretched even thinner! Consolidation costs, has cost, will cost! Maybe if the board were serious about savings, they would not be pushing for a new school and would not already have taken closing both of our schools, “off the table’!!
The good people of our communities, Sherman, Patten, Moro, Mt. Chase, Silver Ridge, and Benedicta have a right to speak up, our kids, our school, our money.

Why is there so much intimidation? The very first amendment of our constitution is still firmly in place, (“The Freedom of Speech”)
Our communities have come together, starting with getting signatures on petitions, with the “intent to withdraw”, from RSU 50. We are all working together to do what is in the best interest of our kids, our school,our $$!!
Withdrawal is a lengthy process, but if we all do this together, things will go along much more smoothly. We will also be supported by Rep. Rick Long as well as our senator and other reps.
If a change “must” happen we need to keep our kids on this side of the district!
We have waited a very long time to view the facilitators report, regarding the condition of our school buildings. How much money are we looking at in repairs? I can’t begin to understand after all or this time, why that public report is not released to the public!
The school board will go over these results in a special meeting, on Feb.4,2015, at 6:30pm, at KES with the public, please try to be there.
Also, the next scheduled school board meeting is on Feb. 9th, at 6:30pm, also at KES. This will be a great opportunity to voice our plans and any concerns we have to the board. Its very important that the Superintendent as well as the board realize that we all mean business and will not back down!
I have been made aware that staff members have been made to feel uncomfortable…. Faculty and staff are NOT to be held responsible or face retaliation in any form for community efforts to withdraw from this RSU!!! To threaten employment status in any way is not only unethical, but illegal!!
Rep. Rick Long is working on setting up a public meeting with officials from Augusta, we will post this information as soon as it has been set up. Write your questions down, as these are the folks who work for us and our children.
We have great communities right at our fingertips, supermarkets,churches, a pharmacy, hardware store, health care facilities, as well as several auto repair blds. Our community is an appealing place for people who may have an interest in moving here. People with children will not won’t to send their kids to a school so far away! We need our school, in our district! Lets fix the outside, and focus on the real concern, education!!
If you have not signed a petition in the towns of Sherman, Patten, Moro, and Stacyville and would like to do so , please either PM me or call 528-2266, and I will tell you who you can reach to sign, “the intent to withdraw”.
Thank you all for the support and hard work you are all putting into this process!

School Consolidation: What Is It Good For?

“…Let’s make consolidation the absolute last resort. Instead, let’s recognize that merging districts with financial problems and falling enrollment will not make them better off financially and educationally. Let’s focus on what’s really important — the resources (financial and otherwise) that strong community and school leaders can leverage to improve…”  

“…Consolidation robs communities of important assets: their children and their schools. imageConsolidation may seem efficient based on pupil-to-teacher ratios, costs per pupil, and the promise of improved curriculum and higher test scores. But it is hardly efficient, given the costs of transportation and the time children spend away from the school and their families.

School and community leaders who promote consolidation may think they have the well-being of children in mind, but their emphasis on per-unit cost treats students as if they are assembly-line products and not children with differing needs, personalities, and dreams….”

Read the article, in full, here:

http://www.dailyyonder.com/consolidation-what-it-good/2010/06/22/2810

“There is a stubbornness….

“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others.  My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”

~ Jane Austen

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Jack and the Giant School

image“…Curriculum: Even the smallest schools (100-200 students) are able to offer core curricula comparable to schools of more than 1,200. Moreover, small schools tend to be more flexible and allow teachers to exercise greater control over curricula. As a result, small schools more often apply innovative teaching methods, such as team teaching, integrated curriculum and multi-age grouping, all of which have been shown to improve student achievement….”

Read this compelling essay by Stacy Mitchell, courtesy of the institute for Local Self Reliance, in its entirety, here:

http://www.ilsr.org/equity/article/jack-and-giant-school/