Over the past couple years MSAD 58 has gone through a restructuring that can only be described as painful. The reason for the restructuring was driven by the method the State of Maine determines what their share of covering the cost will be. The Maine model for determining their funding is based on the district having 2000 students in it. MSAD 58 has well below 600. So, state authorities calculate we only need a fraction of a librarian for example and our class sizes need to be, in some cases, close to a doubling of what our class sizes were prior to restructuring. If Maine doesn’t think we need the staff, the local taxpayers are on the hook, again based on 2000 students.
Smaller classes equal more attention for each student, or is that a crazy idea? This is not a new issue. The State of Maine has been punishing rural school districts for many years by putting the cost of education on the local small town real estate taxpayer. Often these towns are those who can afford it the least, but I digress. Back to topic.
The restructuring created a middle school and two Pre-K through Grade 4 schools. The high school, Mt. Abram High School, which is a true educational gem, was untouched. Pre-K through Grade 4 students were split between Kingfield and Phillips Schools based on geography. These kiddos had their previous classes divided which must have been hard on them. All the 5-8 students in the district are now attending Day Mountain Regional Middle School in Strong.
The success being MSAD 58 class sizes are now bigger pulling in an additional million dollars of state funding no longer covered by the local taxpayer. The reorganization was for local tax relief and that was accomplished.
The loss, however, was great. Twelve positions were cut. Our district lost many very good educators. While the reorganization did benefit the local taxpayer, I do not see how it can be argued our students benefited from it. It is time to focus on the students.
Side point: The current system is broken by error in design or more likely, designed to force rural districts to consolidate to receive adequate state funding. I wonder if the Maine Legislators would want their children to be bussed over long distances in winter only to be seated in large classes. Even the best teacher can only serve a limited number of kids. Apologies, once again, back to topic.
Recently I took part in an open forum for Mt. Abram students to voice their concerns in any area they wish. I am on the MSAD 58 Board, and the interaction was eye opening. One thing kept coming to the top of the pile. The students heard rumors throughout the community that there is an effort to close Mt. Abram High School and truck the students to surrounding districts. They were concerned they would be forced out of their school.
To those students and their parents, I hear the same. It is a vocal minority. While they are a minority, they often are the loudest people in the room. I see no appetite for closure with the current membership of the MSAD 58 School Board. That said, Mt Abram and Day Mountain Middle School students and their parents should go to their local town meetings. Find out what the position of the select board is. If they are in favor of closure, go to the next meeting and bring signs. When the Mt. Abram “Closers” are up for re-election, organize and replace them.
The same goes for school board members. Contact them through the MSAD 58 website and ask what their position is. If they are in favor of closing your high school, parents please find replacements and vote out those determined to take away your high school.
While these folks are the minority in your town offices or your school board, again they tend to be the loudest. Silence often produces an undesired outcome. Speak up! Sometimes people forget the voters run the show.
To retain and recruit good Teachers, Ed Techs and Staff in general, people need to feel the district is stable. That falls on the School Board & Superintendent’s Office. Parents need to hold feet to the fire of those who make decisions that will cause instability in the future. When parents show up, especially in numbers, the loud minority becomes quite quiet indeed.
Well, I think I have fairly well shared my position. If you agree with me and live in the Town of Phillips, I can use your support at the Phillips Town Meeting on Saturday June 17 at 10 a.m. in the Phillips Area Community Center for re-election. If you do not agree with my above statements, there will be a challenger and I would like you to show up in support of them. We are all lucky we have a voice, a large part of the world does not. Please use yours.
Opinion pieces reflect the views of the individual author, and do not reflect the views of the Daily Bulldog, Mt. Blue TV, or Central Maine Media Alliance. Publication of an opinion piece does not equate to endorsement of the content of the piece.