Letters, Aug. 29
Let's get this budget done
The school system accounts for 60-percent of the budget in Belfast and is a much higher percentage in other towns. The board did do their part by presenting an almost zero percent increase over last year. The only problem is that budget is still 10.5-percent higher then last year because the state cut us that much. Every time we re-vote it costs the taxpayers time and about $15,000; so, let's try to settle the budget with the following approach. My perspective is that most of Belfast want a slightly higher budget and the outlying towns want a lower budget. We need to compromise and vote on an amount we can accept at the public meeting at Troy Howard on Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. We should be able to vote before 9 p.m. and that budget is then voted at the polls on Sept. 17.
My agenda for the board is to make our district more accountable financially next year. We will consider increasing class sizes, closing some schools, and even combining classes to reduce the number of employees. We will be getting fresh figures on disconsolation and the district may be split again. Right now it is most important for all towns to come Sept. 10 at Troy Howard, keep the speakers timed and have a vote so that those who desire to go home, may leave. If we do not pass a budget then our district loses its credit rating and we stay in the press as a district that is less than desirable. Thank you.
Address RSU 20 class size
I am concerned. Here we go again. Belfast Area High School is in danger of losing the ability to provide a valid diploma within two years. At BAHS this year, they had 50-classes that are operating with under 10 children and 21 individual classes averaging 3 children. There are 25 classes with 10, 11, or 12 students, which is less than the policy requirements. Don’t cut programs, deliver them efficiently. This rough estimate for savings is over $1,000,000. No action is being taken. Board members claim superintendents have refused for many years to address district policy for class size. No good reporting to assist in determination is available or demanded. It’s time to negotiate salaries once again.
According to Carpenter and the state, we could save 32 teacher salaries if we combine elementary schools and close others. I see approximate savings of $2,080,000.00 at $65,000 each, including fringe. No action until after the budget. They say it's too late this year.
Does the budget offered indicate that the public has been heard? We lost 78 children in Frankfort and one school and we have seen increases in the budget from 13 to 15-percent. If withdrawal happens, we are the same approximate size as RSU 3 and they complained about a $19,000,000 budget and ours would be more than $26,000,000. Strange? Our least expensive schools get A’s. Strange? Less towns, a higher percentage of cost. Surprising!
Between the two failed budgets the state provided more than $450,000 more dollars and none of it was used to save taxpayer costs. Look for other savings from idling buses, general estimates for technology, unfilled positions through attrition, purchasing practices, showing the public all of the money. The audit in 2012 was more than $38,000,000. It was more than a million dollars to start RSU 20 and from the “start up costs” meetings I attended, at the barest minimum it would be well over $500,000 to go backwards and still not solve our problems.
More referendums and the Board is saying the public will have to cause the change. The board cannot get the votes. The publica can change this. Continue to vote no one the budget unless you attend the meeting on Sept. 10 at Troy Howard to demand the regular instruction costs be reduced by at least one million dollars. This would require the administration to address class sizes.
If you want withdrawal demand an independent evaluation before your final vote. We must do our due diligence before we reduce our options and sign on the dotted line. I heard Carpenter tell Mailloux in the presence of Robbins that the $1.3 million should not be considered as savings because they both knew that it was not and Carpenter did not want his name behind it and yet the press, apparently oblivious, has continued the refrain and the public has been offered no other options for the outrageous costs. Spend a little to save a lot or continue old practices unchecked and unmanaged.
Joyce C. Scott
Make an effort for a better cheaper RSU
The only good news about the situation RSU 20 is facing is that we are not alone. Many other school districts in Maine are trying to provide a quality education to our kids facing a declining population, aging, half-empty school buildings not ideally located to efficiently house our school children, and increasing costs.
Are we using the $33 million each year in RSU 20's school budget to the best advantage of our kids, given all the changing conditions for operating schools we face? We can't just keep adding money incrementally into our current approach.
There has to be a model out there for running school systems like ours that would really turn on our talented teachers and staff, and which would make our parents want to get their children on the bus each morning as quickly as possible.
For example: could we devise a system where we have one high school, a new one or renovated one, with all the latest technology, the most appropriate curriculum for the future, our best teachers, making for an exciting challenging education for four years, and preparing its students for college or to be top drawer technicians in their chosen specialty?
Could we have one or two middle schools with a similar mission, and maybe just three strategically located elementary schools recognizing how important being as local as possible is to parents of young kids?
Is it possible to muddle through for two more years while we plan this new approach? I could see a planning group from each community working together to develop this model, with the guidance of an experienced consultant to help us get from here to there.
We definitely should not break up again into two districts.There is power in numbers and a solution with quality and efficiency combined would work better for 2,500 students than 1,500 here and 900 there.
I have heard that this next effort for towns to withdraw from the RSU will cost each town at least $20,000 for a required independent audit to prove that the towns would save money by withdrawing. Let's use that money to plan the new model and set an example for how it can be done.
Maybe we don't have it in us to undertake such a journey.
Year by year solutions with divided feelings between teachers, parents, retirees, and all of us as taxpayers doesn't seem to hold out much hope. We cannot afford to just keep adding money year by year to our current school system.
The system might break down and fall apart as we keep cutting back. We hear that families are taking their children out of our schools, home schooling, and moving to other communities.
What are we learning?
As we watch, the downward spiral of an escape from freedom and humanity continues. It is always the same throughout our history — fear, hate and butchering of one another.
We watched as Rome fell, as Christ was crucified, as Dresden was decimated, as the world trade center collapsed. We wonder what the people thought as they watched a man chop down the last tree on Easter Island, which lead to deforestation, causing the culture to spiral downward into extinction. I wonder what people think as we witness the twilight and loss of our way of life?
We see seriously deranged mad men murder our school children while others kill strangers just because they are bored. We are told that 86 people are murdered or shot in Chicago, over a long weekend! We observe as our dismay turns to anxiety then outright fear as the assault on reason and sanity deepens.
Then finally we see the whole animalL emerge again somewhere in the world, somewhere in time, perhaps in the German holocaust, or Egypt this time, perhaps in Darfur, Syria or Afghanistan.
It resurfaces in all its atavistic primitiveness and gorges on the blood of centuries, from the same mindless impulse in the brain stem that, left unchecked by emotional intelligence, may well yet destroy us all.
I once stood at ground zero at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I witnessed there the same result of our blind rage and revenge manifest against "the enemy" yet another enemy that is our self-created scapegoat to feed our inner darkness — hatred and fear.
I am afraid for our children and their future. What ought we teach the children now?
Perhaps our way of living, industrial civilization requires persistent and widespread violence.
You be the judge. Turn on the evening news.
What are we learning from the carnage?