Letters, Jan. 23
Losing trust in school board
Your editorial was correct in stating that the law requires a town to vote on whether or not they will close a school. However, the administration of this RSU found a way to get around that requirement with the Stockton Springs Elementary School. All Stockton elementary students have been transferred to Searsport and a four-year-old program transferred to Stockton, therefore, technically the school is not closed. I am not alone in thinking that a building can not be considered an elementary school if it does not house a single student of elementary-school age.
Stockton was never given an opportunity to vote on closing our school, nor was the action that was finally taken by the board one of the options that had been presented to the citizens. Given those facts is it any wonder that many Searsport and Stockton residents do not feel reassured when they are told that schools can not be closed without the town voting to approve such a closing? The way things developed with Stockton Elementary caused me to lose trust in this board and administration. If Stockton had been given the opportunity to vote on closure and had approved it because of the savings that result from the closure, I would have been sad, but I would not have lost trust in the board, for the citizens would have had a voice in the matter. If a technicality was found so that Stockton Elementary could essentially be closed, will the board come up with another to avoid a vote regarding Searsport High School or Middle School? Or for that matter any school in RSU 20?
Change is not always easy, but you do not get people to "buy into" change by ignoring their concerns, by limiting their voice, by unilaterally imposing change or by belittling them. If work had been done to get a majority of citizens and staff to buy into the RSU initially, maybe the eight towns would have been able to find a way to work together and to compromise.
Keeping schools open benefits communities
Your editorial last week left me very disappointed in you as a reporter and in your paper. You had an opportunity to be sympathetic to the problem that several of our communities are going through, yet you chose to be overly opinionated and extremely unsympathetic. Shame on you.
Discussing the closing of any school in any community is painful for all involved. At what price do we make these decisions?
I’m from Searsport and the pressure is on to make a decision, consolidate or withdraw. While money might well be saved if we give up our local middle/high school there are other issues to be considered. We are two small communities (Searsport and Stockton Springs) and our school by most standards is small, but we cover a fairly large area on our own. Closing our middle/high school would cause our children to pay a high price in terms of education (the loss of smaller classes), sleep deprivation (longer travel time), loss of recreational time and even, possibly, their safety.
Schools are often the one institution that serves as a point of pride for a community and their families. Without our school, why would anyone choose to move into our community or stay if they could move? When a community loses its schools, it also loses the institution that builds relationships among local residents (and in our family's case it has bound generations together), while it serves our local children. Our school is in part where parents and community members can invest their energies, become familiar with one another, while working toward a well-rounded education for their children.
Local schools also have an economic effect in the communities in which they exist: employment opportunities, stimulation of retail trade, we recapture a portion of our locally collected state and federal taxes, as well as maintenance of property values. Who is going to purchase property in our area if we do not offer local educational opportunities?
The superintendent mentioned leasing or selling the closed building as possibilities. That is not always an easy option. If not utilized, leased or sold it can deteriorate fast. It then becomes a much bigger problem. I attended the RSU 20 board meeting last week and I came away feeling after all three options were presented that once a vote was taken, "Searsport Middle/High School" would be closed. So far I have not seen the other communities involved any more willing to compromise their small communities and I don't blame them. In this case, keeping our middle/high school open may save far more than closing it ever could.
A living wage for Maine workers
Why would anyone want to deny adequate food, decent housing, and access to health care to people in Maine? The answer, of course, should be, “why, no one.”
Unfortunately, some in Maine, led by Paul LePage, Maine’s governor, and a few legislators, are using the cost to the Maine Department of Human Services as an excuse to throw thousands of underpaid and unemployed people under the bus.
They are scapegoating working people, and those looking for work, and blaming them for their low incomes. But, if the only jobs out there pay the minimum wage, or not much more, how can anyone blame them?
The real problem is an economic system that has more people who want to work than there are jobs and where many of those jobs pay a pittance, not enough for most people to live on. We have a few people making millions but working no harder than some who risk their lives and health for very little pay.
If we want to solve this problem, we need livable wages, estimated at $15 per hour, for every worker in Maine.
The real “welfare queens” are especially the big businesses (big box stores, chains, fast food restaurants) that pay low wages and then leave the state of Maine, and us as taxpayers, to pick up the rest of the tab.
The best way to lower the costs at the Maine Department of Human Services is a good wage for all workers, one where they can afford enough food, decent housing, and health care for themselves.