Public to sound off on middle school mergerSuperintendent search committee organized
Rockland — "What do you think of the proposed Regional School Unit 13 middle school merger?" That is the question that will go before parents and taxpayers in a series of public meetings as a result of the March 6 school board vote.
The school board also voted to postpone any action on consolidating Rockland District Middle School and Thomaston Grammar School until April.
In addition, Interim Superintendent Michael Wilhelm suggested placing a survey on the district's website, rsu13.org, as another way to gather citizen input.
The forums will be held Thursday, March 13 at Rockland District Middle School, Tuesday, March 18 at Cushing Community School and Tuesday, March 25 at Thomaston Grammar School. The meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m.
The district has been considering merging the two schools for more than a year. The board voted in spring 2013 not to combine the schools to have more time to study the issue. Then, in August 2013, the board voted to combine the two schools and send ninth-graders to Oceanside High School East in Rockland, and to have the merger in place by the 2015-2016 school year.
At that time, the new middle school was defined as sixth, seventh, and eighth grade.
Roberts said March 7 that is the plan of record, but the district is working on another proposal. Wilhelm said by email the new proposal consists of merging fifth, sixth and seventh-grade at Rockland District Middle School.
Roberts said the board would need to amend the direction of the merger if need be as the August proposal is the plan currently voted upon by the board.
Cost savings for operations and maintenance for Thomaston Grammar School is estimated at $217,219, and other savings have yet to be determined. Former Superintendent Lew Collins said the merger could save about $400,000.
Thomaston representative Darryl Sanborn said March 6 before the board decides if it is going to proceed with combining the two schools, parents, teachers and taxpayers need to have input.
Carol Bachofner, a Rockland board member, said she thinks it is the opportune time to collaborate with the public.
"It's like looking at your own belly button — you don't have a great perspective," Bachofner said of gathering input.
Marla McGeady, also of Thomaston, suggested it might be good to have a professional from outside the district to look at the best way to formalize a merger because they would have an objective view.
The Curriculum Committee and the athletic director came up with a list of pros and cons to the merger, which were presented by Wilhelm at the meeting:
The district math team recommends unification of the sixth to eighth-grade math program in 2015 regardless of consolidation and would need to expand to fifth grade.
Full-time rather than itinerant teachers in allied arts and world language, which would provide greater efficiency and utilization of resources and a possible increase in offerings. It would also provide enrichment and support opportunities.
More concentrated access to English as a Second Language and gifted and talented resources and services.
Improved coordination of proficiency-based project initiatives and of common practices for curriculum, assessment and instruction.
Greater access to after-school programming via adult education funding and support. Possible increased opportunities for current TGS students should Youthlinks continue services to RDMS students.
Expanded access to school-sponsored clubs and activities.
Consolidated athletic programming, which would create efficiencies in transportation and scheduling and save money.
Eliminates the need for practice buses to make runs to St. George Elementary School, saving time, mileage and transportation funds.
Increased travel time for some students — particularly Cushing and the potential need for a late bus to support equitable inclusion in after-school activities.
"Marginally" increased class sizes.
Limitations of instructional space for world languages, health and gifted-and-talented.
Cost of new math materials.
If allied arts are fully utilized to support additional teaming, it could limit opportunities for integration
Funding for summer prior work for coordination, faculty team building, etc.
Facility for special education's Life Skills program.
The complete list will be available on the district website, rsu13.org.
RSU 13 includes schools in Rockland, Thomaston, South Thomaston, Owls Head, St. George and Cushing.
The board also voted to set up a committee to search for a permanent superintendent. Vice-Chairman Loren Andrews praised the work of Interim Superintendent Wilhelm and said he hopes they could convince him to stay. He noted that Wilhelm has brought stability to the district.
The committee will consist of five board members for the original search. Once resumes are received community members and administration will be asked to join the committee to help select candidates to interview.
Board members Steve Roberts, Sally Carleton, George Emery, McGeady and Bachofner expressed an interest. Donald Robishaw, who was absent from the meeting, will also be asked if he is interested. Then it will be decided between him and Emery, who will be on the committee.
The board also unanimously agreed to begin having a second monthly meeting. The public would be able to participate in the workshop style meeting and an agenda would be available prior to the meeting, Roberts said. No business votes will be taken at the informal meeting.
Courier Publications Copy Editor Kim Lincoln can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.