Schools and St. George
The town of St. George has decided to take a stand on the issue of local vs. district control of education.
The disagreements putting the town at odds with the Regional School Unit 13 school district seem to be many. Selectmen voted unanimously this week to go forward in withdrawing from the larger consolidated school district.
While there are still several hurdles to jump in this process — a petition with 150 signatures, 750 town votes for withdrawal — the unanimous vote is telling.
The town has asked the district to let it self-fund programs for its students. It has sought a higher degree of accountability from schools serving its children. It has disagreed with the requirement to send some students to Thomaston in grade eight. It wants more of a say in the budget.
The town describes its attempts to work out an agreement with the district as only “marginally fruitful.” We translate that as saying, “You are not listening to us.”
This change, should it be approved, could mean significant consequences, not only for the school district and the town, but taxpayers in surrounding communities. Without St. George's tax dollars, property taxes in neighboring communities may have to be raised to fund the district. With all the governor has announced at the state level in the way of proposed cuts to education, taxpayers may already be in for a shock without this added issue.
St. George high school students could face long rides to the Rockport school.
The commissioner of education has proven to be in favor of school choice and could allow this withdrawal.
However, we understand the stakes are too high for St. George to simply settle for what anything but the best for its students.
The town has done a good job over the years of providing education in its own school for its youngsters. It is refreshing to see the commitment felt to providing a quality education. What it has asked for has not been to save money or to make things easy. Every proposal on the table has been out of concern for the children.
Ever since the consolidation of the Rockland and Thomaston school districts, there has been a decreased sense of ownership by community members in their schools. The consolidation itself was forced on local school districts. On the large RSU 13 board, smaller towns have less control and less of a voice.
At this point they do not feel listened to.
The school district needs to begin working with St. George. Administrators and school board members need to really reach out to town leaders and really consider their requests and ideas. “My way or the highway,” cannot be the dictate from Rockland and Thomaston head offices to peninsula communities.
St. George town leaders also need to think about whether going it alone is the best answer. If the school district is willing to meet with locals and really listen, the town should be open to those talks.
It is our hope that this withdrawal can be avoided. The request for a St. George-funded pre-kindergarten class would be a small compromise to avoid this action. If the town is allowed to secede, it will be partly due to stubbornness and arrogance on the part of parties unwilling to give an inch.
It is time to really negotiate.
Good luck to The Landings
It was good to hear that The Landings Restaurant on the waterfront will be re-opening this spring and may hire as many as 30 people, including cooks and wait staff.
Longtime local restaurant owners Mike and Kate Miller are taking the space over, and are keeping their existing Bricks Restaurant on Main Street open.
While any number of local business people could have taken this on, it is nice to see the Millers getting their waterfront business after losing out to the fire that took Grapes Restaurant from them in 2004.