The Courier-Gazette editorial

St. George leaving is not good for RSU 13

By The Courier-Gazette Editorial Board | Dec 12, 2013

For what seems like a long time now, St. George has been taking steps toward removing its children and school from the Regional School Unit 13 district.

There is a tendency among those on the streets in Rockland, and Thomaston for that matter, to be a bit dismissive of St. George.

"They're never happy," is a theme we hear from time to time. "They weren't happy when they were part of SAD 50."

The evidence we have seen over the past few years seems to suggest that, as a community, St. George values education more than other towns in the school district. This is easily quantifiable. In July, about 60 residents from St. George turned out for a school budget meeting. That kind of interest in education policy is seldom seen among the larger towns.

The town has also sought to fund improved local programs for its children. Part of its frustration with being part of a school district is that it is told it cannot do extra for its students because those same programs and funds would not be available to all students in the district. So instead of improving education for all students in the district, we are asking St. George to lower its standards to match that of the surrounding towns.

The town has been frustrated by its lack of voice on the school board, a feeling that is gaining some ground among parents and community members who are forced to sign up in advance if they want to ask the school board a question.

It is hard to argue with St. George that they are wrong; that schools shouldn't be centers of the community, that locals shouldn't have a say in the education of their children, that the larger RSU 13 district is doing as well or better than the previous school district configuration.

An unfair (or at least questionable) funding formula that has put a larger share of school costs on towns other than St. George has pitted the towns against each other in the district instead of creating a spirit of cooperation.

However, what is not being discussed enough is what the district will lose if St. George leaves. It is clear there are those on the board who would be happy to be rid of these pesky question-askers from St. George, and there are some on the streets who dismiss the town's concerns, but when St. George goes, it will take a lot of money with it.

In September, RSU 13 Business Manager Scott Vaitones prepared a St. George cost analysis, and this document concludes the district will lose more than $1 million when/if St. George leaves.

That takes into account both the reduced costs from not funding St. George schools and the tax revenues that come from the community.

Where is that money going to come from to support the rest of the district?

It is time for the school board to make a renewed effort to negotiate with St. George residents. It is time to come to the table in a real way and try to salvage this situation, because taxpayers in Rockland cannot simply eat another increase. This kind of cost problem could mean further cuts in education programs that our children cannot afford.

Urge your school board rep to prevent this.


Sorry to see Tim Hortons close

It was announced this past week that Tim Hortons in Rockland has closed, putting 15 local employees out of work right before the holidays.

We were sorry to see this happen because it is hard on those workers and shows weakness in our economy.

Some locally are asking whether this is the first casualty of Wal-Mart moving off Camden Street and opening a super store in Thomaston. While the loss to the retail giant on Camden Street has likely decreased traffic to some of the local businesses, we would be surprised if that was a single factor in this decision. The new Wal-Mart just opened.

Instead this seems to be part of a larger corporate decision made by people far away from our community.




Comments (2)
Posted by: Jonathan Grout | Dec 13, 2013 18:09

Don't worry, the RSU 13 board has much larger things to screw up than just little old St. George.  Courtesy of our dazed and confused State Dept. of Education, the RSU was rammed down our throats as a way to SAVE money.  Sadly, I fear that no savings are to be had.  Remember that an elephant is merely a mouse built to government specifications.


Posted by: DANA SMITH | Dec 13, 2013 07:28

Maybe if the board allowed the tax payers of St. George to fund a program or 2 it would help in smoothing things over, if it is not too late!! But the 1st step would need to be the board not turning its back on the town as it has been.

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