Will the superintendent do her own homework?
The apparent "cribbing" of another school district's strategic plan by the Regional School Unit 40 superintendent has generated quite a bit of discussion in the community and some confusion as well.
Parents complained at the Sept. 27 school board meeting that Superintendent Susan A. Pratt copied the proposed strategic plan almost verbatim from a plan designed two years ago for Regional School Unit 21 representing Arundel, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport.
How similar are the two plans? Well, they have the same pictures for one thing. A teacher helps a student in a lab class on page one of each report. The same pair of students read a book on the floor on page five.
Probably most outrageous is the fact that on the first page of each document there is an introduction signed by the superintendent. In November 2010, Andrew Dolloff wrote to the Kennebunk constituents:
"In these pages you will find an honest reflection of where we are, where we hope to go, and the targets by which we will measure our achievement."
Then two years later like magic the exact same words are on page one of RSU 40's plan, this time with the name Susan A. Pratt at the bottom of the page, substituted for Dolloff. Wow!
Much has been made by some observers of this. In an era where a research paper written on just about any topic is just a Google search away, we have become very concerned about the temptation facing kids to cheat on their schoolwork. If we caught a student "cribbing" a paper for class in this way, we would certainly discipline him or her.
Is this an apples to apples comparison to student cheating? Some argue it isn't.
We reporters have covered issues in towns where boards borrow upon the work already completed in another community rather than "reinvent the wheel." Say the town of Warren were to enact a new cell phone tower ordinance. It may very well get a copy of another community's existing ordinance to use as a starting place for the work.
So the school board has decided to deem this a first draft, a starting place, and continue the work.
However, a couple factors are troubling. That name at the bottom of the first page seems to be a claim of original work. It's certainly not as transparent as saying, "I liked this plan from another district and thought we could use it as a jumping off point."
The suggestion also seems to be that when it comes to school district strategic plans, one size fits all. Is the RSU 40 district honestly facing the same issues as the Kennebunk area schools? Was any thought beyond getting this project over with put into how using this plan would affect local schools?
In addition, it doesn't include the work done in March when parents, educators and administrators got together to brainstorm ideas and goals for the next five years.
What makes this kind of a tough spoonful of medicine for local residents is the fact that the superintendent is very well compensated for her time, and this seems to be the effort returned on that investment.
The people of RSU 40 deserve an explanation for this, but Pratt never said a word about it during the meeting.
The parents, educators and community members in the district should remain watchful and demand answers to their questions going forward.