Java Gala for Guatemala

The PenBay Art Club would like to extend a huge thank you to those who attended the Java Gala for Guatemala last Saturday evening at High Mountain Hall! This event was an incredible success and thanks to the constant support from the community, friends, family and local businesses, we have reached our fundraising goal of $12,000.

We would also like to extend our most heartfelt thanks to our families for their support and encouragement. Special thanks go out to Fiona Fischer, Caroline Webb, Elena Thomas and Sarah Haselton for greeting our guests with their lovely smiles and to Calvin Parent and Gage Lyon for providing us with their jazzy guitar sounds that set the stage for a wonderful evening. Many thanks to Lorraine Streat, Maureen Egan, Elfie Owen, Elinor Klivans and Swan’s Way Catering for the yummy, yummy food and sweets. Last but not least, thank you to all of the many people and businesses who so generously donated everything from beautiful, original artwork and handmade soaps to knitted socks for our silent auction.

The next month will be a busy one for us. We will be gathering art supplies and planning the tile installation that we will be creating with young women our age who attend the programs at Safe Passage (safepassage.org) in Guatemala City. For those of you who are not familiar with the Safe Passage program, Safe Passage provides educational opportunities and integrated health and social development services for 535 children, ages 1 to 21, from about 300 families working in and around the Guatemala City garbage dump. In addition, the program meets regularly with parents, integrates parent volunteer work, and offers adult literacy classes for parents.

We will be in Guatemala from April 14 to April 25. You can keep in touch with us on Facebook at facebook.com/penbayartclubguate or follow us on our blog at penbayartclub.blogspot.com

To share our experience at Safe Passage with the community that made it all happen, we will host a talk and slide show later this spring. Keep your eyes open for further information on this inspirational event.

Thank you all so very much!

Emily Seymour
Julia Kosowsky
Mackenzie Gassett
Madeline Owen
Sarah Streat

Many Flags letter

I wish to respond to the recently published letter “Many Flags: good for the entire region.”

As a resident of Knox County, I agree with the sentiment of the letter, as it is hard to disagree with any enterprise that will offer greater opportunity for citizens to obtain more education. However, in trying to make the case for the process that has been followed in developing Many Flags, there are some misleading statements made that I feel should be corrected. In addition, the position of non-support by the Maine School Administrative District 40 board is criticized and, as a member of the SAD 40 board, I feel compelled to comment.

In reading the letter, it is stated that the Many Flags Steering Committee has had “multiple” and “numerous” contacts with the SAD 40 board and has endeavored to solicit direct input from SAD 40 throughout the development of the Many Flags concept. In fact, the situation is quite the opposite. There have been, in my five-year tenure on the SAD 40 board, exactly two meetings between the bodies. The first took place a few years ago, at the beginning of the developmental process and could best be described as an informational meeting with no invitation extended by the MFSC to SAD 40 to join the process. The second meeting took place about a month ago at the request of the MFSC, to discuss the present situation and, apparently, to seek support from SAD 40. In between the two meetings, there has been no substantive discussion between the two bodies.

When the possibility of the Many Flags project was first discussed, SAD 40 asked to discuss our possible involvement. We were turned down flat. There even was an ugly letter to the editor referring to the undesirability of students in SAD 40. Later, when the subject of consolidation reared its head, we again approached SAD 5 and SAD 50 to discuss the subject. Again, we were told there was no interest in any type of consolidation. These are not the actions of a group open and willing to include the SAD 40 community in any collaboration. As a consequence, SAD 40 has had virtually no input into the development of the Many Flags concept. One has only to look at the composition of the steering committee to see that there is no direct representation of SAD 40. This has been a party to which we were never invited. To represent it as otherwise is wishful thinking or worse.

The only connection of SAD 40 to the Many Flags project is through the Mid-Coast School of Technology. SAD 40 is, of course, one of the sending schools to MCST and the MCST is to be one of the elements in Many Flags, should it come to pass. In the letter, the statement is made that “in-depth input, advice and involvement have been provided by the Region 8 Board of Directors who represent all of the sending schools to the Mid-Coast School of Technology.” The board of MCST numbers 15, three of whom are from SAD 40. They have very little, if any, input into financial matters involving MCST, except for rubber-stamp budgetary approval, and virtually no curricular input, so I am as baffled as they are by the “in-depth, advice and involvement” characterization. As the governance of Many Flags has been explained to me, the input of SAD 40 will be further diluted compared to our present arrangement with MCST, so I am not at all confident in our ability to have significant input and governance into the operation of Many Flags and/or MCST. This becomes important when it is realized that SAD 40 sends roughly $800,000 ($8,000+ per pupil) to MCST each year. It is hard to imagine that figure declining if and when Many Flags starts operations, despite the protestations to the contrary in the letter. Furthermore, does anyone actually believe that SAD 40 will have more input when MCST becomes subsumed under the Many Flags banner?

Many Flags may turn out to be a worthwhile undertaking, if it comes to pass, and I hope it does, since there is promise in the concept. However, as a board bember of SAD 40, my charge is to make sure that our students get the best education for the dollars we spend. The steering committee of Many Flags has not done the necessary ground work to convince me, and, apparently, the other members of the SAD 40 board (the vote was unanimous) that we will be able to make decisions in the best interests of our students and taxpayers of SAD 40, and it is for that reason that I voted against supporting the Many Flags application as presently constructed.

Theodore V. Brown

Warren

 

Washington’s warning

Last month George Washington’s birthday made me dig out my 2002 letter to editors quoting prophetic words from his farewell address. Now that Israel’s lackeys have bound the U.S. government even more tightly to make sure their darling is the favorite, his warning to the country he helped create should get more exposure.

“The nation that indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is to some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.”

“Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists … leads to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others … it gives to ambitious, corrupted or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity.”

“Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.”

Marjorie Gallace

Camden

 

Say hello to our lady warden

Yes, it’s time that the citizens of Thomaston had a chance to meet our new prison warden, who is a lady. The first lady warden in the state of Maine. Let us make her feel welcome to our town. The town manager and Board of Selectmen of Thomaston should pick a night to attend by the citizens of Thomaston and ask her to say a few words regarding her new position as warden and what she thinks of the state of Maine and Thomaston. Thomaston is a sea captains town. The large homes along Main Street where several captains made their home. Years ago, if possible there were meetings at Watts Hall or the American Legion Home; it’s up to the town officials.

Gordon Wotton

Thomaston

School consolidation

Way back in 2004 Maine citizens initiated and passed a referendum calling the state of Maine to fund 55 percent of the cost of public education. The Legislature responded with the enactment of LD 1, which put in process a “ramp-up” to increase state funding for schools K-12 in four years. Well, since then there’s been a 15 percent decrease in state funding for public education. State sales tax revenue plummeted the last few years, making it nearly impossible for local schools to rely on any consistent state subsidy information. These state cutbacks are forcing increases in local funding for education through regressive property taxes, which is a massive shift of the burden of funding education in Maine.

The governor proposed and the Legislature approved consolidating schools into regional school units as a means to cut costs, but in the end it just shifts more education costs from the state to local taxpayers. The loss of state subsidy is forcing school districts to either cut staff and programs or seek local tax support by increasing local property taxes. Many schools that consolidated are not seeing any cost savings, but more cost shifts. With Camden-Rockport Elementary School under one roof, instead of three, we may see a decrease in administrative costs in the future, but we now must pay down debt for the new school. Consolidating schools of Hope, Appleton, Lincolnville, Camden and Rockport into a regional school unit wouldn’t provide any cost savings this year because the loss of existing subsidy was greater than paying penalties not to consolidate. Given the current decrease in state subsidy future consolidation could provide some savings at the district level in terms of less administrative costs. But last year after much consideration and voter consent it was evident that paying penalty fees to not consolidate was more fiscally prudent because a loss of subsidy was greater than paying penalty fees.

At the moment the Education Committee is working on LD 570, “An Act to Improve the Laws of Governing the Consolidation of School Administrative Units.” It is unlikely to include an elimination of penalties for not consolidating, which will cost Camden Hills Regional High School almost $200,000. So the school board must cut expenses to make up for a loss of $1.2 million subsidy and the penalty fee payment. About half of Maine’s school districts did not have to consolidate and will not pay any penalties; in fact they will receive penalty moneys being paid by districts not consolidating, adding insult to injury.

The cost of delivering and maintaining the standard of excellence established at Camden Hills Regional High School is not cheap. Which reminds me I never got a reasonable answer from the Department of Education as to why Camden Hills didn’t receive a “high-performing” school exemption from the consolidation law, like Yarmouth, Hampden and Cape Elizabeth, considering Camden Hills performed as well, if not better than those schools in the high school SAT data report. When I asked about it I couldn’t even get an answer about what criteria were used to consider schools “high performing.”

I heard a phrase used recently about using scalpels, not hatchets to trim budgets, which I’ll keep in mind while searching to cover the loss of state subsidy for our schools.

Betsy Clemens Saltonstall

Rockport

CSD and SAD 28 School Board member

 

Proposed 2011 cuts in Five Town CSD budget

The letter below was originally addressed to the board of directors of the Five Town Community School District and to the CSD administration. It has been modified for publication. It is also important to note that the CSD budget-making process is an ongoing discussion and some of the information below may have been superseded since this letter was written.

Citizens for Value In Education stands for the best possible education at the lowest possible cost. Specifically, VIE has stated that educational outcomes at the Five Town CSD and at SAD 28 need, if anything, to be further improved. While calling for cuts in the budgets of the CSD and of SAD 28, VIE has emphasized in the strongest possible terms that the education of our children, including athletics and activities, must not be sacrificed to budget cuts.

We have reviewed the budget cuts proposed on March 3 for the CSD. That the CSD recognizes that there is a problem with respect to funding for the 2011 fiscal year is an important step. It is not possible to simply pass the $1.35 million in reduced state funds along to the taxpayers and expect them to swallow the bill. The taxpayers cannot afford it and the sacrifices in town budgets to fund the schools are already too great.

For purposes of this discussion, the so-called tiers of cuts are not important. What is important is examining the totality of the suggested $1.35 million in budget reductions. We are unable to categorize all of the proposed cuts as they would appear in the CSD budget, but we are sure that there are those who will straighten us out where we have gone astray in our figures. Those reading this document should also remember, as above, that we are looking at figures as of March 3, 2010, which we understand have since been somewhat revised. Based upon that March 3 information, here is what we see:

Vocational technical education: The figures we have do not mention it. That may not be surprising as the Mid-Coast School of Technology has a separate budget. We do know, however, that the folks at MCST are convinced that their budget, by comparison to that of the CSD, is most reasonable and they are not inclined to see it cut. Clearly, MSCT needs to share in the pain of budget cuts. We have already detailed the fact that the cost to the CSD of the MCST program appears high. Again, the folks at the MCST claim that the formula for cost allocation is not subject to change, being state mandated. They are the only people who have said that. If cuts are to come in the MCST budget, the CSD board and the CSD administration must weigh in with the MCST on the subject … and that is clearly vital in light of the CSD budget issues involved.

Debt service: While it was determined some weeks ago that there was no profitable way to further modify the debt for building the Camden Hills Regional High School, whether or not there were meaningful savings that could be realized by re-financing and/or re-structuring other existing CSD debt was to be investigated. One would hope that there might be cost reductions in this area. They are also not mentioned.

For the cuts below, it would be useful to know the percent of the 2009-10 budget in each category of expense that they represent.

Special education: Proposed cuts of $65,903.

Operations and maintenance: Proposed cuts of $55,201 (does not include building

administration, which we are unsure where to categorize).

Guidance and counseling: Proposed cuts of $67,000.

Administration: Proposed cuts of $83,168.

Building administration: Proposed cuts of $25,420 — please see note above.

Athletics, activities and athletic administration: Proposed cuts of $384,841.

Teachers, instruction and instruction support: Proposed cuts broken down below:

Teachers: $553,000

Ed. techs, etc: $101,063

Cut five days from school year: $55,000

Support: 12,710

Total of above: $721,773

Total of cuts in athletics, activities, teaching: $1,106,614

Given that there may be errors in the above, those errors cannot be large enough to obviate the point. That is: These proposed cuts would gut the educational offerings of the CSD. They would have the exact opposite effect that VIE, and we guess students, parents, grandparents and all others interested in the schools would wish to see. While we do not believe this to be the case, this document has the look of a political proposal rather than one that has the best interests of the CSD in mind.

We submit that the proposal is upside down. The portions of the budget furthest away from the students appear to have been cut only modestly. Those directly affecting the quality of education have been vigorously attacked.

There is a need to reverse the proposals as set out here. That is, ways must be found to reduce costs while maintaining and enhancing the quality and breadth of the educational offerings. The recommendations of Citizens for Value In Education:

1. Reconsider these cuts and only reduce those areas in teaching, athletics and activities where changes are warranted by the reduced total number of students, where class sizes smaller than CSD guidelines can be made larger, and by eliminating offerings that are receiving insufficient student interest — in the classroom and among athletics and activities.

2. Do not cut days from the school year unless it can be demonstrated that such cuts will in no way affect the quality of education.

3. Then, cut the costs not directly related to instruction with a very sharp knife. For example, we see no administrative cuts at the CSD. One has to wonder the reason that there appear to be no such proposed reductions in expense.

4. There is no evidence that the per pupil cost comparisons between the CSD and other schools have been used in developing the proposed budget savings. Drawing upon the lessons of others might greatly assist in this cost cutting process.

For your careful consideration.

Alexander Armentrout

Citizens for Value In Education

Rockport