Education system

Regarding specifically the Rebecca Anderson guest column “Devastating Examples” (April 9), and generally all of the articles and letters past, present and future about our public (mis)education system, nothing of substance will ever be resolved until there is a prevalent thought process outside of the accepted big box ideas.

About 25 years ago while fighting to protect my own children from government indoctrination I became convinced that the number one most important thing that had to be done was to repeal mandatory attendance laws – period.

It was a radical idea then and still is now, I suppose, but only because it hasn’t been a practiced reality in a while.

Before Horace Mann dragged the old world’s destructive education ideas to our shores America had already been built into a large, wealthy, highly educated society without one day of state mandated attendance. How much more historic precedence is needed?

It was a good idea during our founding; it was a good idea when I happened upon it 25 years ago; and I believe now more than ever it is the first necessary giant step toward improvement, without which any change will only be for the worse.

V.L. “Butch” Thompson

St. George

Thanks to Legislature

Pen Bay Healthcare and Mid-Coast Mental Health Center would like to extend our sincere appreciation to the 124th Maine Legislature for its exemplary service during this most recent session. We particularly wish to thank members of Leadership and the Appropriations and Health and Human Services Committees for facing the daunting challenge of balancing the biennial budget while considering the value of the mental health services infrastructure that so many of our community members rely upon for their health and well-being. The Appropriations Committee worked tirelessly to support a unanimous budget in these trying times.

The partial restoration of critical mental health funding that had been proposed for elimination in the governor’s preliminary budget is extremely important to both employers and consumers here in the Midcoast and throughout the state of Maine. Not only did these proposed cuts threaten the livelihood of mental health centers and psychiatric service providers, they also promised to choke off access to timely, affordable and sometimes life-saving treatment for our community members with mental health concerns.

We value each lawmaker’s service to the state and its residents, particularly in this most challenging session. Our congratulations and thanks to the 124th Legislature for its commitment to a tremendously difficult job that was very well done.

Roy Hitchings Jr., president and CEO, Pen Bay Healthcare
Todd Goodwin, CEO, Mid-Coast Mental Health Center

School budget

The Maine School Administrative District 28 School Board would like to thank the communities of Rockport and Camden for their input to the development of the 2010-2011 SAD 28 (kindergarten to eighth grade) school budget.

This year, planning for the 2010-2011 budget was made more difficult by the significant reduction in state subsidy. The governor stated emphatically that he would not increase taxes, but rather seek cuts throughout multiple state agencies. Unfortunately, because education commands such a large portion of tax dollars, our subsidy was cut severely.

Last year’s budget development was a challenge. Yet with the exception of the increase in debt service due to the new Camden-Rockport Elementary School, which voters supported through a bond initiative, we were able to bring the 2009-2010 budget in almost 3 percent under the 2008-2009 budget.

A key area where the school board and school administration have been responsive is the decline in enrollment in the district. As a result, in 2009-2010, 11 positions were eliminated. For 2010-2011, a net five additional positions were eliminated. In total, the reductions made in the SAD 28 2010-2011 school budget will amount to an estimated reduction in property taxes of approximately $11.45 per $100,000 of homeowner value in Camden and an estimated reduction in property taxes of approximately $18.85 per $100,000 of homeowner value in Rockport.

The amount of subsidy that SAD 28 has received over the last few years has been as high as $900,682. For the upcoming 2010-2011 school year, our subsidy will be $219,698, a drop of almost 76 percent from that high of $900,682.

There are some in our community who feel the school board, administration and staff have not made enough cuts. In the proposed 2010-2011 budget, the school board, administration and staff made cuts totaling $555,779 or a 4.44 percent decrease from the 2009-2010 budget. Couple that with the nearly $315,000 in cuts taken in the 2009-2010 school year (less the debt service from the new elementary school), and SAD 28 has reduced its expenses by nearly $900,000 in the last two years. However, some still feel at least another $400,000 should be cut from the budget, totaling nearly $1,000,000 for this year alone. They referred to this nearly $1,000,000 in cuts as “modest.” To find an additional $400,000 to reach this “modest” figure would require deeper cuts than already made. This includes programs and teachers, those areas that impact our students the most. To make such devastating cuts would only amount to an estimated savings of approximately $20 in property taxes for a home valued at $100,000 of homeowner value.

The school board, administration and staff went through a very transparent process, which involved the community in Finance Committee meetings by encouraging attendance and feedback via letters, phone calls and e-mail, as well as televising every meeting. The overwhelming response was, and continues to be, “we support the excellent schools and the programs and teachers in this district.” The strength of our teachers and programs in SAD 28 has been duly noted by both in-state and out-of-state residents, and is attributed to the significant increase of inquiries in the last four weeks to the district office regarding enrollment in our schools.

The school board does not blindly spend tax dollars received from the community. Capital expenditures such as the purchase of the Montessori School, renovation of the middle school and the building of the new elementary school were recommendations the school board put before the community because it thought it was in Camden’s and Rockport’s best interest to maintain a strong educational system. To date, this community has supported such recommendations, and in some cases, overwhelmingly. It’s fair to also keep in mind, school board members are local taxpayers too, with equal sensitivity to the twice-annual trip made to the town office, checkbook in hand, to pay their share.

Some of the best schools in the state are located right here in Camden-Rockport. They provide a strong incentive for families to move here and provide a wealth of learning opportunities for those already living here. For those opportunities and continued support, we thank the citizens of Camden and Rockport.

Bob Lawson
School board member, Camden

Thanks from Big Brothers Big Sisters

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Midcoast Maine would like to extend our deepest appreciation to all of the businesses and individuals from the community who pitched in time, materials and energy to renovate our office at 16 School St. in Rockland. It is because of these caring community members that we now have a professional office space from which our staff can create positive mentoring relationships for local youth to help them grow socially and academically. Additionally, as a result of everything being donated, more money is available to support the matches.

The following businesses and individuals donated materials, supplies, services and new furniture: Sproul’s Furniture, Sherwin Williams, E.L. Spear, Viking Inc., EBS, Schofield’s, N.C. Hunt, Rankin’s, Superior Restoration Services, Mark Haskell Photography, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Plants Unlimited, Hancock Lumber, Paper Path Imaging, Kirsten Transcribes, Marilyn Widdecombe, Lee-Ann Libby, Mary McFarland, Carolyn Minvielle, carpenters Travis Haber, Jason Hashey and Wayne Cronin, and the cadre of volunteers from Bank of America, Belfast for their many hours of work priming, painting, constructing and cleaning.

We also want to thank local businesses for attending our Penobscot Bay Chamber Business After Hours on April 14. Thank you to our co-hosts, Norton & Masters, CPAs, Kirsten Transcribes, Studio Red, I Design Drafting Studio and John Ferraiolo. The event drew over 100 attendees who dined on food from Big Fish and Sweets and Meats while enjoying the newly renovated offices of the former Odd Fellows Building.

Alex Gaeth, executive director

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Midcoast Maine

Cancer survivor

Many people this year will hear the words “you have cancer.” Three small words that can completely change the course of your life. I heard those words four and a half years ago. And I can tell you that I felt my world stop at that moment. Nothing penetrated those first few minutes while those three words sank in, except what and how would I tell my family.

More than 1.5 million Americans a year hear those words. The good new is, they don’t have to be alone in their fight against this disease. With the support of family and friends and the American Cancer Society, I am excited to say I am a survivor. I found the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event that first June after my treatments and have been a part of it ever since.

The Relay for Life is a 14 hour event held here in Midcoast Maine as well as other locations across both the state and the country. The event helps to raise awareness and funds to support the ongoing fight against cancer. Teams of 8 to 15 members participate in the event by walking the track throughout the night and into the next morning. Each hour is planned with fun activities both on and off the track and with different themes, such as “Pajama Lap” in which you wear your PJs while walking, or “The Backward Lap” in which you wear your clothes backward. The Relay for Life opens with a “Survivors’ Lap.” Cancer survivors, in all stages of treatment or recovery, pack the track along with their caregivers, and walk as the gathered crowd claps and cheers them on. My first experience of the “Survivors’ Lap” was very emotional and powerful. I walked behind a family, a mother and a father who supported their young son so he could walk the track.

Cancer does not discriminate by age, or gender, or any other way. Seeing the hope in the eyes of the many survivors and participants in the Relay for Life can be so inspiring. There is hope that one day there will be a cure for this awful disease. And for that reason, I would like to personally challenge you to join us this year. Everyone knows someone that has been affected by cancer, a loved one, co-worker, neighbor or friend. Please, join us on June 25 and 26 at the Camden Hills Regional High School track. Registration starts Friday at 4 p.m. and the event closes on Saturday morning. I cannot tell you enough what an incredible, emotional, fun event this is. Recruit members and put together a team to participate, or join an existing team.

Each person has the opportunity to make a difference. I participate in this event for the hope of a future without this disease, for myself, my family and friends. And I walk for the many who can no longer walk for themselves. Do you know someone who has suffered with cancer, or lost their battle to it? Would you walk for them this year?

To learn how you can participate in the Relay for Life this year, please call the American Cancer Society at 800-227-2345 or go to the event Web site at relayforlife.org/midcoastme. Please get involved. Walk with us, cry with us, laugh with us during those 14 hours. I promise you, this event will leave a lasting impression on your life. You never know when you may be the one to hear those three words, “you have cancer.”

Ainsley Kennedy

Appleton