As part of his statewide tour seeking input on educational issues, Commissioner of Education Steve Bowen was in Camden on May 17 at the Camden-Rockport Middle School to listen to Midcoast parents, educators and administrators regarding their concerns and ideas. During that meeting Bowen said our children are not being properly prepared for the 21st Century. The technology revolution of the last few decades has increased pressure on the educational needs of our children and will continue to do so at an increasing rate in the foreseeable future.

Our schools must have a vision for the future that will allow students to keep pace with an increasingly technological society. This visioning process must create an atmosphere that mandates thinking beyond the “this is the way we have always done it” tradition. We have small schools and decreasing enrollment. It becomes more and more inefficient and expensive to offer the breadth of curriculum that our children have come to expect; yet, we must be able to offer a broad based quality education. An example of this visioning process could be to use more of the virtual classroom for instruction. A few students in a number of different schools, separated by varying distances, can be combined into a single class and be effectively taught. This is not just simply starring at a computer monitor for a period of time as the technology exists to have these sessions in an interactive mode.

Our children need a 21st Century education. The education must be broad-based, and new technology will be needed in the schools. All of this must be accomplished with existing resources. Additional state funding is wishful thinking in the foreseeable future. Our economy, local as well as state and federal, is flat at best. Many folks in our community are on fixed income and many others have seen their wages remain flat or even decrease. Increased taxes are not an option. Efficiencies, more multi-tasking, and evaluating the practices of other comparable school districts are necessary for holding our costs to a financially manageable level.

For the past two years, I have been a part of the Value in Education Committee. This committee consists of volunteer citizens who want to give our children the best possible education at a reasonable cost. We have been regularly attending school district finance committee meetings and school board meetings during this time. We have offered ideas and input to the process. The chairman of the Five Town CSD School Board at the June 1 board meeting publicly commended VI E for its role in bringing awareness to the school board of the seriousness of the education costs to our communities. The result has been the 2011-12 budgets being held to very minimal increases.

Recently, I was privileged to be able to tour the Midcoast School of Technology with the school board. There are marvelous programs for the training of high school students in various trades and careers. In our high school we graduate 90 percent-plus of our students. In a recent presentation at a school board meeting we learned that while our students graduate at a high rate and that a high percentage of those graduates go to college, many of these students never complete their first year. This means that there are 30 to 40 percent of our high school students who need counseling toward career training. There is duplication in our high school of what is commonly called industrial arts and those courses being offered at MCST. This duplication needs to be reconciled and those students who can be identified as career oriented counseled to explore the possibilities at the MCST.

My background includes many years as the corporate executive officer of a local company that employed many people. Forecasting income and preparing budgets not so different in size from our schools was an annual exercise that had to be accomplished in an accurate manner. Maintaining a large building and physical resources were an integral part of operating an efficient business. In seeking the privilege of representing Camden on the school board, these business skills will provide insight and help to shape a school system that is efficient and provides a high quality education.

Almost 30 years ago when our family was looking to locate in Midcoast Maine we decided on Camden primarily because of the high-quality education available to our children. Our two children went through the Camden-Rockport schools and both graduated with honors, went on to graduate from college with honors, and now have children of their own who are, or will be, entering our schools. A high-quality education is important for my grandchildren. However, this must be accomplished with existing resources. People today are still choosing our town for a place to live in part because of our quality schools, but they must be able to afford to live here.

 

Dale E. Landrith, Sr., lives in Camden and is a candidate for a seat on the School Administrative District 28 and Five Town CSD school boards.