Our guess is that some local educators and school administrators have had better weeks.

Right in the middle of trying to get their budgets passed in a tough economic climate, schools in Regional School Units 13 and 40 received their report cards from the governor.

The news was not all bad. Cushing Community School received an A, but Miller School in Waldoboro recieved an F. C's and D's seem most common.

In RSU 13, schools come with a price tag of $27 million, up 2 percent from the previously approved budget.

On one hand, some good can come out of a thing like this. While area educators have blasted the governor's grading system as simple-minded and myopic, which it is, they cannot deny it has started a conversation — a much-needed statewide debate about what is best for our communities, our future and our children.

We hope community leaders, parents, business people and others will participate in this discussion and really work hard to bring on the improvements. In RSU 13, there will be an opportunity to get involved Tuesday, May 28 at 6 p.m. at Oceanside High School East in Rockland when the district budget meeting is held. Come and ask questions, make comments and be heard!

Before we berate our educators for their bad report cards, there are a few things to consider. These grades were based on standardized assessment tests, the same tests that are taking up too much class time in our schools. They seem to look at reading and math to the exclusion of all else.

According to our superintendent, science, art, music, physical education, drama, computer and student well-being were not assessed.

Part of the conversation needs to be about our basic school goals. Do we want to produce young adults who know a great deal in two subjects, or, do we want a well-rounded and diverse group of people in our community? Maybe not every student who graduates from high school will be able to plot the trajectory of rockets launched at an enemy, or hold their own on the floor of the stock exchange. Maybe some will be more interested in art, the first program on the chopping block when budgets get tight. Maybe some will want to learn foreign languages and travel to the places they have only seen in postcards.

The beauty of the vision of the public schools was that they provided a place where even the poorest children could be exposed to art, music, history, culture, literature, scientific discovery, world exploration and good old-fashioned word problems. To whittle that down to the bare bones of two subjects would be a shame.

Why do the schools get the grades? The educators work to teach a wide spectrum of students. Some have parents who sit with them and help with homework at night. Some have plenty of food in their stomachs, and a stable, loving home environment. Some do not.

Teachers work with both. Does that bad grade go to the school, or do the parents and the community share in that grade?

At its best, a school can be the center of the community. That was the case with Oceanside High School West on Saturday. More than 200 people packed the gym to listen to Broadway Classics performed by the school chorus, community members and faculty.

They sang songs from "Oliver," "Wicked," "Les Miserables," South Pacific" and "The Wizard of Oz." All who attended were culturally enriched. We think that deserved more than a C, but that portion was not on the test.

As part of the discussion, another question is, do we value education? Do we value our schools in this community?

There is a lesson to be learned from another community in a feel-good story this week from NBC News. "Orchard Gardens K-8 pilot school in Roxbury, Mass., is earning accolades after its principal, Andrew Bott, fired the school's security officers and replaced them with art teachers. Many considered the move dangerous in a school where backpacks were banned for fear that they might be used to carry guns, but ultimately it yielded success.

"NBC Nightly News reported on the school's impressive transformation, one that saw it morph from an institution known for its indiscipline, poor test scores and troubled reputation as a 'career killer' to one with 'one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide.'"

Art can make a difference in schools, it seems. If we can capture the imaginations of children, we can harness their minds. Sometimes in these debates we forget we are talking about children.

What this story shows more than anything is the difference between true vision and merely slapping educators on the heads with nasty report cards.

However, the grades are out there and we cannot take them lightly as a community. People look at the rankings of schools when they decide where to buy houses and move their families. Employers look at the quality of the workforce, based on who lives in a community. So the quality, or even perceived quality, of our schools can play a role in our local economy.

Let's get protective of our communities and seek a better vision for our schools. We hope to see you at the district budget meetings.