Vote yes for Schools of our Future

Feb 23, 2017

Loren Andrews — To the citizens of Cushing, Owls Head, Rockland, South Thomaston and Thomaston, please vote Feb. 28 for our children and our schools!

As you may know, RSU 13 has a bond issue on the ballot Tuesday, Feb. 28. We are asking you to vote yes, because we have spent years putting this package together to complete the facilities aspect of Schools of Our Future. And with the passage of this bond issue, we should not have to revisit major facilities work in RSU 13 for decades.

I have been on the School Board since the beginning of RSU 13, and we have seen some challenges come and go. But we are now clearly moving in the direction of success, vision and getting things done. We have a smart, talented and deeply committed superintendent in our district now, who is surrounded by equally dedicated principals and administrators. Along with our caring and highly competent teachers and staff, devoted to their students in every building and in every grade level, we are well on our way.

To begin with, the Schools of Our Future plan has enhanced curriculum in ways I never imagined, and as a parent of two kids in the schools, I am so pleased and gratified they have the opportunity to participate in these academic pursuits.

We have a district/community student engagement group looking at issues of engagement and success in every grade level, from pre-K to 12. We have academies in our high school where essentially students can major in a specific area, from the fishing industry to the arts and cultural studies. We are starting a new student tracking model — for which we have grant funding — that I believe is the tipping point in education by building deep relationships with every student and tracking their successes and challenges. We have an accredited and excellent gifted and talented program for every grade level, now fully funded with state aid. And we have instituted both Responsive Classroom and Restorative Practices that enhance critical social and emotional skills.

Now we need to complete the facilities aspect of Schools of Our Future, a vital link to healthier, modern and efficient working environments for both students and staff. With renovations to our middle school and high school, we will have more space for cafeterias, classrooms and extracurricular activities. We will be able to properly use our buildings to meet the needs of students and staff, the buildings will work more effectively for learning and instruction, and the efficiencies will actually save money in the long run.

To put it simply, we can afford these improvements, renovations and construction projects with savings and efficiencies. We have already identified $1.2 million a year in savings to pay for this work, and we can do more in the years ahead. Our superintendent and business manager feel we can identify and capture more savings in our district’s facilities, and I and other members of the School Board agree.

But we can't do anything unless you vote yes next Tuesday.

If we do not pass this bond issue, we will continue to waste money on old, crumbling, energy-inefficient,and crowded buildings. That’s not acceptable to me as a taxpayer, and it’s not acceptable for the benefit of our students and staff. It might be odd to say that we will save money if we spend money on these facilities, but it’s true. We will turn efficiencies and savings into better buildings and learning environments — a successful endeavor on every level.

I encourage you to find the time in your busy schedule to vote Tuesday, Feb. 28, for the RSU 13 bond package. You will have in your vote one of the best tools of democracy we enjoy in this country, or the local control of one of the most important institutions in this country, our schools.

Thank you for your support. We continue to be dedicated to both you and our students, and we are on a successful path with Schools of Our Future in RSU 13!

Loren Andrews, who represents Cushing on the RSU 13 School Board, is the board's vice chairman and chairs the district's Student Engagement Task Force.

Comments (8)
Posted by: Sonja Sleeper | Mar 03, 2017 06:58

We can barely afford basic education, the buildings and materials to teach and it grieved me to hear that yet another bond passed for the whistles and bells and the promise of better teachers.  Feel bad that the current teachers are so poorly rated that residents think we need to spend millions on a school that will not pay for itself before, a new and better way comes along, to attract better teachers.  I have to say I do not want a teacher who will not work for less than or in a facility that does not have the latest in technology, especially if it takes food off the table, deprives people of their income and takes even more of the 77% of our property taxes today.  City services, roads, community parks, facilities are all fighting for every penny.  This is a shameful state of affairs.  We need to think outside the box for solutions for better education options and paying for "essential services"  Forget the bells and whistles we cannot afford a cadillac, if it costs too much to live hear who will come? What valued members of our community will be forced to move because they cannot afford the increase in property taxes,  What you think the school will reduce operating budget to ensure no increase?  Far from it I will bet it will go up for salary and other costs that and some new program designed to save the day.   This is my personal opinion.

Posted by: Maggie Trout | Feb 27, 2017 11:06

This is a Construction bond. The headline is grossly misleading.  The bond has nothing to do with student programs and education.  Nothing.

Posted by: Maggie Trout | Feb 27, 2017 10:52

"Gifted and talented is considered a shortage (targeted need) area, so the requirements for certification have been lowered to allow for more teachers to be hired."  As indicated in the State of Maine's Gifted and Talented Application for 2015-2016, RSU 13's application the Administrator for the RSU 13 program is not certified under Gifted and Talented requirements.  The high school Coordinator is not certified.  Only 6 additional credits are required for certification.  Salaries are $72,000+, and $58,000+ for two certified teachers.  The Coordinator salary is not listed. 

And the difference between "approved" and "accredited" couldn't be more vast.

Posted by: Dan Dunkle | Feb 27, 2017 10:14

In regards to the comment on the gifted and talented program, I asked Superintendent John McDonald to clarify and he said: "It probably should read 'approved' as accredited has a different connotation. Our gifted and talented program has full approval under the DOE regulations for gifted and and talented."

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Feb 24, 2017 12:31

Wish to clarify my position on school bond. As I stated at the public hearing, I feel the board has done a good job coming up with a solid working plan to improve our buildings while creating savings by reducing our footprint. My concern that was not relayed in Steve Betts recent article is can Rockland taxpayers afford to take on more debt ? Where is our plan for how we are paying this bill if the proposed savings evaporate. Think we need to be more diligent in our efforts to make the state pay the 55% share they agreed to. Let's bring back municipal revenue sharing or somehow increase revenues. We cannot keep pulling more water from the same well. Hope you vote Tuesday

Posted by: Maggie Trout | Feb 23, 2017 13:46

No.  "Bind" was the correct word.  Long-standing Board member Andrews is wrong in stating that the Gifted and Talented programs are "accredited."  They are not.  I just confirmed that fact with the State Department of Education.  Teachers may have special accreditation, but that can be waived.  "Accreditation" means something, and can't be bandied about irresponsibly.


I am sorry that Ms. Andrews views the changes in curriculum as something she never dreamed would happen.  Those initiatives have been present and funded for decades, elsewhere.  These are not new and brilliant innovations. 


 It is this kind of erroneous statement that should motivate all RSU 13 voters to delve deeper into the rhetoric being presented.  If there are specific structural needs within the schools, let them be addressed as such.  There remains no easily-viewable public document that contains the specifics of the constructions.  RFPs for construction went out last year, so the specifics should be as easily accessible as absentee ballots.


Still no answer to the question of the legal challenge regarding the method of funding for the Siemens energy project.  The buildings are not crumbling. 


Changes in curriculum have nothing to do with the Bonds to be voted on.  As to the Maine Lobster Festival Corporation/Rockland Festival Corporation endorsement, that organization could contribute far more to Rockland schools and the school district.  Members of the organization are in positions to do so.


In 2012 I noted, and previously, and subsequently:  "excluding the significant number of volunteer hours for festival set-up and take-down, and Board planning time, at minimum, over 1000 volunteers contribute over 7,800 man hours. Even figuring minimum wage at $7.50 per hour, (and the nonprofit volunteer value is quoted at between $20 and $25 per hour). The minimal value of the volunteer time is $58,500.  Last year, $10,000 of the Festival contribution money did not even stay in Rockland, but was contributed to Camden."  This has not changed.  But taxpayers, including rent payers, have to endure the increased real property taxes and rents, often without, or with minimal changes in their income.  Yet, they volunteer for the festival corporation year after year.  I think it takes quite a cheek to make this endorsement at all, let alone for all who work within the festival organization and corporation." 


Residents in all RSU 13 municipalities are urged to ignore the rhetoric and delve into more than the "feeling" that, "Why of course, we MUST support the "Schools of Our Future."  That's a phrase.  Phrases do not translate into reality, and schools and education have always been "for our future."





Posted by: Maine Lobster Festival | Feb 23, 2017 12:58

"bond" darn autocorrect

Posted by: Maine Lobster Festival | Feb 23, 2017 12:00

Thank you Loren for your well written appeal. Hopefully the bind will pass with a wide margin!

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