RSU 13 deserves a future of great schools

By Steven Roberts | Feb 16, 2017

Rockland — Our community deserves a great education system and deserves your support for the Regional School Unit 13 Bond Referendum.

Of course the primary reason for creating and keeping great schools is for the children of our community. Great schools are an investment in their future. What sort of future do we want for the youth among us?

As for me, I’m committed to these young citizens' having the capacity, not only to have dreams and aspirations for a future of their own design, but also to see their dreams and aspirations realized. It is my sincere hope that you share that commitment with me.

Closely related in this commitment to our children’s success is providing our schools' employees the infrastructure they need to succeed. These public servants have taken on careers or jobs in educating our kids and should have the support available to them to achieve a sense of accomplishment and find fulfillment in their employment.

With these two goals comes a third and just as important goal or benefit. It comes in the contribution that great schools make to a community. When a vibrant school community provides classrooms rich in educational value as well as a deeply satisfying work culture, communities and their economies thrive.

The citizens of RSU 13 now have an opportunity to put their stamp of approval on the three full years of work and planning the administrators, staff and board of directors have invested toward making such improvements to the experience of public education in our region.

We have worked with a curriculum-and-culture first approach to improving our schools and the education we deliver. We have added pre-kindergarten and realigned our school grades to match the primary, middle school and high school model. This has allowed us to begin unifying our curriculum across schools while reducing or eliminating teacher travel between schools. We have reduced the number of school changes our students must make in their preK-12 education. We have introduced restorative practices into our schools, which promises a culture of responsible students. And we have established a state-certified gifted and talented program for our students. This is just a small sample of the steps we have taken toward educational improvement.

The private sector of our community has also stepped up to the plate with grants, as well as with gifts in the form of scholarships, such as the Worthington Scholarship program that promises college scholarship assistance to virtually all who are willing to do the academic work to qualify.

Now it is time for our community as a whole to support making the quality of our facilities match the standards of our educational commitment and the standards of contemporary statutory educational requirements (e.g. Americans with Disabilities Act; Title 9 requirements; Special Education requirements; many of which have changed immensely or did not even exist when our schools were constructed).

When we originally came up with the Schools of Our Future plan, we realized changes were needed in the way we used the facilities we have, yet it was difficult to quantify what those changes needed to be without first making and implementing the plan for our curriculum and school culture needs. Now that we have established a path for these, it is clear what needs to be done regarding our facilities. We have already begun that process.

We have begun the process of retiring old and redundant facilities while upgrading and making plans for the renovation, rehabilitation and building of others. And we have made these plans in such a way as to keep them budget-neutral. This means that the plans we have for renovation and construction for a new primary school in Owls Head, additional classroom and cafeteria space at Oceanside Middle School in Thomaston, as well as renovations and upgrades at Oceanside High School in Rockland, will not result in the school district's asking for another dime in revenues from the towns for these projects. These projects, as well as the recently completed energy conservation projects, are all to be funded through already-identified savings through efficiencies and the subsequent reductions in operating costs. And we have applied for and received grants and subsidized loans toward these goals totaling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The configuration and operation of our district has been inefficient and wasteful in the past. We have created a plan designed to end the waste of taxpayer money, eliminate inefficiencies, reduce costs, and reinvest these savings into remediating years of budgetary neglect of our facilities, in modernizing our educational infrastructure, and in replacing facilities that have long since outlived their useful lifespan. The intent of this plan is to eliminate the need for major construction for years into the future and set the district up to have a safe, inviting and comfortable environment that encourages education for our students and work satisfaction for our staff.

We have before us Feb. 28 a question of what kind of future we want for our community. Do we want to keep struggling year after year with school budget after school budget that wastes money on a system of inefficient, old and poorly configured facilities, or do we want a future created on the foundation of a great educational system, with great schools and a vibrant economy? The sad truth to saying “no” on this issue is that without making the changes in the Schools of Our Future plan, we will continue to spend the same amount of money in upkeep and inefficient operation of the current configuration. This bond issue will pay for itself.

Yes, our community deserves the Schools of Our Future, as planned over the past three years. It deserves the prospect of a future of vitality spurred on by great schools, a community that will attract young families, that will be inviting to new businesses and a magnet to responsible citizens.

Please support the Schools of Our Future referendum Feb. 28, and by all means get out and vote. Your community is depending on you.

Steven Roberts is chairman of the RSU 13 School Board.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Maggie Trout | Feb 22, 2017 10:56

"Schools of Our Future"  Boy, does this remind me of the dialogue in 'The Madwoman of Chaillot', where the key to overcoming protest and assuring financial investment was coming up with a great name.  People truly should get ahold of this film, if not the play. (Both in the library system).  As if schools were not previously "of our future."  I wonder just how bad it would be if public schools were not so politically driven - or anything else for that matter.  I wonder how much more it would cost to have open public schools funded by the communities.  I wonder if I can still make a decent chocolate cake.



Posted by: Maggie Trout | Feb 19, 2017 13:59

You see, this is the kind of rhetoric that sounds just great, doesn't it?  "We have before us Feb. 28 a question of what kind of future we want for our community. Do we want to keep struggling year after year with school budget after school budget that wastes money on a system of inefficient, old and poorly configured facilities, or do we want a future created on the foundation of a great educational system, with great schools and a vibrant economy?"  And, as the appetizer to that entrée: " Closely related in this commitment to our children’s success is providing our schools' employees the infrastructure they need to succeed. These public servants have taken on careers or jobs in educating our kids and should have the support available to them to achieve a sense of accomplishment and find fulfillment in their employment."  "Public servants?"  No question of their value, but they are not "public servants," which, as far as I know, hasn't had its definition changed.  But it sounds great!  No need.  No question of the value of quality personnel.  You know, the whole first section of this piece has nothing to do with passing the Bond referendum.  But it's a fabulous lead-in, isn't it?



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