RSU 19 aftermath: Voters balk at too much money, too few results

By Everett Simpson, Special to the BDN
Posted Nov. 14, 2012, at 11:08 a.m.

The fact that voters defeated a $3.6 million loan to Regional School Unit 19 on Nov. 6 should send a resounding message to the Newport-area school district: Fiscal irresponsibility will not be tolerated. The voters have spoken.

Because of mistakes in previous budgets, the district is short $3.6 million this year. Residents were asked to approve a loan to get through the school year. Dixmont, Etna, Hartland, Newport, Palmyra, Plymouth and St. Albans voted against the loan. Corinna approved it.

The superintendent has cut the 2012 budget in two increments: $830,000 before the emergency loan vote and $750,000 after it. The $1.6 million in cuts to education are a drastic and unprecedented emergency response toward solving the budget crisis in RSU 19.

I voted against the loan because I do not believe that spending more money on education will have a positive effect on test scores. It does not make sense to finance a long-term debt to further promote educational failure.

It is time for RSU 19 to examine the quality of information being taught and the resulting underperforming test scores at Nokomis Regional High School. It is not acceptable for Nokomis to be ranked one of the lowest-achieving schools in Maine.

Elimination of some extracurricular and co-curricular activities at the schools might create a greater focus on classroom subjects required of students on standardized achievement tests. Can public schools be realistically expected to provide for every possible want, service and notion beyond classroom learning?

Eliminating sports, cheerleading, music and activity busing is unfortunate for the students. However, the cuts do not touch the core academic curriculum. Nokomis activities are partly supported by sports boosters and music boosters organizations

It is unfair that students are impacted by financial problems caused by the administrators and school board. The lesson to students is the impossibility of living beyond the financial means of supporting an unsustainable lifestyle. Everyone does not get everything they want, every time, all the time. Teach the truth. Life is not fair.

In comparison, is it fair for the school department to invite a taxpayer to shoulder increasing property taxes consecutively for 10 years?

The helter-skelter approach to school finances took years to perfect. Who would have imagined a former school superintendent borrowing budgeted finances from a new fiscal year to pay expenses incurred during the previous fiscal year?

RSU 19 needs community involvement in the schools. I have attended school board meetings and witnessed board members being practically spoon-fed information by the superintendent. Following little, or no discussion, the board impassively and unanimously votes to support the superintendent.

As for community involvement, it is ridiculous for RSU 19 towns to go year after year looking for for someone to run for school board. Corinna, for example, had a school board opening at the March town meeting because no one was interested in running for election. The board of selectmen later appointed a school board member.

Where are the actively involved parents in RSU 19? It is now up to parents to demonstrate a sincere and profound public interest in the education of the children. Run for school board election. The school board must become active in its own right, rather than depending on the superintendent to make every single move.

We’ve seen how that works.

Everett E. Simpson, of Corinna, is a former member of the Corinna Planning Board and the Corinna Comprehensive Planning Committee.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/11/14/opinion/rsu-19-aftermath-voters-balk-at-too-much-money-too-few-results/ printed on April 20, 2014