The topic of school system mergers in Maine, anywhere in the free World is a very heated topic.
People squirm. Because small Maine communities are built on, steeped deeply in rich school history. Thrive on the vivid folklore, are identified in part by the school colors they cheer for in sports, music, academics. The high school graduation ceremonies they attend yearly too like one big town wide family.
In small Maine towns where the entire graduating class knows each other well.
Growing up together in and out of the school house corridors lined with lockers, class rooms. Classmates with lives so intertwined and connected in small Maine communities. That the very notion or mention of a Maine school district merger creates indigestion, heat under the collar, division among family and friends.
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Maine, where the village raises, has a hand in the rearing, shaping of each small child. The local population may be sparse in number. But they all shine brightly when pitching in to create the community flavor that makes each burg unique.
That Maine neighbor is your little league coach.
His sister married your cousin. The one who is your Scout leader. Who’s brother is a pastor. Who married into a family that has three educators among them. Delicate, volatile, not an easy proposition.
Beyond the emotion of even considering such a bold albeit necessary move. As small rural areas of Maine without an abundance of jobs continue to hemorrhage employment options. Are frugal and resourceful but never flush with cash to reverse the tide.
With our Maine kids becoming the greatest export if we don’t strive to embrace necessary change. I would rather take logical steps to assure a quality education continues in consolidation. That it can be bankrolled by the local property tax payers already under the weight of other local obligations. The increase weight of which speeds the exodus of youth and their parents alike.
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So school merger in Maine. Like two hospitals in an area that both are struggling to keep up with the maintenance of facilities. When there is shrinkage in patient flow as population decreases and there is room for one and a half or a single health care center. Isn’t is smarter to consider how we would do it before we are at the brink of doing it?
Less emotion, planning for not firing, just not replacing retiring educators and administrators ahead of time.
Less costly because it is more natural and thought out. Then force fed from the state and not defined locally. Where the focus is always our children, their proper education.
Making the most of the resources we do have. Not the ones we don’t with already over burdensome property taxes. That are a band aid at best if not applied to a sound strategy. And ignoring the delicate subjects needing fresh air and the same kind of innovative ideas to embrace change. Be disappointed, but not angry when the local diner debate is school merger, consolidation in Maine education.
Would there be a savings, what would be the best bus transportation plan, which buildings for which grades and educational uses.
Like a partnership and joining forces. Not a shot gun wedding force in the eleventh hour crazy. But input, a strategy to set minds at ease. For when looking back, we did the best we could with something that was going to happen. Like it or not. Why replace the building roof, heating system, do any work on the structure.
If in three years a merger happens not planned for and it does not make the cut for a purpose in the new merger. But represents a waste of funds for a future use not as a school. That is wasting the tight, precious tax payer dollars we do have.
The promises and perils of school consolidation. The Maine department of education started the consolidation mandate a few years back that seemed a certainty at the time. Hard feelings developing because gun to the head told you will.
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But if revisited with calm clear reasoning. Attacking the problem, not the people, the business exercise of how would it work, when is the best time to get ready on both or more sides of the partnership could be seen.
As the best possible solution to a very contentious problem no one really wants to face, let alone implement.
Locally based decision making on education always wins over dictated from many hours away by people you don’t know, don’t share the home town connection.
But no longer is the one room school house in Maine an option like it was in the distant past.
We can not afford duplication in school systems five miles apart.
Waste left on it’s own festers and sinks the ship when it lists to the point of no return. Moderation in the approach to consolidation can smooth feathers and turn up the volume on reason. Without letting fear rule the roost.
The concerns each side of the school merger lament are common. “We”, “our” has to replace “they” if there is a coming together to share resources to be more than the sum of the parts would be without the combination.
Or law enforcement operations with the same mission, only wearing different color uniforms. 10-4. Roger that.
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Yesteryear state incentives to stay small and preserve what we have today tomorrow discouraged consolidation.
But like many aspects of shrinking population Maine towns faced with escalating expenses to keep the shops open, the streets paved and plowed, the halls of education shining brightly.
The easy revenue sharing money is gone, flow back from the state to small towns drying up to a trickle.
Changes to encourage efficiencies and improve accountability are needed.
Inside or outside or better both coming together to shape the education in small Maine towns. Before disaster hits because it was put off and neglected which only makes it more costly in ignoring the declining numbers and increase in red ink flowing in small Maine communities.
That lead to lay offs, wide spread panic when the push comes to shove. And the time for the rhetoric, the face saving fence straddling debate is long over. And drastic measures in the slash and burn, the wasting money on expenditures that won’t be good in the long run. If left until do too much in too little time. No pause to bend it, not break it.
Due to delay, missing a plan all hurts the Maine towns deeply. That will take more recovery time to heal from then if the earlier pro-active approach shaped by many was seriously was kicked into gear. Double clutched explored and then implemented fully. By moving forward.
Without the “war between the states” bloodshed atmosphere over which trophy case location the gold balls will be placed.
The new color scheme and combined bigger better mascot branding in the marriage. The Maine communities have to come together quickly.
Get up to speed in forming a working partnership to offer a stronger, tighter educational experience that lasts. Than ignoring the complicated problem that will cause going it alone in a sinking ship. Where ultimately the kids suffer. As this, that course of study are dropped entirely. That program trimmed to the bone and too limited. As the intrastructure erodes. Becomes very outdated, just plain inefficent.
It is no longer a case of if you want to have a Maine school merger.
It is past the opportune time of devising the plan for the best way how to consolidate school systems. Plan quickly, build slowly and the end result will be stronger, lasting. And assure the quality of education in our small Maine towns all will rally around and support.
I’m Maine REALTOR Andrew Mooers, ME Broker