Media Archive

Remember why we send our students to school

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 165, No. 39, September 24, 2003

To the editor:

I noted with interest the article in your Sept. 10 issue re. "Regional School Discussion..." The basic premises promoting this concept involve school finance and the loss of pupil population. It is and has been the theory of this State through most of the 20th century and particularly after WWII that consolidation was the way to go. In many instances it made a great deal of sense but the loss of a school, any school in any town, is not without its own wounds, and, in my opinion, this phenomenon cannot be treated in a cavalier fashion.

Surely no one can doubt that problems exist; one needs but examine the school enrollment data to note that there has been an outward migration of the four SADs mentioned in your article. For example, between 1997-2002 there has been a loss of 368 elementary school pupils, and a loss of 104 secondary school student in those affected communities making a total of 472 students overall. Elementary schools built in the 1950s and 1960s sit empty in silent eloquence or have been retrofitted to another purpose. The problems currently exacerbated by economic problems are obvious, but the solutions, both long - and short - term, are not without controversy.

For example, regionalization infers that bigger is better and a favoraole pupil population must be maintained at some point in the region's secondary school(s). Good point, and there are those who can show evidence that larger regional school districts with their larger schools are more economical re : the Trostel Axiom. In these uncertain economic times taxation and its burdens cannot be ignored; however, to embrace "regionalization" simply because it purports to be more economical can thrust aside the principal reason that schools exist at all.

Our culture maintains its schools for the indoctrination of its youth into mores, customs, and values it holds dear. Most students take this programming to heart conforming to the several demands of society, but some do not thus the reason for jails and incarceration. The up side of the unwritten contract is that students can learn to a live in and be an active part of our society making a living and enjoying the communal life of which most of us are a part.

What does this have to do with regionalization, you say ? Just this. Simply because the size of schools and/or school districts matter economically does not mean that the schools therein are of a given quality. Quality education is defined in the classroom by the relationship between the teacher and each student, and there is some evidence (out of New York City, can you believe) that has motivated the City Fathers to establish smaller high schools not in excess of 500 students within the bowels of what were high schools previously accommodating several thousand !

Those of us who have lived through the various zigzags of educational trends often found that when the novelty wore off much of the purported "advantages" slipped quietly away. Thus the inclination to seize upon the regionalism" hypothesis as a saving grace should be carefuUy examined not only from the promise of economics but from the quality of the education that our "kids" get and deserve. We should remember that the K-12 education we offer our young people is for most students a "one-shot deal." We owe it to them and ourselves not only to make it as easy on our pocket books as possible, but not to forget why they're there in the first place.

Robert W. Ronco, Sr.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.