It would seem that the self-serving Maine Department of Education has once again succeeded in making certain that Maine continues on its downward spiral. Maine was once near the top in this country in providing quality public school education. Now, there are 21 states that are doing a better job than Maine in educating young people.

The punitive Department of Education has so intimidated the members of the SAD 58 School Board that it will not even consider trying to restore K-12 education programs in the respective towns.

Maine has a new governor who says he wants “to put people first.” If he can appoint a commissioner of education who agrees with him, then, perhaps, together they can adjust the rules about the minimum number of students necessary to operate a Maine high school. The policy of demanding the long-distance busing of students to big-box schools or else be fined hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for noncompliance should be rescinded.

These days, petroleum prices, by themselves, should discourage more long-distance busing of high school students. Self-sufficiency, sustainability and conservation should become a true reality and not just something to talk about.

The western mountains of Maine are unique. The whole area represents “Maine, the way life should be.” The small towns that make up SAD 58 should be allowed to provide quality public school education for all of the young people who still live in them. The reasons for school consolidation (teacher shortages and limited curriculums) are gone; they are a thing of the past. There is no real shortage of teachers, and existing electronic technology provides unlimited curriculum possibilities.

At present, there are at least 16 towns in remote, out-of-the-way places in Maine that have been allowed to provide K-12 programs for their young people. The K-12 North Haven school program has 70 students and has been rated by the Maine Department of Education as “exemplary.”

A K-12 program in Stratton would also have 70 students. With a lot of work and planning, perhaps it could become possible to provide yet another “exemplary” program in Stratton-Eustis.

Rangeley presently provides a quality K-12 program for about 216 students. A Phillips K-12 program would have approximately 219 students.

Strong would have about 199 students, and Kingfield would have about 138 students in grades K-12.

If the SAD 58 directors are unsure of just how to go about planning how to restart K-12 programs in their respective towns, they should be able to get good advice and help from school directors in any of the other 16 towns that are providing K-12 programs at the present time.

Complete educational programs in the four SAD 58 towns would be a win-win situation for all area young people, all of the towns and all of the taxpayers.

It is way past time that taxpaying citizens stand up and insist that the Maine Department of Education repeal its punitive rules, and that our elected school officials do the right thing for the area young people.

David A. Holmes is a former math and science teacher for more than 30 years, including 22 years as teacher and principal at three high schools. He lives in Kingfield.

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