Regional School Unit 52 Superintendent Darlene Burdin did the right thing this week by putting off her plan to bring two elementary grades up to join the middle school ranks in the fall.

Burdin is retiring at the end of the current school year, and imposing this exceptionally controversial proposal on a new head of schools on her way out the door just wouldn’t make sense.

Burdin had hoped to move fifth- and sixth-graders in Greene, Leeds and Turner to the middle school in Turner, creating a four-year middle school for fifth through eighth grade.

This was not, Burdin said repeatedly, a proposal to save money. It was always her intention to create this four-year school to improve learning for the district’s pre-teens.

Parents disagreed, complaining loudly about the time their youngsters would spend on the (largely unmonitored) school bus with much older students, and about the length of these bus trips if students from distant parts of Leeds and Greene were transported to Turner Center.

Burdin clearly heard those parents and recommended to RSU directors to slow down the plan, take another year to research the ramifications of the change, and work on a new proposal with the incoming superintendent.

It was a wise recommendation for a couple of reasons.

It is abundantly more fair for the new superintendent to weigh in on the plan, especially since parents seem so opposed, and the slow-down acknowledges the very real concerns and worries of parents who trust this district to teach and mentor their children.

Very shortly these fifth- and sixth-graders will become seventh- and eighth-graders and they will be attending middle school in Turner, anyway, but the right move now is to give this plan a little more attention before implementation.  

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Looking for something to do with the kids during school vacation week? Take a trip to Bethel and check out the 120-foot tower of ice.

On Tuesday and Friday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., professional ice-climbing guide Bob Baribeau will demonstrate the sport of climbing by picking and hauling his way up the free-standing column near Bethel Station.

The tower has been under construction for months, a drip of water-freezing-to-ice at a time, and is the latest in a series of over-sized winter projects organized by the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce in recent years.

The tower doesn’t have the personality (or jewelry) of Olympia Snow Woman, but it matches the stature of Angus, King of the Mountain and is, as one of the climbers who tested the tower Thursday said, “awesome.”

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Cheers to all of the students who participated in Thursday’s Junior Achievement of Maine’s Titan Challenge business simulation at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College.

Dozens of students from local schools, including Lewiston Regional Technical Center, Oak Hill High School and Poland Regional High School, participated in the competition to make fast-paced simulated business decisions online.

The students at USM-LAC were battling against students logged on to computers at sites on college campuses in Portland, Orono and Presque Isle, and it was all about winning economic strategy developed under pressure. A true real-world simulation.

Cheers also go to the business leaders who coached these high school teams, volunteering their time to excite young students about budgets, marketing and production.

Students at Brewer High School won the day, but the real winner here is Maine as these students bring their enthusiasm to future entrepreneurship in their communities.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.


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