We’ve approved the School Administrative District budget (could we do something about the acronym?) We’ve elected and re-elected members of the School Board. We’ve celebrated Telstar’s fiftieth. But: are we satisfied? The public can’t solve the problems of high school education. What we can and should do is inquire, consider, and encourage. Herewith, two big issues and some questions.

Getting and keeping good teachers, and helping them become better.

  1. How do salaries and conditions compare with other districts? (We compete with country, suburb and city.)
  2. How do we encourage further study and periodic updating? (Subject matter and teaching methods change, sometimes quickly. And interest and commitment sometimes need renewal.)
  3. Would better staff rooms, renovated toilets and new desk chairs improve morale?

Giving students what they need to be successful and civilized people.

  1. When should school start? (Considerable evidence suggests that teenagers do better if they start the day later.)
  2. How do we create an environment where those who want to learn are comfortable, those who might want to learn are encouraged, and those who don’t want to learn are compelled to achieve a reasonable minimum standard? (We need classrooms where learning is the norm; the uninterested and lazy must not set the tone.)
  3. Do our diplomas certify that graduates are sufficiently literate and numerate to succeed in employment or college? (I see too many college freshmen who can’t read a serious book, or write a coherent essay. We all see high school graduates who can’t make change or calculate a percentage if their point of sale computer fails.)
  4. Do we help our students take advantage of the educational and cultural resources of our town and region? (Science: Maine Mineral and Gem Museum, USM’s Planetarium… Arts: Portland Museum of Art, college concerts… Humanities: Bethel Historical Society, L/A Museum, USM’s Osher Map Library…)
  5. Do students learn enough about possible futures from local and regional sources? (Employers, colleges, advanced students, etc. At school and in the field.)
  6. Do we rely too much on the laptop god? Can we control non-educational use in class time? Can we shape discriminating users of digital media who can also go for hours or days without them?
  7. French is the second language of Maine; can we encourage its study? (There’s a francophone world three hours away.)

Let’s ask them, and think about them.

In recent years David R Jones has been an instructor in College Composition and English at White Mountains Community College, a substitute teacher at Telstar, and an instructor at the Rumford and South Paris centers of the University of Maine, Augusta.


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