To the Editor:

I attended the SAD 17 meeting held by the board at the Legion Hall in West Paris. It was obvious they had spent considerable time preparing for it. I was disappointed in the thrust of that meeting. Although it was presented as an “informational” meeting, it appeared to me that the board was trying to explain why keeping the Agnes Gray School open in West Paris was nearly impossible.

The lack of opportunity for citizens to openly express their thoughts was discouraging. The idea of writing a question or comment and placing them on posters around the room was obviously a way of keeping the meeting under control. At some point, the board needs to listen, not present.

After decades of our communities being assured that SAD 17 wanted to maintain community schools, I need to hear a similar commitment again. I would like to believe promises made to us. I thought of SAD 17 as a big family devoted to the same goals. It is now being suggested that we may need to abandon the community schools that have served us well. If Agnes Gray School is closed, will Harrison, Waterford, and Otisfield be far behind? Why is closing schools near students’ homes a benefit to the district?

I heard a board member suggest a need to abandon our “egos” and think of the greater good. The assumption, it appeared, was that bigger is better: that to achieve the greater good we must think big. Well, I for one do not believe that bigger is always better.

Young people should have the opportunity to attend school in their own communities, where they can learn and grow with children who are their friends and neighbors. Parents deserve to have a school close enough to allow them to easily be part of their children’s educational life. It is also a benefit as far as child care is concerned.

The smaller towns in SAD 17 need to maintain an identity of their own. Closing schools in the smaller towns will tear the heart out of their existence. Norway, Paris, and Oxford are fine communities, but the surrounding towns also deserve to be respected as important parts of the district.

Rodney Abbott

West Paris

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