New MSAD 46 School discussed in Dexter Thursday, January 25, 2007
By Frank Spizuoco - Approximately 20 concerned citizens met at the Abbott
Memorial Library in Dexter on January 23 to discuss concerns regarding the construction of a new K-8 district school proposed to be built on
the Fern property in Dexter. Four people spoke in opposition to either the school site chosen or the closing of the Garland and Exeter schools.
No one spoke in opposition to a new school.
The scheduled Forum for next Tuesday at the Abbott library in Dexter been cancelled so people can attend the meeting in Bangor at Peakes Auditorium where the issue of consolidating educational administration will be discussed in depth by state officials.
The following are some of the comments made by those present:
Moderator Dave Pearson;
“It looks like we have an 800# gorilla to contend with concerning the governor's new education proposal to consolidate administration. I am in
favor of the Ellms property site for a new school. (When the Ellms property site is mentioned it is the 60 acres behind the golf course owned by the town of Dexter, and not the present 2 playing fields and tennis court on Zions Hill Road.) Some people feel it's good we have our school proposal completed before the new proposed school legislation, and others feel we should wait and see how the new legislation will affect our situation.
Why wasn't the Ellms property picked for the new school? I have asked 3 times and was never answered. The Fern site will cost 147 K of local
money and the town of Dexter owns the Ellms property.
The Ellms property is owned by the Town of Dexter, not the School District. The Fern site has public water and sewer. It costs a lot to
get utilities onto a site. The Ellms property has no 3 phase power. We wanted to get closer to the Exeter and Garland communities.
The site has been picked and it's done. We had 3 public meetings and we answered the questions. It was the philosophy of the board that we
needed to be near the middle of the district. If it had only been a middle school, than the Ellms ball field area would have been approved.
A new K-8 school will give us a chance to upgrade all our school buildings. It is hard to keep up with the technology equally. We want brand new and the best the students can have for the least amount of money. We first had to try and consolidate at the high school level.
After that failed we felt we would have a better chance to get a new school if we did a K-8 project. We have been told by the Commissioner of
Education that new school construction will move forward. It might be good if they froze all construction. If they don't and we don't build
now, we might not fare as well with another formula. We can't do anything now and take that chance.
I support in town schools in the 3 towns. I am against sprawl. The Ellms property is the best place to build a middle school. The present grammar
schools have a lot of assets. They have open spaces; outdoor labs for environmental lab use. I wonder why the Ellms property behind the golf
course proposal was not seriously considered? The site chosen was to appease Garland and Exeter. The school would be better in the center of
Dexter. The Brookings Report and Small School Alliance concur. The small school's in rural communities is one reason why many people are moving
to small towns in Maine. The Elms property was not looked at hard enough. We never got the discussion in Garland about closing our school.
Kevin Jordan, Superintendent;
It took us 8 to 10 years to get on the construction approval list. If you lose your position and are removed from the list it may be a minimum
of 8-10 years before getting on the list again. It's not even decided when a new list will come out. The Education Commissioner is not happy
with MSAD 46. I have a threatening letter from the Commissioner concerning our getting a new school built. If we do not build a new
school it will have a significant economic impact to keep our present schools operating for the next 15 years. If you want to go back to
another site we would have to put in a new application. If you read the fine print you will see that the EPS formula will force consolidation.
Enrollment in our district is not declining as fast as first thought. Regionalization and consolidation are in flux. The Governor's plan has
no chance of passage. There are far more questions than answers. It scares me if his proposal does go through on July 1 our School Board
will be dissolved. We will then have limited representation and loss of local control.
I hope the state will do the right thing. Everyone agrees to a new middle school; it's what we want. I talked to Senator John Nutting about
closing our small schools in Garland and Exeter. He has a bill before the legislature to eliminate EPS funding. It had passed originally by
only one vote. When the smoke clears there may not be the incentive to hurry up our school construction project. Why not wait until then and
see what happens? I was on the state Board of Education and saw some Superintendent's in Maine load up on portables to get on the fast track
toward new construction. (to look poorer and more in need) If the EPS is eliminated schools may get the money to renovate their small schools. I
am not frightened by the scenario of not being high enough on the state new construction list. I realize our local board has a lot of pressure
on them from the state and must go through with the project. But citizens have a different role about assessing their school and may
think differently about moving ahead with the project. Our town of Garland has people moving in with young children and many want the small
I think the Governor's plan will pass. I'll be amazed if it doesn't. The train is on the tracks. There is no thought in the details. They are
just pushing it through. Our proposed new district will be large. So we will have the need for many administration assistants, adding another
layer of bureaucracy. We will also lose our school boards. The governor and the Commissioner seem to dislike rural schools. They say they won't
close rural schools, but there is a big reduction in building maintenance funding proposed for schools. We must protect our small schools. If Senator Nutting is putting in a bill to eliminate the EPS funding formula, I will sign on with him. With a class size of 17 students mandated, it will change the funding formula and cost a district more money. This regionalization could lead to the biggest property tax increase we've seen. We want to change it so it doesn't hurt us as much. With laptops to students and 151 more principals, the state will have to reduce state aid to communities because of this added expense.
If everyone is so sure the Governor's plan will pass, what happens to the small schools? Our school is in terrible shape.
It's 15 years now and I am still teaching in a portable classroom. I know a small school builds self esteem, but can we afford the luxury of
small schools? We have to get the best bang for the buck. We can't afford the luxury of waiting. We have asthma triggered by mold and other
health problems. If we turn it down now it will be, Dexter, see you later. What will we do if the new school is turned down. It's difficult
to provide security in the portables, to lock down. At present I have to use an allen wrench to lock the door if there is an emergency. A new
school has 1 key for the entire school doors.
I am going to have to leave Dexter because of the health reasons at the school. I like the convenience of living in Dexter. I moved here from a large
city. My kids walk to school but walking to school had changed. It used to be safe to walk. I know the Fern site has a question of walking.
Dexter is even outgrowing its portable classrooms now. The traffic congestion at the primary school is a joke.
On the board we began to see new issues-library space, and the increased need for special education. We realized we had a bigger problem than
just to build another portable; we saw a larger need. At first I looked at a 3-8 school. This has evolved. We built a portable in Garland to
keep the grades where they were but new space issues have evolved over the last 2-3 years. A new school will last 50 years with room for expansion.
I am a home rule concept person but the expense is too much of a burden today. There is the added expense of transportation. I am in favor in my
heart, but not in my mind. There is a problem to maintain these present schools. Flat roofs are bad. The freezing and thawing is a problem; they leak and there is mold. The proposed school has a inward pitching roof and water will be disposed of properly. We are lucky we got started
before this new proposal by the governor goes into effect..
The loss of our small school in Ripley has cost us. Our Grange is declining; our church enrollment is down.
School and church have nothing to do with a communities decline. By unification in one district school it makes our children stronger.
The state kept our application for Exeter on hold for years. We were threatened by the Augusta bureaucracy. The Governor's plan will grab
more power to Augusta”.