Withdrawal is Not the Way Forward

In campaigning for the school board I have met with many Rockland residents, the majority of whom I found to not support withdrawal. For those that do support withdrawal, it comes down to two things: accounting and better schools. I don’t argue with these motivations, but there are far less disruptive ways to see to them.

I feel that the role of School Board Representative, like all public service roles, is best performed publicly and openly whenever possible. Public service is not meant to be practiced behind closed doors or in private channels exclusively, because we then lose the opportunity for a fair and balanced examination of the data and motivations impacting any issue.

It is my opinion that support for the withdrawal question in Rockland is at least partially due to a lack of public discourse on the matter. I wish that Rockland School Board Representatives had been able to get out ahead of this and inform the community and our City Council more effectively. We should be equipped with data but we are working mostly from assumptions and hearsay. I’m disappointed that we didn’t learn from our experience in losing St. George.

From my conversations, some see withdrawal as the best way to get answers about where our money is spent. To that I say we should already have that data. The fact that we don’t is really a failure on the part of our RSU School Board members, our City Council and us as citizens. It’s our RSU, we elect a School Board to run it for us. Why would we need to withdraw from it in order to know where and how our money is spent? This question should be seen by the School Board and City Council as a mandate for more clear and open communication.

A few people also shared with me that they believe withdrawal might be the best way to get positive change in our schools. Many people feel that we’ve have heard plans before and they have gone nowhere. So what makes this plan different, and why should we have faith that this administrative team will accomplish what others have failed to do before?

As I see it, there are two major differences when comparing the last administration’s plan to this recently proposed conceptual plan. First, the alignment between curriculum and RSU buildings was not present in previous plans, so building organization still felt unsettled. Second, the former plan lacked specific improvements as well as a way to pay for them. Plainly put, the former plan seemed unrealistic, and not worth the disruption.

This conceptual plan covers the bases, and it’s worth our support. I believe that the School Board and the RSU are on a positive track. I feel we need to come together as a unified community as it’s our best chance at realizing the schools we envision for our kids and our community. If we vote for withdrawal, all of the progress will undoubtedly grind to a halt. Strategically, it doesn’t make sense.

Nearly all of the dozen or so withdrawal supporters that I spoke with pointed out that it can be stopped at any time. While technically true, it’s not as simple as it might seem. We are really putting a withdrawal plan in motion with a “yes” vote. It seems far more reasonable that we just don’t start it at all, and instead put our energies into getting the answers and positive change that we want.

We should give our current administration the opportunity to course correct away from the recent problems. Giving up on them now is like supporting a football team struggling with poor management for season after season, only to sell the team off once a good manager is finally hired and positive changes start to take shape.

I will be very happy to serve Rockland as an RSU 13 School Board member. My fear is that I’ll take my seat and the first challenge will be to navigate Rockland’s withdrawal. Things will not get easier and there is no evidence at all that things will get more affordable with a withdrawal from the RSU. All improvement in the RSU will grind to a halt as we hold the rest of our school community in check.

Rockland will be far better served to enable the RSU to progress and improve, while demanding more transparency and clearer communication from our School Board. We can support our students and staff while also promoting accountability and positive change within the RSU. I strongly urge Rockland to vote no on our Question #1.

Thank you.