When something’s shoved down your throat, you gag it up – regardless of the potential medicinal value of the product shoved.
That was the case for voters in Ellsworth, Hancock and Lamoine, who voted decisively Nov. 5 to withdraw from Regional School Unit 24 (RSU 24). When the municipalities exit the RSU on June 30, they will take with them roughly half of the district’s 2,500 students. This is certain to dramatically change the educational landscape for the three breakaway communities and the nine left behind.
School consolidation was a bitter pill from the beginning. A 2009 state law mandated formation of larger school districts. The premise wasn’t too bad: team up to save money on administrative costs. But the delivery was awful: bow to our will or kiss your state subsidy goodbye.
With lots of grumbling, municipal and school officials throughout Hancock County began working on ways to comply with the law. For Eastbrook, Ellsworth, Franklin, Gouldsboro, Hancock, Lamoine, Mariaville, Sorrento, Steuben, Sullivan, Waltham and Winter Harbor, the solution was forming RSU 24. Residents of all 12 communities voted (albeit in very small numbers) to approve consolidation. The member municipalities elected RSU board members, who hired central office administrators.
If the RSU was a monster, as some opponents claim, the member communities were Dr. Frankenstein.
As Ellsworth, Hancock and Lamoine begin disentangling from the RSU and building their own school systems, it will be in their best interest to maintain a cooperative relationship with the RSU. Granted, that may be hard to do following the heightened emotions leading up to election day.
There’s a lot of work to do. If all parties can go about that work in a spirit of cooperation, the children of these 12 communities in flux will have the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson from the adults. And isn’t it all about education?