By Lorraine Glowczak
Approximately 20 individuals in the Raymond community
attended the RSU14 withdrawal committee’s public workshop on Thursday, January
10 to express thoughts and concerns regarding the potential of Raymond schools
withdrawing from the RSU14 school district. It was an evening of open, honest
and civil discussion, located at Broadcast Studio, 423 Webbs Mills Road.
“The purpose of tonight’s forum is to listen to you express
your thoughts - we are not here for you to listen to us,” stated the Chair of
the withdrawal committee, Rolf Olsen. “We may not be able to answer all your
questions tonight, but we are here to listen and to take into consideration
everything you say so that we can put together a coherent plan.”
The first individual to speak at the podium was Susan
Brackett, fourth grade teacher at Raymond Elementary School (RES). Brackett has
been teaching at RES for many years, including before and after the RSU14 merger.
She stated her major concern was how the withdrawal would affect the students
and curriculum, specifically in terms of special education coaching, math
coaching and professional development. “If we withdraw, we’ll lose a lot of
financial support that will negatively impact the students – especially the
struggling students. I am afraid that there will not be enough money in the
budget to support high quality educational needs.”
RES Vice-Principal Beth Peavey concurred with the issues
Brackett shared regarding the impact on services and the students.
Additionally, she stated concerns regarding how the morale of the teachers was
being affected through the withdrawal process. She also spoke about her
concerns of the decline in student population.
Other issues mentioned regarding the RSU14 withdrawal
included but were not limited to the following:
*Parents who recently moved to Raymond as a result of the
present RSU14 school district and are
very disappointed to learn that a
withdrawal is being considered.
*The vote to start a withdrawal happened in August when
there is little turnout due to vacations, etc. (Committee explained that state
statue mandated the voting process.)
*More awareness is needed surrounding the withdrawal
efforts – to inform the public.
*There seems to be more concern regarding the financial
aspects and less concern on quality education.
*Suggestion was made that the withdrawal committee take
time to listen to the teachers individually. “A public forum is good, but perhaps
consider meeting the teachers separately to answer their questions.”
*Continuity of services if the withdrawal occurs.
*Question regarding the long-term plan. “What is the plan
for the next five to 10 years?”
*Question regarding cost. “What will it cost to run a
*Question regarding change. “What has changed since the
last withdrawal effort a couple of years ago?”
There was also community support for the withdrawal.
Retired educator, Walter Lunt, stated he was in support
of withdrawing from the RSU14 district. “I
view the consolidation as a forced
marriage, one that has been on shaky ground since it has been instituted.” Lunt
told the committee. “This union has never felt like a single district. One
issue that convinced me that we will never work well together was a proposal that
was made when student enrollment was up in one town and down in the other. The proposal
was to have students from North Windham be transported to Raymond. That ended
up being a very contentious battle. It wasn’t one district working together
using existing resources but one town versus another.”
Lunt further explained that both towns have very good
reasons for how they wish to proceed but are diverse in approach. “Bottom line,
we [Raymond] are fundamentally different in the way we spend funds, our population
and the geography. It just seems each town needs to run their own school.”
He did admit that the separation may not save tax-payer money
but stated that it is hard to put a price on autonomy,which he highly values.
Others who spoke for the withdrawal shared Lunt’s sentiments,
naming the new maintenance building in Windham as one of the determining
factors, with local control a big consideration for those who wish to disband
All in attendance, whether for or against the withdrawal,
agreed that choice of high school and providing top-quality education are two
of the upmost important considerations.
The committee responded to concerns and questions as they
could - reminding all present that the intent of going through the withdrawal
process is to see if a more cohesive collaboration can take place between the
two towns. It was clarified that saving money was not the sole purpose of the
initiated withdrawal but to bring back local control, with quality education as
the sole focus. It was also reiterated that there would be a continuity of
services, including all the support systems such as special education, etc. No
matter how the withdrawal process unfolds, choice of high school will remain in
The public workshop was a required portion of the 22-step
withdrawal processes. The next withdrawal committee meeting will take place on
Monday, January 28 and will be an executive session. There will be another public
workshop in February, date yet to be determined.