May 3, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Like our governor, letter grades too simple

By Bill Nemitz

(Continued from page 1)

Shortsighted? Some would say so.

A sign that money is tight? No doubt.

Yet, maintains Fredette, "I don't think (raising RSU 19's school grades) is necessarily money-driven."

Rather, he said, "the bottom line here is to engage the community and say, "Hey look, maybe there are some issues here.'"

Such as?

"You can barely get someone to run for the school board," Fredette said. "And I think that, in and of itself, is a problem."

Maybe it is, but a two-way race for the school board is hardly what's needed to bump up RSU 19's flagging school grades.

To do that, maintains Superintendent Potter, the district needs more math and reading specialists who can provide one-on-one interventions with kids who struggle to keep up with the curriculum ... more literacy specialists to help kids who can see Jane run but can't read about it ... more hope.

"We just don't have those resources at all," Potter said. "Let's be realistic in terms of what the challenges are. Every child deserves a chance and deserves a level playing field if possible. But the fact of life is, that isn't happening."

At the same time, slapping a school with a D or an F serves only to reinforce the obvious: Communities that can afford a Grade A school system typically end up with one. Those that can't, don't.

Time will tell whether the LePage administration puts its money where its mouth is and funnels much-needed financial aid to school districts now relegated, fairly or not, to the bottom of Maine's academic barrel.

And maybe RSU 19, as Fredette suggests, can do more to help its students with the limited resources it has -- starting with those millions it's now borrowing at 3.7 percent for 10 years from a local bank.

But as we log onto our laptops and click here, there and everywhere to see how our schools match up with all the others, let's pause and imagine what it must be like to be a dedicated teacher who learned this week that his or her school has been branded a failure -- or perilously close to it.

Thursday afternoon, I called Newport Elementary School to see how the D, complete with Fredette's full-throated endorsement, was sitting with his hardworking wife.

Cynthia Fredette cordially referred me to her higher-ups, but not before saying, "I agree with my husband."

Lucky man.


Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:


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