RSU9 School District Budget Vote is “No,” the Community Reacts

Eryn Finnegan – Assistant Editor

On Tuesday, Sept. 12th, the proposed Regional School Unit 9 (RSU9) district budget for the 2017-2018 school year was rejected for the third time in a row, much to the relief of many community members in Farmington.

Before the vote, the district was looking at a budget of $32.7 million, over a million dollar cut from the initial proposed budget of $33.9 million.

Part of the community’s relief comes from the potential elimination of funding for the district’s special education programs, a move which is illegal.

According to Scott Erb, a UMF political science professor and member of the school board, “we could have lost federal funding, could have possibly even [been] sued.” Erb is also a father of two children who currently attend school in the RSU9 district.

UMF sophomore Adrienne Chandler, who attended school in the RSU9 district, states that special education classes benefited her and prepared her for higher education.

“I grew up in the Title 1 Special Ed program… without it, I would have been held back so many times” Chandler said. “Without that focused attention and one-on-one time, who knows how many other kids could fall behind.”

If this budget had passed, up to thirty teaching positions could have been cut, including nine full-time positions. Because the number of educators would have decreased, the average class sizes would have increased from eighteen students per teacher to twenty-five.

After school programs and various clubs were also at risk of being cut, such as sports, band, and theatre. According to Erb, this is because “the money for special ed programs and teachers would have had to come from somewhere else, such as those programs.”

Another concern many residents had was an increase in taxes. Leah Brackett, the UMF assistant director of athletics, expressed her sympathy for those with this worry.

“I do believe we need to reach some sort of a compromise,” Brackett said. “People have to be able to pay their bills, but the reality is, while the municipal taxes have gone up, school allocation has not increased.”

According to a graphic made by UMF geology professor Julia Daly, taxpayer contributions to schools would actually go down about $547,000 in 2017 from 2015.

Dawn-Lei Harris-Leyton, a UMF sophomore and mother with two boys in the school district, said, “the impact of these cuts would have been felt throughout the town for years,” adding “if we don’t have the funds, if we can’t have functioning buildings and keep students and teachers here, then we’re just gonna get shut down, and that’s not fair to the students or teachers.”

One of the elements that made this vote noteworthy was the presence of UMF students. Brackett was particularly proud of students for showing up to the vote.

“This is their community too,” Brackett said. “They pay a lot of money to go here, they put money into our businesses, and through this, they can really get a sense of how government works.”

Erb and Harris-Leyton also echoed this sentiment. “This is such a tight-knit community, and the schools really reflect the community,” Erb said.

“If our school system is poor, then people will leave and no one will want to move here,” Harris-Layton said. “That impact would hit UMF for sure; what potential professor would want to move here if they have kids and can’t rely on our school district?”

According to Erb, because this budget was rejected, a new proposal must be drafted and presented for another vote. Erb, Chandler, Brackett and Harris-Leyton all said that this issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible.

“We’ll keep voting, over and over again, until a decision has been made,” said Erb.

Nature-Based Education Program Kicks Off at UMF

Nature-Based Education Program Kicks Off at UMF

Leah Boucher –Staff Reporter

For the second year in a row, UMF hosted a summer institute for Maine educators and pre-service educators on June 23rd and 24th, where they learned how to incorporate nature into all areas of education.

Participants were able to get out and explore the nature around Farmington the day before the actual conference, where they could hike to Poplar Stream Hut and tour the local Bonney and Flint Woods, then settled back at UMF for a day of conferences.

Assistant Professor of Education and committee member for this institute, Kathryn Will-Dubyak, is pleased that UMF can offer a wide variety of conferences, which are the first of their kind in the area. “This is the only nature-based institute spanning Pre-K through 12 in greater New England to my knowledge,” said Will-Dubyak, “which creates an incredible opportunity for the many pre-service educators and educators around Farmington.” There were around 80 participants this year who attended both days.

From this program, participants were given the chance to listen to a variety of lectures but also participated in hands-on experiences, giving them first-hand knowledge on how nature plays a crucial role in education across grade levels.

“This summer institute helped educators either understand how they could begin to engage with nature in all areas of instruction or to develop their understanding of how nature can play a large role in a variety of instructional opportunities,” said Will-Dubyak.

Associate Professor of Science Education and another committee member of this institute, Carole Lee, was asked to be a leader in this year’s set of conferences.

“Last year, there was more of a focus on lower elementary grades, and I was thrilled to join this program and bring my knowledge of nature among the upper grades in school,” said Lee. “I led some conferences myself, such as Engineering Design Inspired by Nature as well as Biomimicry.”

Another conference participants could attend focused on the idea of a natural playground, which UMF was able to put into action last year outside the Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Education Center. A third-year child care aide at Sweatt-Winter, Ashley Hinkley, who is also a senior Elementary Education major, noticed a major shift in the design of the playground once the natural playground replaced the old one.

“The previous playground had one slide, a climbing wall, and a picnic table,” said Hinkley. “The natural playground has a berm for the kids to climb on with three slides and a garden that the kids water, pick from, and later eat.”

Another feature of this new playground that is a hit among the children is the bird-watching area. “There are bird feeders and bird baths outside, and inside there are journals for the children to sketch the birds they see through the window,” said Hinkley.

The bird sanctuary at Sweatt-Winter, part of the new natural playground on campus.
(Photo Courtesy of the UMF College of Education, Health, and Rehab Services.

Carole Lee is grateful that a topic from the conference was able to be shown to participants right here at UMF. “The success of the natural playground installation on campus shows educators that nature can help children see how they can interact with their environment in a positive way, such as feeding the birds and building houses for them,” said Lee.

There are plans for committee members to meet over the course of 2017 and 2018 to see if a third annual nature-based institute will take place next summer.

“We are not sure as of yet if it will happen, as it takes an incredible amount of people power for pre-conferences and conferences that only span two days, but it is definitely a possibility,” said Will-Dubyak.

A Preview of Julian Saporiti’s Event “No No Boy, A Multi-Media Presentation on Japanese Internment”

By Andrew Devine – Editor-in-Chief

UMF to welcome Julian Saporiti to the Emery Community Arts Center on Tuesday, October 3rd to perform a collection of songs based on his extensive research.

Inspired by his doctoral research at Brown University, and his own experiences as a Vietnamese American growing up in Tennessee, Saporiti will perform a collection of his own songs accompanied by archival photographs and films, as well as collected stories from World War II era Japanese Internment Camps.

The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was the forced relocation and incarceration of between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry as ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt shortly after Imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.

In an email interview, Saporiti wrote “Coming from a family of immigrants, I wanted to focus on a dissertation project which illuminated complicated American histories while also speaking to the present moment filled with racial fear, immigration bans, intolerance, and political divide.”

The project is titled “No No Boy” as a tribute to The “No-No Boys” which are reported as being Japanese-Americans who during WWII refused to swear allegiance to the US government or be drafted while their families and friends were locked away in concentration camps on Saporiti’s web-page.

The web-page/blog serves as a companion to the No-No Boy project by posting pictures, music, and other media, as well as interviews and articles which have inspired the album and informed Saporiti’s scholarship.

Saporiti formerly performed in a successful indie rock band, the Young Republic, consisting of himself and various musicians, including Nate Underkuffler. Luanne Yetter -mother to Nate and advisor to the Farmington Flyer – pushed the band to perform in the Farmington area and Saporiti to bring his project here as well.

In an interview, Yetter discussed working on books, projects, and UMF courses that look at history from the perspective of art of the time period being examined; similarly to what Saporiti has done for this project.

“It’s something that Julian and I have always had in common, an interest in both history and music,” Yetter said. Saporiti has also been a guest speaker in some of her previous courses offered at UMF.

In the preview for the album found on the web page for this project, Saporiti concludes his understanding of his work in saying “Whether it’s in concert halls, museums, bars, churches, or coffee shops, performing these songs, showing these pictures, and telling these stories is important, especially right now.”

Saporiti expanded on this in saying, “I’m not talking at anyone or lecturing or writing a dense academic paper (I also do that), but with these songs, I’m just telling you stories of people I know or have read about and am trying to get people to think, and maybe think about what’s going on right now with Muslims, black folks, and undocumented Latinos and Asians.”

Saporiti will bring the presentation to numerous other colleges and venues around the northeast United States the remainder of the year. More information can be found at .

Saporiti will be bringing “No No Boy” to the University of Maine at Farmington in the Emery Community Arts Center on Tuesday, October 3rd at 7 pm.