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.

Student MEA, Now UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine, Gains Traction.

Student MEA, Now UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine, Gains Traction.

By Gavin Elliott – Contributing Write

After the recent name change approved by Student Senate, UMF Aspiring Educators, previously known as Student M.E.A. (Maine Education Association), seem to be growing in popularity.

Last year, the UMF Aspiring Educators were down to seven to ten members. The level of involvement was higher in the past, according to Beth Evans, a professor at UMF and faculty advisor for Aspiring Educators.

“When I first started teaching here at UMF around 20 years ago, just about every undergrad Ed Major was a member of at least one of the two education clubs,” Evans said.

This year at the first meeting, numbers had tripled when compared to the amount of members last year. This success is partially due to the club’s recent name change.

UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine at the Fall 2017 Club Fair
(Photo by Mitchell Agailb)

According to Stephen Riitano, the president of the Aspiring Educators, “the change was to align with the N.E.A. (National Education Association),” and to “let the students of UMF know that a membership to the student M.E.A. is not necessary, although UMF Aspiring Educators is still affiliated [with them].”

Aspiring Educators also held an Informational Meeting in the Ed Center along with Advocates for Disability Awareness Club (ADAC) and UMF Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC). Through this meeting, the members of it are very much clubs hoped to inform new students, as well as current students, of what they each do.

Members of Aspiring Educators will often find themselves brainstorming and discussing upcoming events, fundraising, looking at poverty’s impacts on schools, connecting with other educators and learning skills they may not typically receive in their regular classrooms to aid in their professional development.

Professor Evans elaborated, “It is imperative to know what everyone else is doing in this profession. Early childhood to middle to special ed, etc. and this club does a great job of preparing ed students to do just this.”

Evans went on to say “The club is great because the movers and shakers of the professional life we call teaching.”

The treasurer of Aspiring Educators, Carson Hope, says, “The club is great because you get to network with other educators and clubs, and learn about the community part of teaching.” This networking can also impact more people by allowing them to pool their resources, said Evans.

According to Riitano, an example of the clubs pooling of their resources will be seen on September 26th when Kelly-Anne Rush, more commonly known as Crafty Teacher Lady, will be speaking at 5:30 pm in the Landing about how “teachers can be financially smart while providing meaningful and engaging lessons for their students.”

Later in October, they will be hosting Scare Fest, where “a panel of current teachers and administrators come to UMF and discuss the real side of teaching,” Riitano said.

For more information or any questions on the Aspiring Educators, like them on Facebook at “UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine,” or drop into any of their meetings on Wednesdays, room 106 of the Kalikow Education Center at 7:30 pm

Lifelong Love of Learning: Rick Dale Delivers Last Lecture

By Nick Bray, Contributing Writer

In front of an overflowing room, Associate Professor of Special Education, Dr. Rick Dale concluded the 19th annual Michael D. Wilson Symposium by giving his last lecture. In its fifth year, the last lecture is a yearly event at symposium, sponsored by Alpha Lambda Delta, which gives one retiring professor an opportunity to reflect and share life lessons with the community.

Titled “My Teachers,” Dale’s evening talk reflected on the authors, people and experiences which he has learned from throughout his life. Unlike most of the presentations given during the day of student talks, there were no audiovisual aids. “No powerpoint tonight,” Dale said. “Going old school, I do powerpoint way too much.”

Dale, a quiet and soft-spoken person, first shared that he has a tattoo. There was a feeling of surprise that lingered in the audience after Dale made that statement. He has a tattoo of the word “foghlaim,” which is a Gaelic word meaning both teach and learn. Dale’s talk emphasized that one can be a lifelong learner, and that it is important to reflect on the teachers which have shaped one’s life.

Among the authors Dale discussed was Fred Rogers, at which time he shared excerpts from a short piece Rogers wrote called, “What Comes First in Learning.”

“If you care about your students and you care about what you are teaching, everything else is a technical matter,” Dale said.

Another author Dale mentioned during his talk was Jack Kerouac, who taught him about the importance of spontaneity and passion. Dale could be considered an expert on the writings of Kerouac and the beat generation. He has written a book, “The Beat Handbook” and maintains a blog, “The Daily Beat” on the philosophies of the beat generation. For several years Dale has also taught a first year seminar course on Jack Kerouac.

One of his former students and secretary of Alpha Lambda Delta, Sarah Jenkins, introduced Dale before his lecture. She took his First Year Seminar and became inspired to travel out west. Jenkins made the trip earlier this year when she drove across country and visited Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. “I lived out of my car and wrote poems about the sights I saw,” Jenkins said. “I felt like a modern day Jack Kerouac.” Although she doesn’t give full credit for her trip to Dale, Jenkins says she never had an interest in going west before taking his class.

Included among the eight people Dale identified as teachers in his speech, was one of his supervisors from when Dale worked as director of special education for a regional service agency in Pennsylvania. His supervisor, only referred to as Ed, taught Dale to not allow people to put their problems on him. “Don’t let them do it, make sure they leave with their monkey,” Dale said, quoting his supervisor. At this time Dale was responsible for 400 staff and thousands of students. Dale made sure that staff presented three solutions to the problem they came to him with. This cut down on the number of issues Dale had to solve. “They often solved their own problem,” Dale said.

Of the experiences Dale learned from, living in a hotel was the most interesting.  His father was the manager of a four-story hotel and his family lived in a first-floor suite. While living there, Dale learned the importance of spending time alone. He was constantly around people, employees and guests of the hotel. In one of the many light hearted moments of his talk, Dale shared a story about jumping down the laundry chute into the basement of the hotel. Don’t ask me about the hygiene issues associated with cavorting in guests’ dirty laundry,” Dale said. “You don’t think about such things when you’re 10.”

Along with the scores of students Dale has impacted over his 11 years at UMF, he also developed strong relationships with his colleagues. Dr. Lance Neeper, professor of special education has an office next door to Dr. Dale’s. In an email Neeper explained that he and Dale share many interests, including travel and music. Neeper keeps a box of things Dale has shared with him over the years. “Rick is always there if you need him, willing to listen and offer suggestions and guidance,” Neeper said. “He has an incredible specialization in law and policy an area of focus within special education that is rare and cannot be replaced.”

Upon his retirement, Dale ends a 39 year career in Special Education as a teacher, consultant, and administrator. Dale does not have many immediate plans, but his retirement gives him time to do things he doesn’t have much time for now. He and his partner are planning a trip to Europe in the fall, where they’ll be visiting family in France, making an excursion to Venice, and potentially concluding the trip in Ireland.

After a gap, Dale will likely be involved in education in some capacity. Dale has been a political advocate in the past, and will have more time to attend legislative hearings and speak out on bills concerning the regulation of special education and education in general. Dale may even get back into teaching. “This is going to sound unexpected but I’ve thought about substituting in public schools.” Dale said.