Support your local schools

In a region-wide referendum on Tuesday, June 9th,

voters from Bar Harbor, Cranberry Isles, Frenchboro, Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor, Swan’s Island, Tremont, and Trenton will have the last word on the annual budgets for the nine schools that make up the newly reorganized Mount Desert Island Regional School System.

On June 9th, these budgets already will represent the product of some six months of work by local school administrators, your elected school board members, citizen warrant committees, municipal select boards, town councils, and -- most recently -- the legislative bodies of the voters at your own town meetings.

Mandated for the next three years by the state as part of the school reorganization law, this new budget validation referendum extends an already long and complex public school budget approval process by one more critical step.

The whole is a process that school officials take with the utmost seriousness -- the engagement of each of our communities in determining exactly how good the local schools can be and what level of resources our municipalities are willing to expend toward their support.

We believe that it is precisely this close and ongoing relation between school operations and community oversight that earns our schools the high level of local support which they historically have enjoyed. But we intend never to take that support for granted.

For that reason, we welcome every public meeting and every painstaking line-item question that our boards and administrators field through this budget-building interim, knowing that it is this transparency of process that, over time, earns your trust and lets us know that we're getting the balance right between a community's resources and its educational expectations.

Understanding that we can always find better ways to do things, increasingly we have welcomed opportunities to share services regionally between our independent school systems. These have paid off particularly from our central office which now serves a larger regional system including Trenton. We hope to continue to build upon this system-wide cooperation now that we have the framework to do so on our own terms rather than through an arbitrary, externally-imposed mandate.

Recognizing that we are in unusually difficult economic times, our most recent negotiated teachers' contract holds salary increases well below the trailing indexes of cost of living. At the same time, attrition has naturally allowed school staff levels to parallel modest declines in enrollment. So we have managed to keep teachers in our classrooms without substantial disruption in the breadth of the programming that our communities tell us remains critically important.

Throughout, we have never compromised what we hold to be the over-arching vision of making a top-quality education available to every student in every school within the Mount Desert Island region.

We thank all of you who have already participated in this extended process with public comment, reviewed and sanctioned our budgets in some municipal capacity, or endorsed the final product on the floor of a town meeting.

This year please make sure to take that one extra but necessary step at the budget referendum on Tuesday, June 9.

The schools are yours. Please support them with your vote.

Brian Hubbell, Board Chair
Rob Liebow, Superintendent
Mount Desert Island Regional School System