2016-09-08 / Letters

Watchdog group reiterates position on school plans

To the editor:

On behalf of the Saco Citizens for Sensible Government, we would direct your attention to Board of Education member Ted Sirois’s letter to the editor in last week’s Courier. True, Mr. Sirois has reported that our group has recommended that the former physical assessment report of 2012 for Saco schools be updated to reflect the current state of all schools, various alternatives and financial impacts.

Saco Citizens for Sensible Government requested from the superintendent his professional opinion regarding the physical condition and needs of the schools, various alternatives to resolve the issues and all affiliated costs. We would like the public to be advised of future bonding impacts and how they may be affected by any action or inaction this year.

Consider the fact that our superintendent has not voiced what he would like to see since his focus has been on curricula and related activities. He needs time to work this out and provide insight into the decision-making process. He and staff have the ability to author an updated comprehensive physical assessment report.

It is a misnomer to suggest that our group is seeking to postpone, for years, the proposed project and spend countless dollars in doing so. Another misnomer is that financing the Young School project would fit seamlessly into the city’s bonded debt schedule as voiced by several advocates for moving ahead now. Do not believe it. Also note that if the school system had received the grant to establish pre-kindergarten this year, it would have been in place, regardless of the referendum.

Consider the following: When will Saco Middle School need to be renovated? What will it cost? Will state assistance be available for these improvements if Young School is replaced now?

As evidenced by state support for the South Portland and Sanford school districts, the state aid strings appear to be loosening up. Please consider that all costs would be locally funded without state assistance.

Some have said affiliation with Thornton will result in a loss of control. Thornton is a private school. Consider the fact that with all local control to date, what are the results? Saco Middle School students are just not that well prepared for Thornton Academy. Both current and former school superintendents as well as Thornton’s headmaster have said student achievement has been sub-par.

A Mayor’s Committee has made overtures to Thornton Academy to assess the possibility of integrating Saco Middle School students at Thornton Academy Middle School. With neighboring communities phasing students out, what ramifications would this have on the Saco school system both academically and financially? Should their work continue until such time as the community is presented with solid direction?

Many in the community have asked a number of whatifs regarding a master facilities plan. Could Saco gain by having one less school in the district and its associated expenditures? This is a fair question. Our residents would like some dialogue from the principal parties involved concerning various alternatives and costs.

These are multi-million dollar issues. Decisions should not be rushed especially when other city capital needs are on the horizon that will need to be addressed.

John Harkins, chairman Saco Citizens for Sensible Government

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