Wednesday, October 12, 2011

School enrollment continues to defy consultants and schoolie talking points; go figure!

Editorial note to those who plead “the children are our future:” ‘the future ain’t what it used to be….’ 

And in a related story, shocking as it may be, those ever-present, expert consultants may not be much good for anything but telling you what you want to hear.

Dateline Brunswick, Wednesday October 12:  We have it on solid authority that the Brunswick School Department will report total current enrollment of 2,456 to the Maine DOE this week.

That’s down about 900, or 27%, from pre-base closure days.

Significantly less than expert consultants would have had us believe.  In more than one elaborate study following announcement of base closure, at who knows what cost, they noted our military dependent enrollment was 660, or at that time, 20% of the system total.  We’ve lost the Durham tuition kids, of course, but that wouldn’t account for the difference.

But no problem, because the consultants asserted the loss of military students would be at most a temporary blip on the radar screen; we’d soon be swimming in student growth to replace the military kids.  And our local “Brunswick will continue to grow” chorus was right there to back them up and keep the Kool Aid pitchers full.

The consultants did have a problem as to the specifics.  Unable to make up their mind, or plan a decision, the seers at Planning Decisions gave us a choice of three different ‘models’ for future enrollment.  For the current school year, those models predicted 2,974 (518, or 21%, beyond reality), 2873 (417, or 17% above reality,), and 2704 (248, or 10% over reality.)

Curiously, PD concluded that no matter which model we chose, the enrollment totals in 2016-2017 would magically, divinely, be exactly the same: 2927.  Not only that, but the three components of the total: K-5, 6-8, and 9-12, each ended up at precisely identical numbers no matter the model chosen.  On its face, this alone should have been reason enough to summarily dismiss the entire study, and to refuse payment.

This inexplicable long term outcome is equivalent to saying it doesn’t matter which route you take to go from here to Louisville, KY, because in the end, the mileage and driving time will be identical.  Unless, that is, the consultants were simply echoing the outcome someone in authority told them they wanted.

Based on results over the years, we shouldn’t be condemned for beginning to think consultants are the castoffs and dregs of other professions.  How the hell do outfits like this survive in the marketplace, except for the benevolence of OPM spending ‘officials’ unwilling or unable to do the work on their own, and looking for suitable covering for their tuchus?

Like it or not, evidence is clear that the town, the region, and the state are fundamentally bleeding people, especially young people.

In spite of rosy ‘repopulation figures’ for McKeen St. housing, and how the schoolies declared this ‘affordable housing’ would flood our schools with new students.

In spite of Ostrich articles claiming Stowe school enrollment is exceeding expectations, and pronouncements that enrollment in other schools is ‘right on track,’ even if the ‘track’ isn’t the one consultants said we were on.

In spite of glib assurances from local real estate mavens and parents at this year’s budget hearings that “people move to Brunswick because of our great schools.”  As we wrote then, on what basis is such greatness claimed?

We suspect, frankly, that school ‘greatness’ is akin to the sons of bitches theory we advanced several days ago.  Politicians are all SOB’s except for OUR SOB.  By the same token, “it’s all the other schools that are underperforming; OUR schools are GREAT!”

This latest enrollment report raises cost per student by another $564 a year compared to the figures this time last year, and more than 10% in the last two years, even with schools being closed, and a new ‘more efficient school’ carrying much of the elementary load.

Maybe those 100 folks projected to be coming to town every day on the Amtrak will be school children who could help reverse the tide of student losses.  Oh wait; it looks suspiciously like train passenger estimates might not be quite as high as originally thought; see previous post.

With a little encouragement, maybe one of these days reality will sink in: Maine demographics show a death spiral.  Yesterday ‘the county,’ maybe tomorrow, the Midcoast.

Perhaps the usual suspects should consider getting on the bandwagon heading away from managing our demise, and heading towards seeing there is a future for Maine’s people, and people for Maine’s future.

Instead of worrying about creating national parks and stopping ‘massive development.’  Yah sure.  That’s the number one problem facing Maine.

But there is good news to report.  Kool Aid continues to fly off the shelves in Brunswick. 

So for those of you so-inclined, the Kool Aid lamp is lit; drink it if you got it.  And try not to spill any, because it can stain the pristine public ways in Fantasyland, and we can’t have that.

Oh, and one more last thing.  If officials would simply tell Side what they want to hear, we’d be happy to provide it in document form for a price well below that of prevailing GoCoInCo rates.

And you know you can trust us on this, because we’re not like all the others.

1 comment:

  1. Slipping under the radar is the fact that the enrollment may have gone down by 20% but the number of teachers has dropped nary a whit. Not only that, the remaining teachers will be getting their annual 3%-4% raises.

    If you check the records you will find that the initial capacity of the new school was 750 and when the base closing was announced this figure all of a sudden dropped to 600. I'll bet the next request from the school department will be sound deadening to hold down the echo in this expensive grand canyon.