December 5, 2015
The December 2nd RSU 18 board meeting had on its agenda a presentation highlighting one of its most beneficial and long lived partnerships. Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, or JMG, is a non-profit organization that was established by the Maine State Legislature in 1993 with the goal of identifying and assisting students who face barriers to education. RSU18 has been fortunate enough to have a JMG program since 1998. Last Wednesday six students and three specialists from the district spoke about the organization’s recent projects and the overall benefits that JMG offers to students in school and beyond.
Our district features three different JMG programs: a project and adventure-based program at China Middle School, a mandatory Freshman course that focuses on professionalism and skills needed to enter the workforce, and a second high school program that covers sophomores through seniors and focuses on career aspirations, leadership and volunteerism.
The China Middle School JMG program is led by specialist Ryan Sweeney, and has recently been a lot of work with the district wide Farm to School initiative. Students worked to build raised beds at both China Middle School and China Primary School, and helped with the Maine Harvest Week Taste Testing. JMG students also run the school wide recycling program and engage in volunteerism in the community throughout the year, including work at the Waterville Homeless Shelter and putting together the town of China’s holiday Giving Tree. CMS student Andrew Weymouth told the board that, “JMG has helped me realize how important it is to give back to the community.” Students can be involved in JMG all three years of middle school and the program also helps students transition to high school and maintains contact with them during their 9th grade year.
Ninth grade brings more opportunities with the Freshman JMG program taught by Lindsey Withee. The course focuses on career prep and is required for graduation. The eight-week course covers self and society, career research, career prep, and financial literacy. Students are also taught basic communication skills, etiquette, and the importance of volunteerism and social engagement. It is one of three such programs in the state and gives students a leg up on career prep. While Freshman year may seem early to be talking resumes and job interview skills, Mrs. Withee stated that her students often come back to see her at the beginning of Sophomore year to thank her for the skills that helped them get their first job.
The second high school program works with sophomores through seniors and is taught by Skip Bessey. In order to enroll in this course, students must already have completed JMG Career Prep and must have an interview with Mr. Bessey to ensure proper placement. The course is designed for students who face a certain amount of barriers that they need to overcome to succeed in school and in life. The program provides students with numerous opportunities to practice skills in collaboration and leadership, and encourages professionalism and civic mindedness.
Mr. Bessey’s group is currently working on a number of fundraisers and activities. The Coat for Kids raffle has the students selling tickets to provide coats to Belgrade Central School students in need this winter, and the MHS’s Holiday store is taking donations of everything from socks and mittens to framed pictures and cookbooks to help brighten Christmas for those who might otherwise go without gifts.
Finally RSU 18 JMG is also participating in the JOY (Jumpstart our Youth) program where they will award $1000 to one or more non-profits in the district. Students will learn stewardship, planning, and decision making as they review grant proposals, interview prospective non-profits and finally choose the recipient or recipients.
Since their first year, the state JMG program has helped over 25 000 students graduate and serves more than 5000 students a year. According to their brochure, JMG has a 96% student retention rate, a four-year graduation rate of 90% or better, and over half of JMG students enroll in postsecondary education within a year. According to the RSU 18 students who spoke at the presentation to the board last Wednesday, the program helped them become better students, better citizens, and put them on the path to success.

Source: Messalonskee’s own Ms. Callan wins AP of the Year!!!

The voting results are in and the hard work by many has paid off.  The RSU 18 School Budget passed by a vote tally of 1092 YES (56%) Votes and 869 No Votes (44%).  The school budget vote passed in China, Oakland, Rome & Sidney and failed in Belgrade but by only 20 votes.  Thanks to all who helped to make this happen!   


Below are the wise words of Laura Tracy (RSU 18 Board Chairperson) prior to the start of  most recent District Budget Meeting for the School Budget for the 2015-16 School Year.  Her message is spot on and I wanted to share this with you.  Next Tuesday, June 30th, Voters in RSU 18 will have the chance to go to the polls to vote on this budget.  Please get out to vote that day! 

Your Vote Matters

Fellow citizens, voters, tax payers, parents – I so much appreciate you coming tonight to vote on this important topic: the RSU 18 Fiscal 2015 – 2016 budget. The budget is important, and the votes you make tonight are very important. Each of you has taken time and made the effort to be for these important votes. We are so pleased to have you. I thank you for everything you will do tonight. These decisions are very important – and you will make them.

We are all gathered here tonight with two significant responsibilities. The responsibility to provide the students of our communities with a sound education. And the responsibility to take great care with the hard earned money of our tax payers and voters.

 Tonight all of us in this room, have to balance these two significant responsibilities.

 On one side of the balance we have a carefully prepared school budget. It supports a quality education, at a cost per student lower than our neighbors. A carefully prepared budget which is focused on “instruction” – not administration – I emphasize -it is focused on “instruction.”

On the other side of the balance we have a budget which shows growth. It is a very modest growth, in fact that the net budget has grown less than ½% per year over the last 7 years, but it is growth none the less. Much more significantly, State Financial support for our district’s education has dropped, dramatically. As a result more of the cost of education is falling on our voter’s real estate taxes.

Tonight – We all have a responsibility – balancing quality education ….and ……prudent use of our voter’s hard earned funds.

 The School Board, I & my peers here, worked hard to present the budget proposals you will vote on to night. We have taken our responsibility seriously – to present to you, tonight a prudent budget – that shows balance.

 This budget is “in balance.” RSU 18 can deliver a quality education. And the cost to our tax payers prudent.

 However, tonight, we are very concerned that changes in the balance, in either way, may result in a budget that fails to pass the June 30 vote.

 A tipping of the balance could results in poorer education for the students, or it could result in an undue burden to our taxpayers. Either impact could be adverse, and could lead us all to yet another contentious voting cycle.

 For this reason, tonight, I ask – as your as School Board chairwoman, as a citizen, as a tax payer, and as member of the community, – I ask us all to take responsibility to keep things in balance.  

I, and my peers on the school board here, feel the best way to maintain this important balance – is to support the warrants as presented.

I and we ask you tonight to accept them.

The responsibility– to the students – to the tax payers – falls on all of us here in this auditorium– to stay in balance. I ask you tonight for your support to support the warrants as they stand. 

Thank you


To The Citizens of China (RSU18),

I started composing this letter in my head as I sat in the China Lake Conference Center on the evening of June 12 watching the 8th graders “graduate” from the China Middle School. As I watched these kids receive their diplomas, A number of thoughts ran through my mind.

These young people were students I had in class when I did a two week substitute teaching stint at CMS my first fall after retirement from Erskine Academy. Watching them move across the stage, I was amazed at how much they had matured, both physically and as young adults, as evidenced by the various awards and recognitions that many had received, according to the commendations read by Principal Carl Gartley. I also realized that these students, and their peers, are the foundation of our future. Through them and their accomplishments, or difficulties, our society will be determined for the rest of my life and all of theirs. It is for that reason that as citizens we must give them the best possible education and school experience that we can. At this particular moment in time, this hinges on the passing of the 2015-16 RSU 18 budget in the referendum on June 30.

Regional School Unit 18, comprised of the towns of Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome and Sidney, is the largest school district in central Maine. The combined student enrollment exceeds 3,000 and the staff numbers about 500. The district functions very efficiently. The per-student cost for the proposed budget is $11,362, the lowest in our immediate area. Yet, the percentage amounts spent on student instruction and support are among the highest, and administrative costs are considerably lower than most neighboring school districts. These facts reflect an intelligent and effective use of your tax dollars. And yes, this proposed budget, even with its less than 3% increase, will impact property taxes, mine included.

Much of this increase concerns issues over which the towns of the district, and the district administration, have no control. The state has shifted an increased amount of teacher retirement costs to local districts, and at the same time is not meeting the legally required funding levels as set by the State Legislature several years ago. Given these issues, it is remarkable that the RSU has kept its financial outlays and requests as low as they have been for the past several years. And, this monetary care has led to other issues as well since our contingency or emergency fund level is extremely low, to the point where getting necessary loans may become difficult.

In closing, as a member of the RSU 18 School Board and a resident of China, I sincerely request that you get out and vote to support the district’s budget on June 30. In addition, gather support from friends, neighbors and family members; every vote counts and it is crucial that this budget be approved. Our society and the way it functions depends to a great extent on the ways that our students are educated. OnJune 30, give them, and us, a fighting chance for success!

Bob Bennett

Congrats to all of our Athletes this year!  Eagles Soar: MHS Softball State Champs!.

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Below is a link to the updated budget materials for the 2015-16 school year.  On Wednesday June 3rd, the RSU 18 Board of Directors took action to reduce this budget by $292,700.  The revised budget now stands at $34,382,408 and is a 1.9% increase over the current year school budget.  There are several more key steps in this budget approval process.  June 8th at 6PM (Messalonskee Middle School) there will be a public hearing on this proposed budget, on June 18th there will be a District Budget Meeting to allow the public to approve this budget (Messalonskee High School 6PM), and finally on June 30th, Residents of China, Belgrade, Oakland, Rome, and Sidney will vote (Yes/No) on the budget adopted on June 18th.  Please get out there and support the many good things happening in RSU 18!

All RSU 18 School Budget information is posted at


Here is a Link to a Central Maine News story on the reductions made from the original proposed budget of $34,675,079, a 2.77% increase