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No Plan? Or Just Not Saying? Boothbay's Unfunded Fifty-Million-Dollar School. Time to Visualize An Alternative Way.

Comparing Centralized and Decentralized Development Strategies for Future Culture and Economies.


Hannah Joshua Unsplash

In the recent Boothbay Register write-up about Boothbay's fifty-million-dollar school project, school board member Bruce MacDonald commented on the missing discussion pertaining to education.

In a Nov 2020 article in the Boothbay Register, a discussion about education was initiated by Lance Whitehead, of Lavallee Brensinger Architects, the same architects who were recently selected to design the master plan.

Quoting – Lance Whitehead, of Lavallee Brensinger Architects from that article:

“We wanted to create some sort of biophilic design as part of any solution ... Future driven school with guiding principles that are community based education, economically viable, social-emotional learning environments for multi-age groups, future-proofing as much as possible ... and really making it unique for your local resources”

So let's talk about the future and let's include the alternate paths that Boothbay, and beyond, might take going forward. Let's think carefully about the choices we make now and act with our eyes wide open. The mystery of how an unfunded fifty million dollar project can be so aggressively advanced is fair game for speculation, as money doesn't magically materialize out of thin air and so it is reasonable to suspect a plan exists that isn't being shared with the public. Why would Boothbay leaders just blindly take on a fifty-million-dollar project with no plans to fund it?

The proposed fifty-million-dollar school is the singular option under consideration in the public forum. Alternate views do not get a hearing as the forces behind the unfunded project are pushing a massive cultural transformation on the community. as if it is the only possible option.

Museums are also institutions serving educational and economic development functions. Museums were recommended for the region in the Camoin Report, the seventy-nine-thousand dollar plan contracted from remote New York consultants as a design for the future of the Boothbay Region by the Joint Economic Development Council of Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor- NOT "making it unique for your local resources". The Camoin Report recommends that the region highlight its history, a proposal that actually DOES make it unique to local resources!

I have a vision. The words above by Mr, Whitehead could be describing it. Every word in the quoted paragraph fits like a glove.

Once I tried to present a museum concept to the so-called economic development council but I might as well have been talking to a brick wall. In command economies, the people serve as instruments of the state and not the other way around. In command economies, the public does not initiate ideas unless they are designated private partners of the centrally managed state. "Do not speak unless spoken to!". I was once told, by one of Boothbay's "public service organizations". that I should not speak to the Joint Economic Development Council of Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor until I had attended their meetings, silently, for a year, to show my respect. What country am I in, I wondered.

I submit that the fifty million dollar school, should it ever materialize, will serve as an instrument of Maine's command economy. The words "making it unique for your local resources", do not apply to a command economy. A command economy is about top-down control. Herein I will present that case and introduce my alternative educational and economic development community concept, which has the advantage of not being funded on the public dime but does require accommodating ordinances, and community collaboration in bringing together a board.

I nicknamed my alternative plan "Learn Farm" because, in a dream, I passed by a sign that said "Learn Farm", as my car was headed toward Boothbays newly constructed political roundabout blocking passage on the main throughway. The only way to get through the obstruction, I mused was to scale up into another orbit and land on the ground on the other side.

The school board considered plans presented by five architects, competing to design for the only option on the table, and then selected the architectural firm that had been working on a master plan since 2019, as documented in previous write-ups in the Boothbay Register. The strange timeline in which the winner of the competition had been working on the master plan all along suggests that the contest was only a formality.

Developer Paul Coulombe pledged to pay for the design but failed to materialize the two and a half million dollars on schedule. It seems that phase of the funding plan was not "future proofed".

In my alternate vision, Instead of a fifty-million-dollar school, there is a 501(3)(c) non-profit Andersen Design Museum of American Designer-Craftsmen, set up as a fiscal sponsor for independently owned designer craftsmen studios, of any discipline, that can be attached to or in a home. Fiscal sponsorship would allow the independent studios, anywhere in the USA, to apply for non-profit funding opportunities as free enterprise entities. Zoning laws would have to be changed to permit growth potential for businesses in the home. Current Boothbay ordinances restrict home businesses to a very small size limiting their growth. Establishing home-business-friendly ordinances would also encourage all types of remote working which is a growing trend in coronavirus times, "Future-protecting" is what it is called in Mr; Whitehead's words. That requires listening to the sounds of many voices. Hear! Hear! The workforce is mad and doesn't want to take it anymore!

Museums have traditionally served educational and economic development functions, very similar to what Mr. Whitehead describes.

There are non-profit foundations that exist just to fund real estate for museum purposes.

My family business, Andersen Design, is a designer-craftsmen business established in 1952, and recognized in our industry for creating its own identity in the craft and design world. We are, definitively, a local resource. Museums love history, so Andersen Design's name recognition and long roots are assets when applying for funding opportunities. First, we must formulate aboard, the hard part in a closed community. but a closed community would greatly benefit by opening itself up. "Open for business" is more than a slogan. Take it literally. Try it on for size!

I have a lawyer who will help with the legal process of creating the nonprofit but I need to find three persons to serve on the board and as directors in order to be ready to move ahead with forming the non-profit.

The main reason, why I would like to locate at least part of the network on the peninsula, is because I grew up here and it is my home, and it is also where Andersen Design was born and so there is that historical connection. I believe my vision is the more sensible vision for the Boothbay peninsula with its irreplaceable historical culture and its fragile water supplies than is the vision centered around the fifty million dollar school system, with no apparent plan to pay for it, and which might require a radical increase in population density to justify its expenditure, a population expansion beyond what our local water supplies can sustain. I lack a conventional local resource wherein I can present my vision, but Newsbreak, coming in on another orbit. is an option, where, from time to time, my vision can incrementally unfold.

In this post. I am letting the world know who I am in this community and that I have an alternate vision that serves the same function as described by Mr. Whitehead's words. My vision is not intended to be a solution to everything. However, it is compatible with the new remote working movement and the workers who are protesting returning to an unproductive office environment after having experienced what it is like to work from home. Mr. Whitehead speaks of "social-emotional learning environments for multi-age groups", which describes a business in a home and includes the emotions currently being expressed by corporate workers who are being told they must return to the office. Are emotions processed better in small groups of closely related people- or by central management in large institutional settings? On blogging portals, remote workers are writing about discovering that they are more productive in less time when working at home which allows more time for the work/life balance.

Remote work is the wave of the future and one that could work very well on the peninsula if the peninsula would stop trying to stop the growth of home businesses and open up the growth-restrictive ordinances to allow home businesses, the mainstay of a traditional "quality" rural lifestyle, to realize their own growth potential.

Read Mr. Whithead's words again and visualize as you read that Mr. Whitehead is not talking about a fifty-million-dollar public institution but a community of home businesses of various types and you will see that Mr. Whitehead's words fit a community of home businesses perfectly, each one representing a "team", and conceptualize that having a business in a home, not just a rental apartment, but a productive business, makes the home more affordable while creating opportunities for others, and making communities more inter-relatable.

A community of small home-based enterprises and a fifty-million-dollar school represent diametrically opposed political philosophies. One takes us further down the road of a centrally managed society. The other decentralizes. One system is managed from the top-down and the other grows from the roots upward- or outward to fill the middle space.

Whether it will ever be possible to have a middle economy on the Boothbay Peninsula, or anywhere, is the question of the times, but allowing for businesses in a home gives the middle class a better chance, not as "the workforce", which sounds like a collective pawn in the game, a term connoting an instrument of a state-driven agenda, but as grassroots entrepreneurs who also employ workers. The new opportunity zone of the future is the business in a home.

Now consider that If one applies the above description of the future of education to a centrally managed school system, it describes a public training program for large corporations, as is provided in the Maine Industrial partnerships Act of 2014 in which public education is co-ordinated with the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Public Law 113-128, and is repurposed as workforce training.

The Federal Law Summary

An act to amend the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 to strengthen the United States workforce development system through innovation in, and alignment and improvement of, employment, training, and education programs in the United States, and to promote individual and national economic growth, and for other purposes.

These words express the intention to align the interests of business with public education, using the public education system as industrial training. Instead of educating individuals, the school is training a workforce for industries that the state picks as the winners for public subsidization. It means that the people serve the government rather than the government serving the people.

When one reads some of the many blog posts protesting the call by large corporations for remote workers to return to the office, one can see that the workers are very much aware of being the instruments of the companies and emotionally do not like it! They are stirred by the experience of remote working to live their lives in a manner more aligned with serving purposes of their own.

The Maine Industrial Partnerships Act established that workforce training will be implemented at the level of secondary education

§3304. Industry partnerships

1. Objectives. The objectives of an industry partnership are to:

D. Help educational and training institutions align curricula and programs to industry demand, particularly for high-skill occupations; [PL 2013, c. 368, Pt. FFFFF, §1 (NEW).]

E. Foster and strengthen relationships between and among education programs working to address the needs of related industry sectors; [PL 2013, c. 368, Pt. FFFFF, §1 (NEW).]

F. Facilitate relationships, remove barriers and leverage and align resources between participating departments and agencies of State Government and employers working to address the needs of related industry sectors; [PL 2013, c. 368, Pt. FFFFF, §1 (NEW).]

G. Inform and collaborate with the career and technical education centers, the boards of the local workforce investment areas designated pursuant to the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Public Law 113-128, youth councils, business-education partnerships, secondary and postsecondary educational institutions, parents and career counselors for the purpose of addressing the challenges of connecting disadvantaged adults and youth to careers; [PL 2017, c. 110, §31 (AMD).] ( emphasis mine)

The Industrial Partnerships Act was passed under Governor Paul LePage, who just took out his papers to run as Maine's first third-term governor. LePage also sponsored and signed the Major Business Headquarters Expansion Act which is like the Pine Tree Zone on steroids and only available to businesses that have national and global locations. A business that is only located in Maine need not apply. Mr. Lepage embraces the global world order. Paul LePage and Paul Coulombe are long-time friends.

It is a given that the secondary school system serves multi-ages and so it is curious why Mr. Whitehead needed to say so. Considering that technology is moving so fast that one can train for a career today and that career may become obsolete in a decade or two, workers need retraining at any age. The manner in which public education has been incrementally transformed to serve as workforce training, for the public-private state's "targeted sector", extends the age limit of public education, which is becoming increasingly undifferentiated from workforce training.

It is important to be aware that the University of Maine is at the center of the state's educational system and that the University claims ownership of intellectual property rights of even uncompensated individuals who use the publicly financed University of Maine facilities or receive services, even paid services from the University. The concept that intellectual property rights can be claimed based on ownership of facilities or providing a service is a tenant of communist philosophy. The University of Maine has entrenched a minor in Marxist and Socialist Studies since at least 2004 and in 2013 sold a piece of its self to the Confucious Institute, while nowhere in the entirety of the Maine public school system is the Maine Constitution being taught.

The University of Maine officially closed its Confucious Institute in June of 2021 but retains a relationship with the Dongbei University of Finance and Economics in Dalian, China, The Confucius Institute is reputed to have ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The same is not said about the Dongbei University, but China is all about central management. It is unclear how much has actually changed with the announced closing of the Confucius Institute:

SM will continue to offer Chinese language courses and plans to keep a connection with the Dongbei University of Finance and Economics in Dalian, China, through a direct partnership, said Dan Demeritt, spokesperson for the University of Maine System. USM had partnered with Dongbei to establish the institute. USM closing institute funded by Chinese government

If Boothbay works with Industrial partnerships, is the plan to have the price tag capitalized by the state to function as the next state "development authority" via the fifty-million dollar secondary school-workforce-training center? Other state development authorities, such as the three former military bases, are chartered as municipalities serving as "instruments of the state". If a fifty-million-dollar school on the Boothbay Peninsula, were to be financed by the state, and/or become a secondary school extension of the University of Maine, what will the terms be, and what will the small print say?

It is speculation on my part that this is the gamble being taken. I have nothing to support it except that there is a fifty-million-dollar school being pushed on the peninsula with no apparent way to fund it. There must be a backstory or else local leadership has surely gone mad!.

Where is the "future proofing"?

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