One of Barbara Baston’s least favorite times in nearly 14 years as an Alna education representative was consolidation, when the state called on towns to regionalize their school systems. But seeing how people have worked together in the district that resulted, Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit 12, has been one of the best experiences in her service, she said.
The retired Wiscasset kindergarten teacher is in the final months of her latest term. She is not seeking another, so in June, Baston is off the board. In a recent interview, the Wiscasset Newspaper tapped her experience in and insight into the politics of education. She served on the Alna School Committee from 1999 to 2009, and the district board from 2014 to present. Recalling her start, she said she was very happy to serve due to her interest in education and because she wanted to make a contribution to the community she lives in. “So it seemed like a natural fit for me to do that.”
Baston, wife of Alna Third Selectman Doug Baston, taught first and second grade in Norwood, Massachusetts before teaching kindergarten for 24 years in Wiscasset.
When Baston joined the school committee, Alna students were, by contract, attending school in Wiscasset. Now students have multiple options for public schools. “That’s been a big change.” It’s probably a good thing, now that Wiscasset is a smaller school system, she said. But she added, when Alna’s children all went to the same schools, the community was more cohesive.
Consolidation certainly was a big change, as well, she said. The towns that formed the district didn’t make sense together geographically, and volunteers had a lot of work to do in planning the consolidation, Baston said. “Week after week. It was hard.”
Being on the board, she has developed a lot of respect for the other towns’ representatives, she said. “We’ve come together under somewhat challenging circumstances.”
Also in the interview, the Rochester, New York native, 68, said education in general has become a little more data-driven, probably with more expectations including ones with unfunded mandates, and continued changes in the state’s tests for students, Baston said.
Asked to weigh in on the town’s ongoing issue of possible removal of the private school option in school choice, Baston said she definitely supports the right for a town vote on it. “School choice ... kind of happened incidentally, and because it’s grown how it has, I think it’s important that the town vote on how do they want this to be operating in our town.”
One of Baston’s hopes for Alna’s and the district’s future is a hope she always has regarding education, that it serve the needs of the individual student, she said.
She continued, a tremendous amount of time has been put into making the RSU work, and she hopes it continues to work for all the member towns.