May 20, 2018
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RSU 13 superintendent to propose more cuts

By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — After choosing 84 jobs to cut or reduce in her preliminary report, the RSU 13 superintendent said this week she will have to choose more before the school board’s April 1 meeting.

At that meeting the board will vote on the termination of teacher contracts to make up for next year’s estimated $3 million revenue shortfall.

“It ended up that it needed to be more than this,” Superintendent Judith Lucarelli said this week, pointing at the 84-row list of jobs to be cut or reduced from the RSU’s schools.

Lucarelli would not comment on which or how many additional jobs will be trimmed. That information will be released at the board meeting April 1, when the reductions will be considered.

The positions to be reduced or eliminated as listed in the preliminary report include six administrative positions, 29 teacher jobs, and 24 stipends of people working with extracurricular activities, along with reductions in 25 hourly positions that total more than 135 hours a day in savings through the district, with some of those positions being eliminated. Some of the jobs include positions that are not filled and positions of people who took early retirement incentives.The personnel cuts will make up the majority of the $2.4 million carved from the budget. The rest of the $3 million revenue shortfall will be made up with a 3 percent tax hike for the towns served by RSU 13, which comprises Thomaston, St. George, Cushing, Rockland, South Thomaston and Owls Head.

Every school in the district will be affected by the cuts, Lucarelli said.

“We looked at programs and what staffing we could provide and maintain the services to the kids,” Lucarelli said.

Parents can expect their children will be in classes with larger enrollments. Class sizes will be increased to 18-20 children per class for elementary school pupils and 20-25 students per class for middle school students.

The school board will consider reducing or cutting high school classes with low enrollments.

“At South School now there are some classes in the low teens,” Lucarelli said.

She emphasized that class sizes will not expand unmanageably.

“There won’t be 30 kids in a class [next year],” she said.

“There is no good way to cut $2 million from a budget,” said school board member Josiah Wilson, who will vote on the cuts on April 1. He said he would like to hear why some positions were selected over others.

“We haven’t heard why the teachers who are proposed to be cut are being cut,” Wilson said. “It’s a lack of transparency.”

RSU 13 closed one school this year, and Lucarelli said the west side of the district, formerly SAD 50, will have to make double bus runs, which will reduce the number of buses, but increase the time of the buses on the roads.

Other cuts will come from sports coaching staff. In the preliminary report, Lucarelli advised the board to cut cheerleading programs.

She said she would continue to look for other extracurricular to cut instead or for alternative options for funding the cheerleaders, such as fundraising.

The RSU 13 school board will vote on the proposed cuts, which will be presented at an April 1 meeting.

The board then will hold several budget meetings in April before approving the final budget in May and sending its proposal to voters in June.

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