GUEST COLUMN

Funding academic excellence in Bangor

Posted May 20, 2011, at 10:47 p.m.

Bangor is truly a special place to live, as it offers city living with a small town feel. We have great parks, culture and arts, entertainment, shopping, restaurants and a new arena on the way. Though times have been tough on all of us, it is an exciting time to be part of the Bangor community.

The future holds great promise. The Bangor School Committee is seeking support from the City Council and the citizens of Bangor for the School Department’s budget in order to ensure a positive future for our students and our community.

At the heart of our great city is our school system, which is nationally recognized, one of the top performing districts in the state, and used as a model within the state for being high performing and efficient with public money. Our mission is to provide “academic excellence for all students.”

It is with this goal in mind that we have prepared the 2012 school budget. Over the past year, Superintendent Betsy Webb, administrators, teachers and staff have spent countless hours looking line by line for efficiencies while maintaining the core experience.

The School Committee has met several times to review the proposed budget in detail. In April, the final proposed budget was presented to the School Committee and received unanimous support. The 2012 proposed budget is considerably less than the current budget of 2011.

Over the past four years, the Bangor School Department has lost nearly $4 million in funding. Despite these setbacks, we have remained true to our goal of “academic excellence for all students” through the use of one-time federal funding and by tightening our belts.

This past January we approved a 10-year plan to guide us in achieving our goals. Moving forward will continue to be a challenge in these difficult times. Everyone in the school system has made sacrifices to provide a fiscally responsible budget. Current employment contracts have been extended for all employees, and positions have been eliminated, all with the purpose of keeping our educational programs in place.

Our goal is to continue to provide the education our students deserve and our community expects.  We have met, and continue to meet, with city councilors and city officials to work through the budget process. These meetings have been positive, and we are working together to make difficult decisions while keeping true to our goals.

The Bangor School Department serves a diverse population with wide-ranging needs. Over the last five years, we have produced gains in our testing results which rank us near the top in the state, even when compared to some of the wealthiest communities that are smaller and have less diverse populations. It is a credit to our administrators, teachers and staff for producing positive results while working with fewer resources.

Everyone knows a student in the Bangor School Department, whether it is a child, grandchild, niece, nephew, cousin or a neighbor. There is little doubt about the importance of education to our community, state and country. Studies show the positive effects of a strong school system on communities; it is not only a source of pride for every citizen to see young people be successful and have a bright future, but it can also have a profound impact on the economic  development and well-being of our community. In Bangor we have not just talked about how important education is, but we have also provided that opportunity for our children.

There is a long-standing tradition of community support for education in Bangor. There was overwhelming community support for the new arena. At a time when economic development is looking positive for our community, it is essential to continue to support the Bangor School Department.

We look forward to the City Council vote for the school budget on Monday, May 23, and we encourage citizens to take the time to vote on June 14 in support of Bangor’s future. This budget will continue to provide our children, who are our future, with an education committed to “academic excellence for all students.”

Bangor School Committee: Chairwoman Phyllis Guerette, Vice Chairwoman Christine Szal,  Warren Caruso, Kate Dickerson,  Nichi Farnham, Beth Grant and Jay Ye.

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