VEAZIE, Maine — The RSU 26 board voted Wednesday night to eliminate the principal positions at Orono’s Asa C. Adams School and Orono Middle School, as well as the assistant principal position at Glenburn’s K-8 school.
The school district, which represents Orono, Veazie and Glenburn schools, has been trying to close a substantial budget gap by cutting, trimming and combining administrator and staff jobs. The finance committee presented a list of recommended cuts to the full board in January.
The two Orono principals will be replaced by one administrator who will serve both schools.
Of the 12 school board members, eight voted in favor of eliminating the positions. Four of the five Orono representatives voted against.
Because of changing estimates of state financial allocations to the district, the board has more money to play with than it thought it would a few months ago and is looking into which positions or programs to remove from the chopping block.
As of Wednesday’s meeting, most members of the board expected to put approximately $439,000 back into the budget. Restoring all three administrative positions and saving them from the list of recommended cuts would have used up about $188,000, an amount that several board members were hesitant to allocate toward saving three positions.
Most of the board members who voted in favor of eliminating the positions said they would rather use that money to save teachers from cuts.
Orono residents Mark Brewer and Brian McGill argued during the meeting that removing a principal from Orono Middle School, which has seen academic success and was named a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education in 2011, could harm the school by spreading its leadership too thin.
McGill said an online survey distributed to Orono residents showed that most were prepared to pay higher taxes in order to keep two principals.
“They’re willing to pay $42 more a year in taxes in order to keep their schools stable,” he said.
Some at the meeting, including board Chairwoman Alison Mitchell, questioned the timing of the decision, which occurred just six days before Glenburn and Veazie residents will vote on whether they want to move forward with attempts to withdraw from the district.
Mitchell said it made no sense to her to reorganize the structure of any schools with a vote pending that could change the makeup of the school district.