Bangor’s future depends on academic excellence

By Warren Caruso, Special to the BDN
Posted June 05, 2012, at 4:50 p.m.

The city of Bangor has an outstanding school system which provides academic excellence for all students. The investment the community makes in the school system is the greatest investment we can make to insure a positive future for our children and continued economic growth. The vote for the Bangor School Department’s budget will be held on June 12. We strongly urge the residents of Bangor to support the School Department’s budget.

Over the last four years, we have been faced with tough economic times. Each year we have been challenged to prepare budgets keeping these tough economic times in mind for the taxpayers of Bangor. Despite losing $1.4 million in state and federal funding, Superintendent Dr. Webb, administrators, teachers and staff have worked hard to prepare the fiscal year 2012-13 budget, which keeps programs in place and is fiscally responsible for the city of Bangor.

Through their hard work they presented a budget slightly lower than FY 2011-12 (.03 percent difference) and the budgets have averaged no increase over these four tough years. The total budget is actually $214,000 less than the FY 2009-10 budget. The School Committee has gone over the budget in detail, as well as meeting with the City Council to present and discuss our budget. Additionally, we have met with citizen groups to openly discuss our budget. In April, the budget was presented to the School Committee and we unanimously passed the budget presented. In May the City Council unanimously approved the budget.

The Bangor School Department has been recognized by the state of Maine as highly efficient and high performing. One of the main reasons for this enviable distinction is that almost 80 percent of our budget goes directly to the classrooms. Only 2.4 percent of our total budget goes to system administration, significantly lower than that of the state average of 4 percent. We have focused on hiring quality educators and giving them the resources to succeed in the classroom.

Bangor School Department serves a diverse population and over the last 5 years we have produced gains in our testing results which rank us near the top in the state, even compared to smaller school districts with less diverse populations. The concurrent increase in the percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch in the same period makes this success even more remarkable. The school department has seen an increase from 28 percent of our students qualifying for free and reduced lunch rates to 50 percent now qualifying. We owe every bit of our success to the continued support of our great families living in our community — that means you — and to the Bangor School Department’s administrators, teachers and staff who produce positive results while working with less.

Everyone talks about how important education is to our community, state and country. Studies show the positive effect a strong school system has on our communities. Many of us have talked to families moving into the area who have cited the Bangor School Department as the reason they decided to live in Bangor. Our school system is a source of pride for every resident who watches our young people grow to be successful and have a bright future. In Bangor, we have not just talked about how important education is but we have made it a priority to provide a strong education for our children.

Please take the time to vote on June 12 to pass the Bangor School Department’s budget. This investment in our children’s education will provide our children the opportunity for success and the City of Bangor long-term economic growth. We count on you; our teachers count on you; our students count on you; and our city’s future counts on you.

Warren Caruso is the vice chairman of the Bangor School Committee.  This commentary also was signed by Bangor School Committee members Chairman Phyllis Guerette, Catherine Dickerson,  Nichi Farnham, Beth Grant, Christine Szal and Jay Ye.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/06/05/opinion/long-term-education-growth/ printed on July 25, 2014