GUILFORD, Maine — Following his yearly review, Superintendent Paul Stearns informed the SAD 4 board of directors on Dec. 11 about his decision to retire in October 2013. Stearns has spent the last decade in his current position, but told the directors he believed it was time to retire.
“I don’t have any specific plans except that I do intend to retire,” Stearns said. “It was a complex decision and I’m expecting that it will work out great.”
The school board plans to work with the Maine School Management Association to find a new superintendent. The board will hold a Jan. 8 workshop with the MSMA to plan the search for Stearns’ successor.
During his remaining months, Stearns will be focused on managing the district’s precarious financial situation. He has ordered a spending freeze in anticipation of a curtailment order coming from the state. He speculates the state’s current revenue shortfall will result in an $80,000 reduction in state subsidies for the district.
“We’re not as concerned about the current year’s budget because spending is in check. We’re in a favorable position now, but planning ahead, things don’t look good at all.”
While the current economic forecast is not good both statewide and nationally, Stearns predicted an even worse set of circumstances for next year. He indicated the federal government’s sequestration budget directive would result in a significant loss in both Title I and other local education entitlement funding. He estimated that sequestration would result in a $42,000 reduction in federal funding, which would require local districts to make difficult budget decisions.
“We would either need to eliminate these programs and the staff providing these services or retain them by shifting the cost to the local taxpayers. Any way you look at it, it’s not a pretty picture for the district,” Stearns said.
In other action, Stearns updated the board about a collaboration between the University of Maine, Piscataquis Community Secondary School and the Blue Hill Harbor School in a student-helper program.
The university has trained upperclassmen from each school to provide counseling and assistance for students in grades 7-12. The program allows for upperclassmen to advise their peers on how to adjust to school life and other issues.
“It is really a wonderful program with some top-notch training,” said Stearns. “It provides younger students with someone that can help them and frees the school counselor to deal with the more demanding problems.”
Piscataquis Community Secondary School has a total of 10 juniors and seniors serving as student-helpers.