NORTH BERWICK, Maine — Calls for a bare bones budget was made repeatedly at the SAD60 district at the Board of Directors meeting Thursday evening.
Since the recent announcement of the $578,000 budget shortfall, every seat in the audience at the board meetings has been filled. Much like last week’s meeting, parents stepped to the podium thanking the board for its diligence but also asking where things went wrong.
A music teacher who said she has a child in the school district said people want to be more part of the budget process.
“The meetings are public, come to them. We start our budget in January,” a member of the board said.
A group of 20 parents formed a list of possibilities to help the budget crunch including: more cuts to administrative positions; students paying for parking; eliminating after-school help; eliminating sport transportation; having other schools pay for the use of shared facilities; students being put to work around the school while in detention.
A chemistry teacher in the district suggested cutting back on substitute teaching.
“I know I’m not going to make any friends here, but I feel that a substitute cannot do the job I do every day,” he added.
Deliberation continued on where to spare any expenses and why programs like Excel — the program for gifted and talented student — and the elementary school bands are targeted.
“If you look at the total number of things, there aren’t a lot of pockets that aren’t being picked,” said Superintendent Steven Connolly. “It’s not about supplies or cutting back clay in art class. We’re clearly past that point,” he added.
Reductions are weighing in from every angle as the board has reduced school administration positions including the termination of a dean at the high school.
According Darcy Goulet, president of the Teachers Association, some teachers on maternity leave have taken a large portion of their leave unpaid.
“Our district is not alone in this financial scenario. In conversation with Suzan Beaudoin, School Funding and Governance Supervisor at the Maine Department of Education, she noted she has not seen financial situations across the state as bad as this since 1991. Regardless of the difficult nature of the actions facing Maine schools, we will continue to work to offer the most comprehensive, quality programming possible within the context of the fiscal reality,” a statement reads on the SAD60 website.
Further actions to be taken to meet the shortfall includes: a central office and building administration furlough day, closing schools June 24-28, canceling spring intramurals, reducing ed tech hours to seven per day. These actions would total $96,000 in savings.
Savings of $120,337 have been totaled by terminating the following school staffers: one secretarial position, 1.6 administrative positions, eight teacher positions, and 10 ed tech positions.
Noted on the SAD60 website is explanation on how these cost cutbacks will impact how the district conducts business:
• Professional development around the Common Core will stall or cease altogether.
• Parent communication will likely be impacted, as teachers will have less planning time to respond to parent requests for feedback.
• Custodial and maintenance work will likely not be able to complete all planned summer work, as facilities will be closed June 24-28.
• Summer programs will be reduced in duration due to the closing of facilities.
• Most importantly, programs that inspire some of the students may not exist.
The district’s financial obligation needs to be met by June 30.
“While these personnel reductions will be difficult to explain to parents and children, it will also be extremely hard for the impacted staff members to maintain a balance in their lives while facing significant financial and professional loss. We must be ready to support all as we work through this situation,” states the SAD60 website.
Distributed by MCT Information Services