June 21, 2018
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Study shows minimal savings if Shirley withdraws from School Union 60

By Mike Lange, Piscataquis Observer

SHIRLEY, Maine — There are only 13 students from Shirley attending Greenville Consolidated School this year and three are scheduled to graduate next June.

It costs $204,280 to educate these youngsters including $146,534 for instruction costs alone. So some residents have asked the Shirley School Board if there are any ways to reduce costs.

After the Oct. 15 board meeting, the answer seemed to be: not really.

Superintendent Beth Lorigan provided a budget breakdown of Shirley’s share of the Union 60 budget which also includes $19,084 in administrative fees. This includes everything from a portion of Lorigan’s salary to office supplies and auditing fees.

“If you decide to go on your own, the educational portion [$146,000] isn’t going to change,” Lorigan said. “Every year the Department of Education sets the rates for each school unit, so you can decide where you want to go. I didn’t check the other schools in the area, but I know they’re lower [in cost]. But I believe that residents of Shirley want their kids to go to Greenville.”

Although special education costs may decrease if a student from Shirley who is now using the services leaves next year, Lorigan cautioned the board not to count on the savings. “If another special needs student moves into the community, you’re going to have to pay those costs,” she explained.

The one area where the community might save money is by hiring a part-time superintendent in lieu of paying their portion of Lorigan’s salary and benefits, which add up to about $5,100 annually. But Lorigan pointed out that even if they hired a retired superintendent on a one-day-per-month basis, the net savings wouldn’t be much. “Some may ask $300 per day while others, like [former interim superintendent] Ray Freve, get $450 per day,” Lorigan said. “Basically, you would need someone to be at your board meetings and take care of your state paperwork. I suspect you’d probably be asked to pay some other costs, too.”

The transportation costs would probably remain the same, Board Chair Ginny Sanborn said. “It doesn’t make any difference how many kids are on the bus,” Sanborn said. “They still have to make the same trip.”

The board agreed to study the figures and revisit the issue at the Nov. 12 meeting, but most seemed to be satisfied with the status quo. “Personally, I’m not ready to jump ship,” said board member Kelly Muir. “But that’s just my own opinion.”

In other items discussed at the Shirley School Board meeting, Lorigan announced that the long-awaited generator has arrived, bringing Greenville Consolidated School one step closer to becoming the community’s emergency shelter. “We got a fabulous deal on it,” Lorigan said. “It’s powerful — 150 kilowatts. That’s enough to run the gym during an outage, including the showers.” Greenville School Committee members Mike Theriault and John Cobb are the process of pouring the concrete base for the unit, she added.

Board member Colleen Taylor said that she heard some negative comments, particularly from some conservative families, about the Common Core curriculum and suggested that the board discuss it at a future meeting.

Lorigan said that while several states are pulling out of their commitment to Common Core, she does agree with one concept of the program. “I like the idea of a common curriculum I can depend on that’s taught in every state in the country. I think the whole idea was to come up with clear expectations of what every child needs to learn,” she said.

She also noted that Maine is switching to a different student evaluation program next year: Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

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