ROCKLAND — A coalition of SAD 5 parents, teachers, administrators and school-board members decided Monday night to invite three area legislators to meet with the group to discuss school funding.
The group also will request the School Board to undertake cost-analysis reports of the pros and cons of seeking a merger with SAD 50; of the potential savings of running double sessions at the high school for junior high classes; and potential savings of housing all industrial arts classes under one roof at the Midcoast School of Technology.
These and several other topics were discussed in a 90-minute meeting of 18 people attending the initial meeting of the SAD 5 Coalition. The group was formed at the suggestion of Mac McFarland, co-chairman of the McLain School Parents Group. He announced at the last meeting of the SAD 5 board of directors that he was interested in forming a coalition to assist the district with developing the 1991-92 budget that is faced with a $500,000 shortfall because of reduced state subsidy.
The group seemed unwilling to address any direct reductions in programs or staff. McFarland reported that he had been advised by SAD 5 Chairman Edward Miller that any coalition would be able to address savings with only 22 percent of the district’s $7.5 million budget, as 78 percent of the costs were contractual agreements with the staff for salaries and benefits. To make up the shortfall could mean as many as 25 teacher layoffs, McFarland said.
Joan Zomberg attempted to start a discussion about developing a policy of more equitable health insurance coverage for teachers that could save the district money.
John Conlogue, contract negotiator for the SAD 5 Teachers Association, and Barbara Fishman, a school director, said it would be inappropriate to discuss such issues, as contract negotiations were under way.
Conlogue said, however, that he was optimistic that a contract could be completed after the next few negotiation sessions and a figure plugged into the budget.
Retired teacher Robert Thibodeau said that the group should concentrate on supporting an increase in the state sales tax to support education. He said that the problem facing the district stemmed from the state.
It was decided to invite Sen. Linda Brawn, who sits on the Education Committee, and Reps. Joseph Mayo and Rita Melendy to attend a meeting of the coalition sometime within the next two weeks to discuss state education issues and whether an increase in the sales tax was a reasonable solution.
Denis Black, assistant principal at the high school, and a teacher, suggested the group become involved with some long-range planning to reduce costs. He said that joining with SAD 50 at Thomaston could be a feasible solution for cutting costs. The high school, he said, was designed to house 700 to 800 students, but had an enrollment of fewer than 500.
“What’s going to happen when we have to build a new junior high school?” Black asked. He said that Georges Valley High School could be a middle school for both districts, and RDHS high school for both. The pros and cons of such a merger should be investigated, he said.
At Fishman’s suggestion, a letter will be forwarded to the School Board asking for its advice, and whether thoughts of a merger should be explored.
Black also suggested to the group that instead of cutting teachers and programs to attain budget cuts, perhaps holding double sessions at the high school for junior high classes might be a better alternative. This would allow the junior high building to be closed. There are now 330 students at the junior high.
This suggestion will be passed on to the school board with a recommendation for a cost analysis of potential saving.
There were no suggestions made on cutting any sports programs, as recommended by the administration. Conlogue, however, said that in some states, participants in sporting activities were required to pay a fee. An example would be to charge a student $100 to participate in basketball. In exchange, the student received the advantages of basketball trips to other schools, and an opportunity for meals and other advantages not available to non-athlete students. A scholarship program could be set up to provide money for hardship cases.
Others attending the initial meeting of the coalition were Brenda Monson, Carol Kalloch, Mary Brann, John Koster, Joel Fishman, Diane Brickel, Polly Black, Craig Borgerson, Horace Grover, Celeste Frisbee and Thomas Mellor.