SAD 4 and AOS 94 examining cost sharing for next year

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GUILFORD — While the two districts are in the midst of the application process for an integrated, consolidated grade 9-16 educational facility, SAD 4 and AOS 94 — which includes the Dexter-based SAD 46 and the towns of Athens and Harmony — are also looking into ways to save money and share resources in the more immediate future. During a May 9 meeting of the SAD 4 school board, the directors voted to send a written request to AOS 94 to enter into a one-year cost sharing agreement with the neighboring school unit.

“To go into the AOS we need to share a superintendent, we need to share a business manager and we need to share a special education director and transportation director,” SAD 4 Superintendent Ann Kirkpatrick said during a phone interview on May 11. She said expenses such as salaries and benefits for these four areas need to be shared under an AOS system “and more decisions will be made as we get into the cost-sharing agreement.”

Kirkpatrick said SAD 4 officials are still awaiting a final decision on the agreement from the AOS 94 directors, and if approved then AOS 94 Superintendent Kevin Jordan would likely become the head administrator of the school unit for 2017-18.

The SAD 4 school board accepted Kirkpatrick’s resignation with regret as of June 30 following an executive session at the end of the April meeting.

“I’m going to be principal of the Vinalhaven School,” Kirkpatrick, who has served as SAD 4 superintendent for four years, said. She will lead the pre-kindergarten to grade 12 facility of approximately 175 students on the Penobscot Bay island starting July 1.

“I applied for the job there and they hired me,” she said, saying the ferry terminal to Vinalhaven is only a half hour from her home in Belfast. “It will be a fun new experience.”

“They would probably need to hire more personnel to handle this big of a commitment,” Kirkpatrick said, as the exact realignment of shared positions would need to be determined.

During the April school board meeting Kirkpatrick said the SAD 4 finance director position could be eliminated — possibly on July 1 or a bit later once audit work is completed — but she said Jennifer Soper had recently returned to the job to serve temporarily after her predecessor resigned to take another job. At the time both Kirkpatrick and Soper said the cost-sharing agreement would alleviate expenses — potentially leading to cost savings of up to $100,000 — without impacting students.

“In case they can’t take us on, July 1 we would need to hire an interim superintendent,” Kirkpatrick said.

Among the two SAD 4 schools, classroom realignment is scheduled for 2017-18 as grades 7-8 will be moving from Piscataquis Community Secondary School (PCSS) to the adjacent Piscataquis Community Elementary School (PCES).

During the May 9 school board meeting PCES Principal Anita Wright provided a report on the grade 7-8 move. She said the decision was made to keep the grade 7-8 pupils together rather than have the junior high grades be divided between the two buildings.

Wright said the two floors at PCES will feature classrooms grouped by kindergarten and grades 1-2, grades 3-4, grades 5-6 and grades 7-8 with the older and younger students educated in different parts of the building. “For the most part I could get in all the specials, all the planning periods in and the lunches,” the principal said as a final draft of the schedule is still to come.

The next step will be for Wright to meet with all the grade 7-8 teachers to work on the transition and plan the move. “Ultimately we would need to celebrate the opening next year with a welcome back event,” she said. “It’s hard for students who have been in the other building to head back to what they consider the younger building. We really need to make them feel special as the leaders of the school.”

In anticipation of the grade 7-8 move, the school board gave its approval to the adjustment of a pair of administrative positions for next year. The current assistant principal/activities coordinator between the two schools would be changed to an assistant principal/athletic director position for K-8 only, and the PCSS principal job would become principal and athletic director for grades for 9-12.

“I had discussions with both people involved in this and on the second one that was the recommendation of that person,” Kirkpatrick said, as Joe Gallant is the current assistant principal/activities coordinator at PCES and PCSS and John Keane is the PCSS principal.

When asked, the superintendent said next year’s grade 9-12 enrollment is projected to be at 150 students and this should be small enough for one person to serve as both principal and athletic director.

“We are working on the budget, (Soper) and I spend a lot of hours in the office, combing, looking,” Kirkpatrick said.

She said the budget committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, May 24 at 6 p.m. at PCSS, with the full school board meeting the next evening during a special meeting at 7 p.m. at PCES to vote on the 2017-18 budget.

The annual district budget meeting will be Thursday, June 8 at PCES, starting with an information session at 6 p.m. The approved spending plan that evening will then go to a district budget validation referendum on Tuesday, June 13 in the SAD 4 towns of Abbot, Cambridge, Guilford, Parkman, Sangerville and Wellington.

The 2016-17 district budget totals just under $6.8 million, and this was the fourth budget brought to SAD 4 citizens.

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