March 28, 2013

RSU 14 opens cost-center discussions - full story by Leah Hoenen

Doing more with less and finding creative ways to fund education are repeated themes as departments across the Windham-Raymond School District have begun reporting their fiscal year 2014 budgets to the Board of Directors.

The district’s $39.8 million proposed fiscal year 2014 budget contains a small increase over the previous year’s budget and officials are focusing on the value of education the district provides community students without asking for much more taxpayer money.

The board heard from the Regional Education Alternative Learning (REAL) School and the transportation, adult education and facilities departments at its first cost-center workshop Wednesday, March 20. 

Board Chairman Catriona Sangster called the proposal responsible, saying of the administration, “They really were trying to present a reasonable budget within each of the cost centers to see how they could put forward a budget that didn’t decimate instruction and affect kids directly.”

She said the district is doing its due diligence to keep costs within reason.

Board Vice Chairman Marge Govoni said cuts still sting. Taking much more funding away will hurt schools, she said. 

The board held a second cost-center workshop Wednesday, March 27 and has one scheduled to begin at 8 a.m., Saturday, March 30, in the Windham council chambers.

REAL School presentation

REAL School Principal Pender Makin opened the workshop session, saying “We are asking for not one penny more than we asked the district for last year, or the year before.” RSU 14’s share of the school’s budget is $292,000 to provide services for 17 children. 

“For the past nine years, we have never used the entire allocation the district has contributed,” she said. Instead, the REAL School uses about half the money it gets from RSU 14, she said, while serving a greater number of students than it is contracted to work with. The facility has always taken about 20 students, but this year, Makin said, 26 Windham-Raymond students are enrolled.

The REAL School receives the rest of its funding through tuition and transportation from sending districts, as well as through donations, grants and fundraisers, Makin said. The school raises revenue by sending REAL School staff to educate teachers in other districts, she said.

Enrollment can vary based, in part, on whether sending districts want to serve their students’ needs in-house, but Makin said administration is able to make reasonable guesses of the number of pupils it will have and the amount of money it will need. 

“Nine years in a row out of 10, we have far exceeded in revenue what we need to meet our needs,” she told board members. Assistant Superintendent Donn Davis said allocation money the REAL School does not use is returned to the district’s undesignated funds balance. 

Makin said the school is looking to hire an additional driver to accommodate a student who has moved; currently, other staff, part-time drivers and substitutes are filling in. 

The REAL School’s budget reflects a $10,000 drop in funding for professional and technical services because, Makin said, the school is taking on most of that work itself. The budget also includes more money for vehicle maintenance, she said, because the school does not plan to buy new vans this year.

Through financial donations, the REAL School has been able to maintain programs that would otherwise have been lost to funding cuts, Makin said.

Transportation Department

Mike Kelly, district transportation director, said his overall budget proposal calls for less money than last year’s. 

The proposal also reflects the completion of several years of work to consolidate and streamline transportation in Windham and Raymond into a single fleet of vehicles operating from one town, said Kelly. 

A garage in Raymond is now closed and the district has six fewer buses, he said. Over two years, Kelly said, two positions in the department have been eliminated, including that of a transportation coordinator in Raymond. The person holding that position is retiring and the position will not be filled.

Sangster asked Kelly to explain how the loss of the coordinator position in Raymond works on a day-to-day basis, and Kelly responded that he starts his mornings in Raymond. “It’s important we have that one-on-one contact. I think we can achieve that,” he said, noting that calls to the Raymond transportation office are forwarded to Windham. 

The state has given the district the green light to purchase three buses and will reimburse the district with a subsidy for additional equipment on those buses, said Kelly.

Board member Kate Brix asked about the elimination of a full-time, special-education bus driver. Kelly said that person resigned and the district does not need to hire for the position. Because of decreased needs, the district has also reduced the number of bus and van aids, Kelly said.

Kelly said he tracks fuel consumption each month to estimate needs for the next year. District buses fuel at depots in Windham, Raymond and Portland. Those towns and the City of Portland negotiate the purchase of that fuel; the district does not have control over the price, Kelly said.

In total, the district’s 58 vehicles log more than 750,000 miles per year, taking students to and from school and on athletic and field trips. Those trips are monitored by a software program that allows the district to keep close track of trip requests and completions, Kelly said.

Kelly and board members also briefly discussed a plan presented during last year’s budget cycle to construct a permanent building to house district transportation offices at the Windham Public Works site. The transportation department now uses two rented trailers on that property, for which it pays $11,000 a year. “I’m not sure the age of these trailers when we moved in, but they’re pretty beat up,” said Kelly.

That project is still in the assessment phase and, while there is no final figure yet on a cost, Kelly said he feels safe saying it will be significantly less than the $200,000 proposed last year.

Adult Education

Windham-Raymond Adult Education also did not ask for an increase in its local appropriation.

Director Tom Nash said his department was reducing the time of a pathways coordinator and making cuts to supplies, travel and marketing spending.

“Things are tough for us all,” he said, noting that some cuts to academic programming could be on the way. 

Nash said the adult education budget shows little increase on expenditures. He said the program, where enrollment is up about 20 percent, has applied for grants and works with local businesses to generate additional revenue.

Nash said adult education programs must have career pathways in place by next year, and is facing substantial changes to a standard test. Big overhauls are coming to the GED exam, which is expected to become a more difficult exam as it is also completely computerized and administered by a private company, said Nash. The company will charge $25 per sitting and Maine will front the cost for two years, he said. “Most of these adults don’t have even that discretionary funding,” said Nash.

Board member Marge Govoni brought up the possibility of raising fees for adult education programs to raise revenues.

Nash said, “We haven’t gotten there yet. We need to study comparable programs’ charges. Will it bring in $20,000? No.”


Facilities manager Bill Hansen said his budget shows a reduction of one person, which is a correction based on real time: a person working five-eighths time was listed as one full-time person.

The facilities budget calls for security upgrades to school entrances, siding and masonry repairs and sidewalk construction. Another project is the multi-year installation of projectors built into ceilings, Hansen said.

The budget includes money to install built-in furniture for hallway work stations, to meet fire code.

Hansen asked for a $4,000 increase for uniforms, to help make support staff in buildings visible and easily identifiable. “With 39 staff, it’s a lot to start with,” he said. Hansen said he would like to give each person five shirts to begin with and offer options, such as pockets or short sleeves, so employees can make choices about their uniforms.

March 25, 2013

Insights by Kelly Mank

 This being our fourth edition of The Windham Eagle, we are getting into our groove.  You are obviously familiar with us as our flagship product is delivered to your home in Windham and Raymond every Friday and is now in your hands as you are reading it.  We bring it to you in COLOR with pictures and features that remind us of days-gone-by with the intent of improving our today and tomorrow.

We are now going to begin rolling out products and services that, I have been told, will make most weeklies in the country envious.  Our web editions (yes, editions) will satisfy readers in different ways.

Our basic online edition, located at is what we call our living paper. We use a Blogger format which permits community interaction including your commentary both before and after the printed paper is delivered to your home.

Our smart phone / tablet edition, located using the same URL as our basic edition, makes reading on smaller devices easier.  You can bookmark your favorite sections (or all of them) of The Windham Eagle for easier and direct access to them; they are: 

    “”   “news.” 
    “”       “” 
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    “”  “” 

There is our “Page Turner” edition for those people that like the feel of a printed newspaper or ebook.  This edition allows the users to see an exact copy of the newspaper as it was printed – zoomable for easy reading and, as the name implies, with pages you can turn as if it was a printed sheet.  Try it out! It is accessed from the basic edition (, on the upper right “View our Online Page Turner”.

Like us on Facebook to stay informed on what is new and coming in The Windham Eagle ( – another place to interact directly with us.

Oh yes, in closing, The Windham Eagle is all about Windham, Raymond and RSU14 – Our Community!

March 21, 2013

RSU 14 eyes proposed budget by Leah Hoenen

Focusing on the value of the high-quality, efficient learning the Windham-Raymond School District provides, Superintendent Sandy Prince presented the proposed fiscal year 2014 budget to the Board of Directors Wednesday, March 13.

Three-quarters of the $39.8 million budget is earmarked for salaries, while the rest is allocated for services, supplies and equipment and debt service and other commitments.

The proposed budget is $880,000, or 2.26 percent, greater than last year. Over the last five years, 2010 to 2014, the district’s budgets have gone up an average of .52 percent.

Taxes provide 60 percent of the total budget, while state subsidies account for 40 percent. One percent of budget revenue is carryover, while slightly less than one percent comes from other sources.

Like other New England states, Maine is feeling the crunch of restricted funding; school funding in Maine is about 2.6 percent below 2008 levels, said Prince. This gives the district a great opportunity to examine priorities and become more efficient, while continuing to provide student-focused, research-based education, he said. 

Subsidies from the state have fallen to amounts less than Windham and Raymond received before the district was consolidated. This year, the state subsidy is $13.8 million, down from the $14 million the district received for the fiscal year 2013. 

“Increasingly, the subsidy has not been there that we had hoped for,” said Prince. “We do our best to propose a budget that provides students the education they need at a cost taxpayers can afford.”

The budget proposal reflects a move by the Department of Education to shift some retirement costs to school districts; the district would have to cover $500,000 in retirement costs. Board chairwoman Catriona Sangster asked if the presented proposal reflects that change. Prince said it does.

Prince said the state continues to struggle with decreased revenue. Last year, the district’s budget was frozen due to a curtailment of $200,000. “It’s a struggle for staff,” Prince said. The district strives to provide staff the materials it needs, but has had to freeze the budget to come up with curtailment funding.
Still, enrollment in Windham-Raymond schools is slowly climbing, with 3,333 students enrolled as of Feb. 1. Higher enrollment is good, said Prince, although it challenges the district to accommodate class sizes. 

Windham-Raymond schools per-pupil cost in the 2011-2012 school year was $9,099, slightly less than the state average of $9,726, said Prince. SAD 51 in Cumberland spends the most per pupil at $11,463 and SAD15 in Gray spends the least at $8,424 per pupil. “We’re doing a lot for our per pupil cost,” he said, noting that some would like to see that figure increase.

To make up for some gaps in funding, district staff actively write grants, and have won more than $6 million in grant money since the 2004-2005 school year, Prince said.

The district is on the lower end of administrative spending in Cumberland County, Prince noted in his presentation, and has restructured administrative costs through consolidation.

“Budgets are lean and people are working incredibly hard with what they have,” said Prince. 

He praised staff and administration for discussing and researching teaching and learning and fostering a culture of high expectations. 

Calling Windham-Raymond a highly-efficient, high-performing school system, Prince said he sees innovation and hard work in the district’s schools every week. In a tight economy, schools must rely on community organizations for support, and he said this district has strong relationships with community organizations.

“We are very fortunate we have taxpayers who are willing to support our schools. They’ve done a very good job of that in the past,” Prince said.

March 14, 2013

Insights by Kelly Mank

This is my third issue of The Windham Eagle and I cannot express enough the feelings that people have passed on to me.  People I have never met have expressed well wishes and thank yous for bringing Windham and Raymond its first community newspaper in a long time.  This is so important to me as I live in Windham and am proud of it; that is how I want my kids to be, my neighbors to be, and the school system to be - where I send my kids.

What makes The Windham Eagle?  We have both a community plan and a business plan.

The community plan is just that – A Community Plan:

It is a newspaper centering on RSU 14 – thus our delivery to Windham and Raymond.  Our focus is not spread thin across multiple communities and school districts – it’s about a tight knit group of people who have a common interest.  Our team, at The Windham Eagle, live, work, and breathe this community. We are Windham and Raymond, Maine.

The business plan is just that – A Business Plan:

We’re all about Windham and Raymond businesses being able to sustain and thrive by having a medium that actually gets delivered to every home and business in Windham and Raymond thru a special postal program.  You do not have to pick up our newspaper, subscribe to it or request it in any way – It’s just in your mailbox on Friday - how is that for real circulation numbers.  We do have a growing number of drop spots for out-and-about readers as well.

We will be providing The Windham Eagle not only in traditional newspaper form, but also on the Internet in a variety of different ways to address multiple reader preferences.  Some of our online products will be interactive so you, the reader, can comment back and participate in the molding of our future in Windham and Raymond.  Some of these interactions will be used for future story ideas as well as Letters to the Editor and placed in the print edition.

We do not try to pretend to be a daily –that’s a different community model; it’s a different business model.  We are Windham and Raymond, Maine and RSU 14 and I am proud of it.

March 6, 2013

St. Joseph’s College Graduate by Elizabeth Richards

When Brittany Rauscher graduated from St. Joseph’s College in 2006 with an accounting degree she embarked upon a journey that would take her to the land of her birth, and far beyond, over the following six years.

Rauscher, who was born in South Korea, hasn’t always had an easy road. She was adopted in what she later learned was a black market adoption. The adoption did not work out, and what followed was a series of 18 placements until she landed at Good Will-Hinckley, a group home in Maine, in 1997. There, she formed connections that are still important to her today. “The group of people I was able to build relationships with are the people that I consider my family,” Rauscher said.

Brittany first connected with her biological family in high school, but lost contact by her senior year. While at St. Joseph’s, realizing that she felt a need to know where she came from and who her family was, she once again reached out. The organization that had previously found her birth family succeeded once again. After her graduation from St. Joseph’s, staff and alumni of Good Will-Hinckley sponsored a 3-week trip to Korea so that Raucher could meet her birth family. 

She returned to Korea in November of 2006 to teach in the city where her birth family lived. While she visited her family about once a month initially, these visits dwindled off for a variety of reasons, but she remained in Korea teaching for more than five years. “Being in Korea, and being exposed to so many people from so many countries is where my passion to travel came from,” she said.

While in Korea she was exploring opportunities to volunteer in Africa when a friend invited her to join him on a 43-week trip camping through Africa, visiting 30 countries. This travel experience opened her eyes in terms of politics, culture, people and the world. “I think it’s important to be educated on the world,” Rauscher said. One of the highlights of her trip, she said, was in Guinea, where her group camped on a soccer field. The next day, the children skipped school to play a game of soccer against the visiting adults. The whole village turned out to watch, the children played barefoot, “and they beat us!” she said.

In the midst of her travels, she learned about an opportunity with a company called Soft Power Education. Not knowing if another chance would arise to take a year – or even two months – off, she cut her trip short to volunteer in a small village in Uganda, where she worked with children who had special educational needs, assisting the teacher in teaching sustainable life skills and promoting inclusion.

In Uganda, Rauscher lived in a village with a local family. She ate meals with the family, and had the opportunity to really see how another culture lived. “When people think of Africa, they think of four things,” she said. “War, disease, poverty, and then that equates to death, right? But there’s so much more to Africa than that.”

Rauscher said her desire to help others is derived from the help that she received, and her experience in Uganda only increased that desire. A Windham resident, Rauscher works for Creative Work Systems in Portland. Her future goals include returning to school to obtain a Master’s degree in Social Services, and working her way up in an organization that will allow her to provide services to children.