April 28, 2013

Insight by Michelle Libby

Social media has become a way of life for most of us. We wake up in the morning and check Facebook to see what has happened over night. More than once I’ve heard that people get more breaking news over Facebook than through television or radio. 

When we had the earthquake here a month or so ago, the first place I went to was Facebook to find out what happened and if others felt it too. Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook can all be wonderful tools for spreading the good news about your impending wedding, expanding family or even passing a test. I love being in contact with family from away and feeling like I know what’s going on in their lives. 

However, recently I have encountered a few people who are cynical, and downright cruel when using social media. What is the purpose of this? Why do you use Facebook to put someone down? Why put it out there for everyone to see the hate that is in your heart? 

When we used to mail letters (some of us may still do that), we had time to think before we sent off a letter that could hurt someone else. Those who have grown up with email know to take a moment before hitting the send button to make sure this is what you want the other person to see. No such rule has been applied to social media. Rant, rave and spew hate…on your own page. Don’t do it where I have to look at it. 

This week I blocked someone for his hate words. I was glad to have that option.
There are better uses for social media. Oprah used to talk about keeping a gratitude journal and every day writing five things we are thankful for. Putting that on Twitter would help to increase the mood of the writer and of the people who read the posts. There’s no cost to being positive and having a good outlook.
Granted, sometimes life stinks. We all have bad days, but next time before you hit post, send, tweet or open your mouth, remember what it says about you. And, is that who you want to be?

Letters to the editor

Dear Editor,
Just wanted to say great job with the paper.  I've really been enjoying it.
Look forward to reading every issue.
Take care,

Pat Lucas

Dear Editor,
Thursday afternoon my family of 5 and our dog headed out for a nice walk on the trail beginning at Gambo fields, going around the loop, down into the powder mill area and back to the parking lot; only to find on our return, my passenger side window smashed out and my pocketbook had been stolen!  The punks only got about $10.00 in cash and my nice cell phone, which I immediately had shut down service.  But of course it took several hours of my time to call credit card companies, the State of Maine for my license and my bank to cancel and renew several accounts.  And of course, taking time to have the window repaired.

I realize vandalism happens off and on at this location, but I haven’t heard of anything recently and that is probably why I became complacent; I know better!  I am hoping you can bring this to the attention of all of the good people of Windham and surrounding towns so that they can prepare and not let their guard down when they park.  You do become complacent if it has never happened to you, just like I did leaving my bag on the floor in the front of the vehicle.  I would have never expected this would happen. 

I am also thinking these thieves took the money and started throwing the items they didn’t want out.  My family and I have scoured the area, but come up with nothing.  I am hoping that when people begin to clean up their yards someone may notice my stuff strewn on their lawn.  My bag was small, but the pictures I had on my phone cannot be retrieved, and that is what saddens me the most.  I am hopeful that someone finds these things.

Kim Snow

April 21, 2013

Insight by Michelle Libby

When bad things happen to good people

Marathons are a thing of endurance, will and celebration. I have stood at the finish line of the Maine Marathon twice, congratulated finishers, giving them water and watching them delight in their exhaustion. 

Never would I have imagined something happening like what unfolded in Boston this week. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those injured and those who witnessed this horrific event at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. 

As the editor of The Windham Eagle, I was approached Monday many times asking if we were going to cover the incident and if we wanted the contact information of someone who was there. As a journalist, I wanted to speak to these people, find out what happened and if they are okay. As the editor, I have made the decision not to cover the event. There is no doubt that the explosions are news. However, as a newspaper that has pledged to cover Windham and Raymond in a positive manner, I see no value in recapping what anyone with an Internet connection can find and read about. Graphic photos, firsthand accounts, videos, it’s all out there for our consumption. 

Maine author Carrie Jones was there and wrote a blog post about her experience and it was picked up and reprinted by the Huffington Post. The information is out there for those who want to read it. From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. my Facebook newsfeed had hundreds of posts. After 6 p.m., very little was added. It was as if people shut off the media and “circled the wagons” to be with family and friends. 

Thank you to our readers who offered to put me in touch with runners and spectators who were in Boston on Monday. I am appreciative of the contacts. 
This time however, I am choosing to keep The Windham Eagle a newspaper that families can gather with and discuss the news of their community away from the gruesome reality covered by others.  

RSU 14 wants $159K shaved off budget by Leah Hoenen

The Board of Directors of RSU 14 met to deliberate the proposed fiscal year 2014 budget and directed district administrators to try to reduce the budget by a total $150,000. Board members called the $39.8 million budget responsible, but expressed concern over its effect on tax rates.

At the start of the Wednesday, April 10 deliberations, the board heard that the budget has already gone down $82,457, giving administrators a targeted reduction of $67,543 more. Members debated how to reduce spending without losing more teachers or cutting programs. As presented, the budget calls for reductions in classroom teachers and education technicians across the district.

Net savings already being seen

Assistant Superintendent Donn Davis said the budget has been adjusted since board members last met, resulting in a net savings of $82,457. Those changes include the restoration of one-fifths time high school family and consumer science teaching position, increased health insurance costs, a less-than-expected increase in non-union salaries and the introduction of a potential retirement incentive for teachers already of retirement age, Davis said. The district does not offer an early-retirement incentive, he said.

“The retiree incentive is the most flexible,” said Davis. Nine teachers expressed interest in the option, which is a one-time payment of $10,000, or up to five years of payments of $3,500, he said. The board is expected to vote on whether to pursue that plan at its April 24 meeting, he said. Assuming the board approves the measure and all nine interested teachers retire, some of those who received reduction-in-force notices earlier this spring may be eligible to return, if they qualify and if the positions vacated are in the areas in which they teach, Davis said. That would still produce a net savings, he said.

Davis said the total proposed budget has increased by $880,000 over last year’s budget, but that figure includes the potential $500,000 shift of retirement costs from the state onto the district. Davis and members of the board said uncertainty in the state budget process makes the process of producing the district budget difficult.
Board member Kate Brix said she would not vote to reduce programming or to reduce staff further. “I think they are at bare bones right now. We are giving a huge value to taxpayers. Everyone else in the surrounding area has a higher cost per pupil. I mean, how low can you go and still provide quality programming?” she said.

Effect on taxes

Board member Mike Duffy said if the board approves the budget as presented, the school taxes in Windham and Raymond would increase. Davis said this budget would increase Windham school taxes 4.47 percent over the current budget, and the Raymond school tax by 1.44 percent.
Duffy said, “I’d like to see it reduced, but I don’t want to see classroom teachers or staff reduced further.” He pointed to a $17,000 placeholder for a portable classroom and $30,000 for sidewalk construction as possible cuts. Duffy also suggested the district investigate a pay-to-participate scheme for athletics as a way to increase revenue.

Brix said she is sensitive to the tax rate, but if the board wanted the increase to be zero, the board should have given administration that directive from the start.

Board Chairman Catriona Sangster said, “All of the buildings are flat-funded, they’re down or slightly up with the exception of technology and curriculum.” She said the 12.6 percent increase in the technology budget concerns her. “I know that technology enhances our teachers’ ability to teach, but I really question whether we need one-to-one laptops down to the third grade rather than more teachers in front of students,” she said. The district is buying Mac laptops at $47 apiece, which she said is a good deal.

Board member Elizabeth Fillinger said the supply line of the Windham Primary School budget has been cut by $20,000. “The money still comes out of taxpayer pockets for the parents who are asked for supplies,” she said. “I don’t think they can cut it anymore, but I have no problem taking a peek and seeing what can be deferred.”

Marge Govoni, board Vice Chairman, agreed with Duffy. “I don’t think I could face people with the 4.74 percent,” she said. She said she views flat-funding as a sign that nobody gets a raise, but that she also wants to see the tax rate increase by a smaller amount.

Budget already tight

Board member Jeri Keane said, “The administration, the A-Team, and staff have worked incredibly hard to bring in a budget that is so incredibly responsible. To demoralize them by nickel-and-diming it would be bad. If it’s going to be different, it would have to be draconian.”

Sangster noted that classrooms are filling and supply lines are tight, while electives were being reduced at the high school.

Members of board debated whether to pick items to cut or ask the district to reduce it with a target tax rate in mind. Davis said, “We’ve vetted this budget since October. It’s better for you to give us some guidance and we’ll see what we can do. We may come back and say we can’t and ask you to find cuts.”

Sangster said she has been hearing of high school students who are changing their schedules for next year because electives have been removed, and from residents about large class sizes. She said there may be things the budget calls for that the district can hold off on another year. “Beyond that, I don’t think we can do much more. It’s a very responsible budget. It was very clear it was hard for administration to make cuts, but they supported the cuts. We had some public input, but not a lot, which tells me people did a good job trimming the fat,” said Sangster.

Environmental permit pending for WPS upgrades by Leah Hoenen

Officials from the Windham-Raymond School District await environmental permits before work can begin on a bus loop and playground upgrades at the Windham Primary School.

The district’s planned renovations would address traffic problems at the school and house new equipment for the playground, facilities director Bill Hansen told members of the RSU 14 Board of Directors at its Wednesday, April 10 meeting.

Engineering estimates say the work could cost as much as $900,000; the district has $350,000 in capital reserve earmarked for a new bus loop in the front of the building, Hansen said. When actual bids come in for the project, Hansen said he will present figures and the board can discuss how to fund the work, he said.

Board Chairman Catriona Sangster said, “In the last two budget seasons, the public has voted to put money that was there in the end into a reserve specifically for the (bus) loop.”

Assistant Superintendent Donn Davis said the capital plan has more needs than money and that the financial committee will prioritize needs and present recommendations to the board. 

Hansen said the plan to create a bus loop and a separate car loop should alleviate traffic congestion at drop-off time. Board members have visited the school in the morning and board member Kate Brix said part of the bottleneck she saw was caused by parked district vans. She asked Hansen to investigate that aspect as well.

The project is broken into sections, including the bus loop, a parent drop-off area and 38 additional parking spaces, soft-play areas and the new playground. The playground plan includes a stone-dust walking path within the fenced-in area, which was designed to prevent dark areas for easy, thorough supervision, Hansen said.

The facilities budget contains money for the new playground equipment, $21,000 a year for 5 years, and the primary school is raising money to contribute to the equipment purchase as well, Hansen said. Funds already budgeted will cover the new equipment and the cost to grade the playground and add drainage, he said. A group of school volunteers has already raised more than $12,000 to put toward the playground equipment, said Michelle Jordan, who spearheads that effort.

Board Vice Chairman Marge Govoni said the playground work is necessary. “That playground is a nightmare and I’m just talking about topographically. Everyplace there’s somewhere flat, there’s something on it. It’s wet. It’s hard to get the kids out after a rain. They’ve gone out to get boots out of the mud,” she said.

“The timing is now based on the DEP review,” Hansen said. The average permit review takes 60 days, he said, and if that proves to be the case, the district could get the go-ahead for work to start work in late June or early July. If it takes longer to receive the permit, there might not be time to do work this summer, he said.

April 15, 2013

Public asks RSU 14 to preserve position by Leah Hoenen

Parents and community members called on the Board of Directors of RSU 14 to continue to fund teaching and education technician positions that could be cut in the fiscal year 2014 budget. They say the positions are essential to maintain the level of service students and the community currently enjoy from schools and programs.

If approved as presented, the $39.8 million proposed budget would eliminate or reduce the time of several positions across the district. The board held a public forum on the budget Wednesday, April 3.

Windham resident Michelle Jordan opened comments, saying that last year a teacher was added to the fourth grade at Manchester School. She questioned the decision to reduce a teaching position in the fifth grade as the fourth-grade class prepares to move up. “We added a teacher when the third grade went into fourth this year. Have we lost population or is this to cut costs?” she asked.

Jordan said last time federal Title 1 funds were cut, threatening the positions of education technicians, the board decided to keep funding those positions. “I ask you to consider making the same choice to not make cuts,” she said.

District Superintendent Sandy Prince said that, based on projections, Manchester would have 22 students per class in fourth grade and 23 students per class in fifth grade next year, which is within the board policy recommendation for class size.

Windham resident Barb Maurais said, “I’m concerned about a reduction in person power combined with large class sizes.” Maurais, an employee of Manchester School, referred to potentially larger sizes at that school if the budget passes as presented; Manchester might lose a Title 1-funded education technician as well, she said.

“People’s caseloads are already pretty high. I’m struggling to understand what that might look like,” said Maurais, noting that it might lead to fewer students receiving services. “I expect a certain level of service, and I’m not sure this budget supports it,” she said.

Raymond resident Jen Moore said the proposed reduction of a fourth-grade teaching position at Raymond Elementary School (RES) would have a big effect on that school. “In Raymond, because we’re small, cutting one teacher is not adding one pupil to each class, it’s adding five. In one class it’s eight,” she said.
After the forum, RES Principal Randy Crockett said the current fourth-grade class has 16 to 17 students per teacher. With one fewer teacher next year, fourth grade classrooms would likely see 23 students per teacher, he said. 

Crockett said that ratio does not account for educational technicians, special education technicians and other instructors who work with students during the day. “It’s not going to be 23 kids all day. The class could have 15 to 16 students depending on who is getting extra support during the day,” he said. “I think it’s going to be fine. I know the parents of our third grade group have concerns and some of the kids in that group have high needs. We have supports in place and their needs will be met,” Crockett said.

Moore also spoke at the March 31 cost-center presentation and, at the public forum, said she felt that comments at that meeting were heard, but that it was all for show.  
Board member Kate Brix later responded that it is untrue to say the board does not listen. “Your input is the most important thing,” she said, noting that she was unaware of some details about elementary classes she heard during public comment and planned to ask for more information.

Board member Toby Pennels agreed. “We listen. We listen a lot. We three have sat through 12 budgets and we’ve never passed a budget as they presented it,” he said.

Darren Rogers, of Raymond, spoke in support of a teacher whose position is one of those proposed to be eliminated. Praising her work in the classroom, he said, “I was kind of looking forward to a parent coming up to me on the sidelines of a soccer game and asking, ‘Who did your kid have in third grade?’ and me being able to say [her].”

Assistant Superintendent Donn Davis said teachers are categorized by impact areas, such as science or social studies, but also by grade level. Teachers have seniority based on when they signed their contracts, he said. In the contracts signed when Windham and Raymond schools merged, additional language was added to help the district retain the most highly-qualified teachers based on certifications and performance, he said. 

Davis said teachers who are given reduction-in-force (RIF) notices, have the right to return as long as they qualify for a position opened by another teacher retiring. He said the board is contemplating a type of bonus that those who qualify for retirement could consider taking.

Tom Bartell, Windham resident and town economic development director, called on the board to maintain a full-time career pathways position in the Adult Education program. The Adult Education budget proposes reducing that position to four-fifths time. 

Bartell said the work accomplished by the person in that position has strongly supported economic development in the community, and the move to part time could reduce those accomplishments. “We’ll be taking away that momentum of Adult Ed taking its rightful place in workforce development. Workforce development is a really major element of economic development,” Bartell said.

Board member Mike Duffy responded, “We get recommendations from directors and department heads of where cuts should be made. If I had my choice, I would not pick that.” He said the reduction in the Adult Ed budget was $12,600, which Brix said delivers a big bang for the buck in terms of services and economic development.

Jordan also asked the board to preserve plans for the Manchester playground project in the budget.

Brix said the district administrators meet together to discuss the budget. “When the budget is developed, it’s really a collaborative effort. It’s not about their building, it’s what’s best for the district,” she said.

The board will vote on the budget Wednesday, April 24.

Insights by Kelly Mank

As the publisher of this paper I get a lot of feedback not only about the paper but about the team we have in place, the columnists that we have chosen to partner with, and the advertisers we work hard with to help grow their business. I am a huge believer in positive thinking, so no matter what the feedback I take every word and turn it into a positive lesson or enriching motivation to make this the best community newspaper possible.

Since the day I had my first child, if I woke up in the morning and told myself it was going to be a great day, things just went well. If I woke up mad and frustrated, it was obviously a not so good day.

I take responsibility for everything I do. I never blame my faults on other people. (Other than blaming my nutritionist-at-heart mother earlier this week for allowing her daughter to get this much out of shape… I know, I know… not her fault). I say sorry, and I mean it when I’m wrong, and I say thank you to everyone in my life as much as I can. I would not be where I am if it wasn’t for my family, friends and team at work. I live by a “Givers Gain” philosophy, the more people we help the happier we’ll be. I did this even before I became a member of Business Networking International (BNI), a networking organization that also grows by this philosophy.

I raise my children with a sense of always being positive and the more we can do for other people the happier we will be in the long run.

So, in conclusion, the power of positive thinking has given me an amazing marriage, four happy and healthy children, four amazing businesses that keep me on my toes all day every day, and a fabulous network of people I can rely on no matter what the situation is. The lesson I hope to be able to rub off onto people is to always have a positive outlook. When things don’t look to be going the right way in life, lie in bed just one extra minute, and tell yourself that “today is going to be fantastic and a movement in a better direction”. Trust me… it works!

Pack 805 Gets Down and Derby

Photo by Allen Caron
This winter the Scouts in Pack 805 in Windham held their annual Pinewood Derby at Windham Middle School. The 65 Scouts created cars from blocks of wood and raced them down donated tracks. Trophies and prizes were given. Over $550 in merchandise was donated by various sponsors. They boys are looking forward to marching in parades and their overnight adventure at Camp Hinds in Raymond in May.

Quilts for Project Linus

Donna Morton's Class at Manchester School poses with a quilt they made for Project Linus with volunteer grandmother Mrs. Root. Students are Abbi Allen, Kyle Bailey, Abby Dodge, Abbie Edwards, Jack Foley, Kyle Hodgkins, Makenzie Campbell, Kevin Lavoie, Mikayla Linscott, Jonah Martin, Alec Mckeage, Alyssa Morneault, Austin Norcia, Aaron Poppish, Maren Root, Mollie Simonson, Matthew Sirois, Nicole Snow, Emma Yale and Carissa O'Connell.

April 7, 2013

Insights by Michelle Libby

Having never been in the business world of networking and you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours, it is amazing to find that successful local businesses have very similar mindsets. I’ve heard for years about the buy local movement and I tried to keep it local, but it wasn’t the first thing I thought of. I knew that when I wrote a story about a business, their traffic increased, but beyond that I never realized how important the local and community-based movements were.

As the editor of The Windham Eagle, I am learning that to keep businesses successful they have to get their names out there by volunteering, advertising and talking up their business with other business owners. There is a network of owners, who through BNI or the chamber of commerce, refer one another to their friends and co-workers. Need a plumber? Who works with you or your neighbor businesses? That’s who they call. And now, who I call. 

As far as mindsets, it’s the positive companies who attract the business. They are successful because of what they put out there in the community. It’s not all about them, it’s about their customers and businesses are more than willing to tell everyone how great their customers are.

Making money is of course what makes the world go round, so they say. However, the money will come when a business is doing the right thing and has the right attitude.

I look forward to getting to know more of our local businesses through interviews for our business spotlights and networking within the communities of Windham and Raymond.

April 1, 2013

Insights by Michelle Libby, Editor

April first is right around the corner and that means that high school seniors from all over the country will hear from the colleges they applied to. The process has changed some from when I applied to colleges. Now there is early action and early decision. I am just now learning all of the new terms. 

I listened to a book on my iPhone by Cheryl Richardson, titled “Create an Abundant Life”. She pointed out that we ask children, my daughter would disagree with this term, but children nonetheless to make a decision that could cost $100,000, if we’re lucky. That’s a lot of money to say, “here teenager, drive off into the sunset and learn everything you need to know to be successful in life.” 

Who knows what they want to do with their lives when they are 17? 

As I write this parents and seniors are waiting, not for the letter to appear in the mailbox, but for a specific hour to go online and check to see if they got into the college of their choice. It’s like Christmas on steroids. 

Will I or won’t I? What does it matter if one goes to Harvard or if another goes to SMCC? Graduates have amazing choices in this life. College is the way to go for some, but others decide to take a year off to travel or volunteer. As a parent, I have told my children that they will go to college, because they need that degree, but now I’m reconsidering their options. Maybe that was the old way things were done. Good luck to all of the RSU 14 seniors who are waiting for the all important yes or no.

RSU 14 discusses cost-center options by Leah Hoenen

Part #1
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.

Part #2
Cost centers across the Windham-Raymond school district have presented trim budget proposals to the district’s Board of Directors as it prepares to debate the $39.8 million fiscal year 2014 budget. Some schools reported last week that they plan to reduce staffing in response to enrollment changes.

The board has heard a series of cost-center presentations from schools and district managers, each with few increases as the budget proposal before the board is up $880,000 or 2.26 percent over last year’s.

The board will now deliberate the proposals it has heard after taking public comment on the budget. 

Windham High School 
Windham High School expects an increase in enrollment, and currently anticipates having 1,100 students next year, said Principal Chris Howell.

Going into budget preparations, the high school aimed to cut $70,000 from its budget, he said. As a result, the school proposes to eliminate a part-time industrial technology teacher position and cut back on some of that program’s supplies, said Howell. The planned reduction of a family and consumer science position from full-time to four-fifths time will eliminate the fabric and sewing arts program at the school, he said. Another proposed reduction, Howell said, is that of an education technician in the alternative education program. 

“The determination of where to make cuts was based on the lowest enrollment or on classes that do not meet our 22 credit graduation requirements, basically classes that are electives,” said Howell.

The high school budget shows increases related to two positions partially funded by grant money that will help students make four-year plans and develop job skills while connecting the high school and its students to the local business community, said Howell.

There were no changes to the high school’s supply lines, he said. 

Middle Schools 
Windham Middle School principal Charlie Haddock said his school had to examine staffing to keep ratios at 25 students per teacher. As a result, the school plans to reduce one-and-three-fifths teachers and has dropped one class from the sixth grade and two from the seventh grade, while adding one to eighth grade to maintain a 24:1 ratio there. 

The board was told to expect no changes at the middle school. “Zero change. The only changes are in staffing,” said Haddock.

At Jordan Small Middle School, Principal Randy Crockett said one sixth grade teaching position is scheduled to be eliminated. Fewer than 200 students were enrolled at JSMS as of Crockett’s March 30 presentation. “We’re right up against limits. If we had a surge of five or six students, we’d be squeezed in every grade but seventh,” he said.

Crockett said the music program is being reduced to four days as week, although class offerings will not change. In addition, Crockett said his school will reduce one interventional education technician position by eight hours and a library education technician to four days a week, leaving the library inaccessible one day a week. 

Crockett’s budget includes money for two document cameras and $1,000 more for textbooks, in addition to more money for art supplies. He said the library’s purchasing could be reduced, and reported decreased money for physical education and information technology. 

Elementary Schools 
Raymond Elementary School currently has 218 students enrolled, and is also facing staffing reductions. Fourth grade will have one fewer teacher and one less educational interventionist, Crockett told the board.

“I feel we have the staffing to meet the needs of the students with the reduction in place,” he said.

Speaking after the presentations, Jen Moore called the elimination of a fourth-grade teacher “a rash decision.”

The Raymond Elementary School budget proposal also calls for more projectors and 50 new laptops for fourth and fifth graders; those computers were included in last year’s budget. Other increases include a laptop with mixing capabilities for the music program and iBooks and MacBooks for fifth and sixth grades.

Manchester Elementary School Principal Cindy Curtis said her school’s budget calls for no increases, but features $15,000 less for supplies and the reduction of one classroom teacher. In addition, the school reorganized office staff, creating a 29-hour secretarial position without benefits as a cost-cutting measure, she said.

Manchester has reduced support staff in the budget by counting them in different categories, she said.

Windham Primary School Principal Dr. Kyle Rhodes spoke of a crowded building, describing “a school ready to burst at the seams,” with 43 full classrooms projecting similar, and potentially larger, class sizes for next year.

Rhodes said his school will receive fewer resources because of reduced federal funding. The budget Rhodes presented contains $20,000 less for supplies and $9,000 less in stipends for music, response-to-intervention and bullying programs. “Teacher-specific needs will be more difficult to find,” he said. 

Special Education 
Linda Powell, special education director, said staff is essential to programming, which is tailored to each child’s needs. “We are not offering any more than they are qualified for,” she said, of the services the district offers its students with special needs. “It’s such a child-focused staff. This is not the services, it’s the staff.”

The special education portion of the budget is up $59,000, said Powell, noting there is no state program for students with autism, a spectrum disorder that results in very complex issues.
The district serves students with special-education needs from kindergarten through 12th grade, Powell said. 

Part #3
 The Board of Directors of the Windham-Raymond School District has heard cost-center presentations for the entire district as it prepares to debate the proposed fiscal year 2014 budget.

The $39.8 million budget is up just 2.26 percent over last year’s.

Technology director Bob Hickey said the district is cognizant of financial difficulties and each department of the district is working hard to keep expenditures down. 

“We are maintaining, not growing or expanding. There are no big, expensive endeavors because we are all sensitive to budget times. People are losing their homes and other people have had no raises in years. In the last five years, the overall budget has gone up only half of one percent,” Hickey said.

Hickey presented a budget that is up 12 percent over last year’s, to cover software licenses, maintenance and leases. This year, Hickey said, the district will spend $59,000 on 3,800 software licenses that are, in part, helping to match computer systems across the district.

“In terms of increases in software, it’s nothing exotic. These are meat-and-potatoes operations expenditures,” Hickey said. Insurance costs are increasing, while some annual software fees are down. The district plans to spend $53,000 to continue a program of purchasing MacBooks from the state at $47 apiece. Currently, more than 700 are in district classrooms and the district will add 400 more this year, Hickey said. 

School Nutrition 
Jeanne Reilly, school nutrition director, said her department will spend more this year because of the rising cost of food, expansion of the program and the replacement of outdated equipment. The food-services budget is up 3.7 percent.

“Everyone who goes to the grocery store knows the price of food has gone up. We are preparing more meals, so we buy more food overall,” she said.

RSU 14 earned a U.S. Department of Agriculture certification in November, earning 6 cents per meal served, which will bring in an additional $18,000, said Reilly. That certification is tied to new regulations, she said.

She said she plans to continue focus on marketing and promoting the program.

“New guidelines generated negative press for school lunch programs,” Reilly said. “Many schools saw a 10 to 20 percent participation decline.” RSU 14 has worked hard to explain and promote its program and has fortunately not seen a decline, she said. “Participation drives our revenue,” Reilly said.

Thirty-seven percent of district students qualify for free and reduced-cost meals; only 30 percent of those 1,000 students eat lunch at school, said Reilly. She wants to reach out to them. The district encourages more participation in the free and reduced-cost program and is serving more than twice the number of free and low-cost meals than it did five years ago, she said.

And, the food services department plans continue its ongoing efforts to bring more local foods into the program and make more meals from scratch, said Reilly. That will mean some more training for staff.

“We have increased the number of meals we serve without increasing staff hours, but that’s significant,” she said, in response to questions about how the department might trim its budget.

In addition, Reilly said her program has marked money in its proposed budget for maintenance and replacement of some ageing equipment.

Curriculum director Christine Hesler said the district is seeing a 5.1 percent, or $22,653, decrease in federal Title 1 funding for the coming fiscal year because of the sequestration. That means the district plans to eliminate two education technician positions, she said. Title 1 education technicians work in Windham Primary, Raymond Elementary and Manchester Schools, Hesler said.

Hesler said the district is closely watching lawmakers as they work through their budget season.

Because of the realignment of some line items, professional development and technology alignment are shown as increased expenditures in the curriculum budget, Hesler said.

RSU 14 will host Jump Start to Kindergarten for the first time this year, said Hesler. That is a six-week program for 30 children who scored well below benchmarks on their kindergarten screening, she said. The Sebago Education Alliance is covering the cost of training and the materials to teach the program. “We always hear about No Child Left Behind,” said Hesler. “This is really no child starts behind.” 

District athletics director Rich Drummond said the 1.29 percent increase in his proposed budget is tied to teacher contracts. “This budget is basically what was presented for the fiscal year 2012-2013,” said Drummond.

“It’s really a budget that’s based on needs, not wants, and it’s a budget that will definitely be able to keep kids safe and give us the ability to compete competitively,” said Drummond.

The $632,600 budget will produce no cuts in athletic programming, he said.

WMS's Windstorm Challenge Team

On May 3, 2013, The University of Maine will sponsor a Windstorm Challenge Competition for middle and high school students. The students are required to design and construct a floating platform for a scale model turbine, and deliver a business plan and sales pitch to a panel of judges.

The Windstorm Challenge aims to provide a comprehensive and interdisciplinary opportunity that allows students to explore the concepts of deep water wind energy technology and its role in Maine‚s future.

The students have gained insight into wind technology by recently visiting a leading edge company, Pika-Energy, in Gorham, Maine.

From left to right:
Isabella Rosborough, Alexander Johnston, Ferris Florman, and Sebastian Foster
Advisors: Lee Allen and Jason Lanoie

Moran recognized by Principals' Association

Windham High School senior Cole Moran was selected to receive the 2013 Principal’s Award from the Maine Principals’ Association. The award recognizes the academic achievement and citizenship of a high school senior. 

Moran and Windham High School principal Chris Howell along with other award winners and their principals will attend an awards luncheon in Bangor on April 6.

Each award winner will receive a plaque and five $1,000 scholarships will be awarded in the names of Horace O. McGowan and Richard W. Tyler, who were both Maine principals and executive directors of the Association.

Q-Team's Rite of Spring

On Friday March 22, Q-Team Tree Service of Naples (also DBA Cook's Tree Service) under the direction of Robert Fogg raised the flag over the “Block”, a historic building in the center of Harrison. Twice a year Q-Team Tree Service volunteers to put up and take down the flag. 

“It’s a right of spring,” said Fogg. 

Darren Cole, in the bucket, attaches the flag to the flag pole. Q-Team is gearing up for a busy season of doing tree work around the Sebago Lake Region and the Oxford Hills area. “We’ll start in earnest in April,” Fogg added.