Brunswick school budget axes 40 jobs, 15 teachers

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BRUNSWICK — The School Board accepted a $33.3 million budget for fiscal 2012 on Wednesday night.

The spending plan eliminates nearly 40 jobs, terminating the contracts of 15 teachers and temporarily closes Jordan Acres Elementary School.

The board voted unanimously three times, with Julie Brown abstaining on the teacher contract elimination vote.

The mood in the nearly empty council chambers was somber as board members expressed their sadness at the programming and staffing cuts. Chairwoman Corinne Perreault cried as she read from a prepared statement.

“I believe we have finally hit the point where we have hurt our school system and thus the children of Brunswick,” she said, her voice breaking.

“This budget will not provide them with a better education, period. … If we continue to fail to support and eliminate the services in Brunswick that make it special, Brunswick will no longer be a special place to live.”

Other board members shared Perreault’s feelings about the budget.

Michelle Joyce said the budget cuts mean a “mediocre status quo” would be maintained, and urged the teachers who retained their jobs to “hold themselves accountable to the highest level of standards.”

Michelle Small said the budget cuts would “absolutely” have an impact on the quality of education in town, but said the board had no choice. She pleaded with the Town Council not to force the board to make further cuts.

If the council gives the schools more money, something that board members acknowledged is highly unlikely, many said they hoped to reinstate a summer math and literacy camp and reading assistants.

Jack Jones suggested that retirees and Bowdoin College students might be able to fill some of the gaps left by the staff reductions, and said he hoped someone would step forward to organize a formal volunteer program.

Only one town councilor, Benet Pols, attended the meeting. He said he would not support any council motion that require additional reductions.

“The cuts they’ve made to this point are so far beyond anything I’ve seen in the past few years,” Pols said. “It’s pretty drastic to shut a school.”

The rest of the Town Council will have a chance to hear from the School Board at the budget workshop on Monday, May 9. The council is scheduled to vote on the budget on May 26. The budget validation referendum is on June 7.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.

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