Cape Elizabeth school chief hopes for additional state aid

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Superintendent of Schools Alan Hawkins on March 15 told the School Board he does not expect to release a freeze on school supplies, but does expect to hear from the state about a possible $5 million in additional aid to schools.

If the district receives additional school funding, Hawkins recommended it be placed in a contingency fund. He said he will continue to allow some purchases as they are needed.

“It is not a complete freeze, but we are making sure we keep close tabs on our money,” he said.

Hawkins also said the department used stimulus funds to offset a state curtailment order of nearly $621,000 that had significantly reduced the undesignated fund balance.

“I am adamantly opposed to cutting programs mid-year,” he said, noting that the stimulus money almost totally restored the undesignated funds.

In addition to asking district-wide questions of Hawkins, the board had an opportunity to ask the Pond Cove and Cape Elizabeth Middle School principals how three budget scenarios would each affect the 2011 school year.

The scenarios include a zero percent tax increase with significant reductions to programs and positions, a midpoint budget that would increase taxes about 2.8 percent and reduce programs slightly, and a maintenance budget that would retain current service levels but raise taxes nearly 5 percent.

At Pond Cove, the zero percent budget scenario would result in a $238,000 reduction in services, programming and positions. The largest reduction would come from the elimination of a Reading Recovery/Kindergarten through fourth grade literacy technician. The teachers in this position provides intensive, individual instruction to struggling students.

Principal Tom Eismeier said there would be shifts to educational technology positions. Two full-time educational technician II positions and one educational technician I would be cut, but an additional educational technician III would be added to the library and media center and an educational tech II would be raised to a level III technology coordinator.

There would be $13,000 in cuts for books and supplies, and half time reductions for a social worker, health educator, librarian and administrative support.

A midpoint budget scenario would restore about $129,000 to fund a literacy teacher, and reinstate full-time status for the heath educator and administrative support position. Books and supplies would also be restored, Eismeier said.

The maintenance budget would add $115,000 to the midpoint budget and would restore the guidance and educational technician I positions to full time. The library/media specialist position would be restored and a general classroom support educational technician II would be added.

Eismeier also said Pond Cove would try subject matter team teaching in grades 3-4 with a pilot program in grade 2. He said the program is in its preliminary stages and expects to begin next school year.

“We will make sure this is a good fit for the kids and the teachers,” he said.

At the middle school, the zero percent budget increase would result in a reduction of $144,000. Principal Steve Connolly said due to an increase in class numbers projected for next year, this budget would cause larger class sizes, fewer support programs and additional strain on professional development.

There would be reduced regular education support and more burden on non-teaching support staff, he said. Accelerated language arts would be eliminated in grades five through eight and pay-to-play sports costs would increase. The middle school librarian position would be reduced to half time and combined with Pond Cove and guidance secretarial services, and an educational technology position would be reduced to half time.

The midpoint budget – a 2.4 percent increase or $85,000 – would allow continuation of regular support services, controlled language arts and math classes in grades five and six, and gifted and talented support. There would be funds available to reinstate extra-curricular opportunities for all middle school students and to reinstate three B team positions that were eliminated from this year’s budget.

The maintenance budget would add an additional $85,000 to the midpoint budget and enable the middle school to continue the current non-teaching support services structure. The building educational technology I and III computer lab positions would be reinstated and substitutes would not be used as readily, because the educational technology positions could cover classrooms in those situations.

In addition, Connolly said the seventh- and eighth-grade staffing and schedule next year will be based on teaching teams similar to the structure of grades five and six. The two-teacher teams will handle between 40 and 65 seventh- and eighth-grade students teaching math and science, and language arts and social studies. He said looping for the four grades may be a consideration in the future.

The School Board was scheduled to continue budget discussions Thursday, March 18, and Tuesday, March 23. To view the school budget visit the Cape Elizabeth school Web site.

Amy Anderson can be reached at781-3661 ext. 110 or