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SAD 51 OKs new use for Drowne Road School in Cumberland

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SAD 51 OKs new use for Drowne Road School in Cumberland

CUMBERLAND — The School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors voted unanimously Tuesday to move third-graders from the Drowne Road School to the Mabel I. Wilson School next year and find a new use for the Drowne Road building.

Recommendations from the district’s Sustainability Task Force include seeking proposals for possible uses of the school that will be self-sustaining and consistent with the district’s mission.

Moving the third grade to the Wilson school, which currently houses kindergarten through second grade, will save the district more than $121,000, Superintendent of Schools Robert Hasson said. Job cuts will include a library educational technician, secretary, custodian and social worker.

Hasson announced the savings prior to a fiscal 2011 budget hearing, which packed the Town Hall Council Chambers. He said additional changes in the budget since the board’s April 5 meeting include custodians and maintenance employees deferring a salary increase for savings of more than $23,000, and the teaching staff giving up a furlough day, saving more than $63,000.

All the changes total about $208,000, allowing the district to put some positions back into next year’s budget. A part-time music teacher and a full-time equivalent fifth-grade teacher and educational technician total nearly $102,000, resulting in about $106,000 left to be added to a contingency fund.

As directed by the School Board, Hasson delivered a fiscal 2011 budget last month that would remain flat at $28 million for the third year in a row, with $1.44 million in reductions. But members of the public have expressed concern about the cuts necessary to achieve a no-growth budget, and how those reductions will impact student programming.

Brett Wickard of Cumberland noted that while the district is “in a bit of a tight spot” financially, “it isn’t the kids’ fault … so why should they bear the brunt of our fiscal woes? We all know that they shouldn’t. That’s why the right thing to do is to cut where we can, but maintain our program and teaching levels at where they are right now.”

Wickard promoted the “One for All, Greely!” group, which has a page on Facebook and calls for an end to further program and teacher cuts in the Cumberland and North Yarmouth public schools.

Mark Verrill, a North Yarmouth selectman, said he appreciated the education his two Greely Middle School children receive and the hard work of the School Board during the budget process.

“What I’m asking for tonight is shared sacrifice during these tough fiscal times that we’re in,” he said, adding that while he feels the taxpayers, teachers and students have made sacrifices, more could come from the administration level.

He called for a 3 percent cut in administrative salaries if no positions in that department can be cut.

“I will continue to speak out and urge people to vote no (on the budget) until I see a sacrifice at the administrative level,” Verrill said.

“I feel like we have one shot to educate our kids, and they are our investment,” said Elizabeth Clark of Cumberland.

She praised the district’s teachers and educational technicians, adding that “we need to provide them with all the support that we have available. And that may not mean a zero budget … I’m here to support maybe a little bit more.”

The School Board is due to vote on the budget May 3. The district budget vote will be held June 3, followed by the budget validation referendum June 8.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.