Letter: Back the SAD 51 budget, school plan

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As a Cumberland resident and a former School Board member, I encourage citizen support of the proposed 2011-12 SAD 51 budget and the associated recommendation to close Drowne Road School. The budget calls for an operating increase of 1.62 percent, particularly modest in light of three years of flat budgeting.

There is a decline, albeit slight at this point, in enrollment. At the elementary level, the shifts in enrollment are accounted for in the number of teachers at each grade level. At the middle school and high school, the task of balancing student/teacher ratios is more difficult. The number of teachers reflects a commitment to class sizes that optimize instruction to support the developmental needs of students as well as to ensure a safe and respectful environment where all feel a sense of belonging. These very principles make reductions in response to enrollment fluctuations arduous, but over time the district has responsibly eliminated positions while maintaining a balance.

So how do we achieve cost savings when many of our costs are fixed? Last year, the Sustainability Task Force recommended repurposing Drowne Road School. The result was the third-grade move to Mabel I. Wilson. The remaining “fixed costs” of Drowne were part of last year’s budget. A year later, we do not have a viable option in place for Drowne and the board is recommending that the facility be permanently closed. The resulting savings of over $240,000 would be applied to the 2011-2012 budget. This recommendation should also be supported.

Susan Campbell