Long-range planning tops Portland School Committee's agenda

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PORTLAND — The School Committee will vote Wednesday on a resolution that aims to increase the financial stability of the district.

The resolution would direct the superintendent, school staff and Finance Committee chairman to collect information and recommend a multi-year budgeting plan. A final recommendation of the mulit-year process would be delivered to
the School Committee for acceptance by Dec. 1. 

The resolution brings several school initiatives together
into a single document. It specifically mentions the 2008
Plan for Sustainable Education Quality, an effort of both school and
city officials to find operational efficiencies. Those efforts, coupled with the
Report of the Facilities Task Force, which contains enrollment
projections through 2019, have positioned the district to begin
planning for the long term.

The multi-year budgeting process is
proposed to include examining detailed descriptions of educational
programs, services and content areas. The committee will evaluate the
previous five budgets, examine needs assessments for school departments
and recommend implementation options.

School officials predict that future budgets will become increasingly difficult due to a projected decrease in state education funds. Some have suggested Portland’s subsidy could drop by $3.6 million next year.

Complicating the subsidy decline are late state budget projections, unanticipated cuts (like the threatened $1.8 million curtailment last year), unfunded education mandates and county assessments. 

“The Portland School Committee has determined that the traditional single-year school budget process leaves the school district at the mercy of political priorities,” the resolution says. 

In other business, the committee is scheduled to vote on authorizing the superintendent to enter into a five-year lease-purchase agreement with Business Equipment Unlimited for 89 photocopiers. The contract would cost the district nearly $660,000, which includes paying off the final two years of a current six-year lease.

Following the business meeting, the School Committee will meet in a workshop session to discuss two other long-range planning topics: A community visioning process to help help guide a strategic plan for the district; and a course of action to begin addressing issues raised by the Facilities Task Force. 

The proposal for a community visioning process would cost $7,500 plus expenses, according to the proposal. A consultant would be hired to moderate a diverse group of between 50 and 80 stakeholders from the community and reach a consensus about the direction of the public school system.

The vision statement could then be used as the basis of a long-range strategic plan that would look five to 10 years into the future.

Superintendent James Morse Jr. said he hopes to conduct the visioning process over the course of three days this fall and have a vision statement drafted by Thanksgiving.

The School Committee will also begin discussing how to proceed with addressing the needs of school facilities, which were outlined in a recent facilities report. 

Wednesday’s meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in room 250 of Casco Bay High School, 196 Allen Ave.  

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net