Bethel school district faces job losses, building closures

BETHEL — Regional School Unit 44 faces the possibility of losing up to 25 positions and closing several facilities as the district deals with the loss of about $2 million in state aid over the next two fiscal years.

The loss, said Superintendent David Murphy, is attributed to continued reductions in General Purpose Aid to Education because of the RSU's member towns' increased property valuations, along with other minor costs. RSU 44 towns include Bethel, Andover, Woodstock, Greenwood and Newry.

Murphy said if 20 to 25 positions are eliminated, some would come from
the 88-person teaching staff and some from the 90 or so support staff.
With those reductions would come the elimination of some programs, as
well.

"This will be the whole restructuring of the school district," Murphy said Tuesday afternoon.

"I feel pretty crappy about it, to cut back on educational services," school board Chairman Sidney Pew said. "The state is not sticking to paying 55 percent (of public school spending statewide). It's unfortunate that all this had to revolve around money. We want to maintain good standards and what's good for the kids."

Position reductions and facility closures aren't written in stone, Pew said. The final decision for such cuts will be made by the board.

Murphy was directed by the board on Monday to devise a two- or three-year plan for the future of the district.

The actual loss of funding may be less than $2 million, contingent upon the amount the district's member towns agree to pick up, Murphy said.

He plans to present recommendations for building closures at the Feb. 22 board meeting but not specific position eliminations.

"We need to be thoughtful and deliberative," Murphy said.

Pew said there would be board discussions and everything would be considered.

As shown before a crowd of 50 to 60 people at Monday's board meeting, Murphy's PowerPoint presentation listed a number of next steps in the reduction process:

• Develop a bottom line operating figure for the 2010-11 fiscal year; the current year's budget was $9.6 million, down slightly from the previous year.

• Determine the impact on schools and taxpayers.

• Set a timeline for decisions about facilities closings and consolidating students.

Because they are the smallest, Andover Elementary School, with about 35 students, and Woodstock Elementary School, with about 85 students, may be targeted for closing, leaving all elementary children to attend Crescent Park Elementary School in Bethel.

Murphy and Pew agreed that not merging with a neighboring district during the school consolidation process did not have an impact on the loss of funding. RSU 44 received permission from the state to stand alone after attempts to join with at least two other neighboring districts failed.

eadams@sunjournal.com

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 's picture

Please define "welfare".

Please define "welfare".

 's picture

All school districts should

All school districts should be making similar moves.  It's good news any time a government employee is laid off.  Other towns,  counties,  states and especially the federal government should be following Bethel's lead.

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