Retirement incentives top RSU 10 topics Monday

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DIXFIELD — Possible incentives for eligible long-term teachers to retire, and a proposal to use the former Peru Elementary School as a place to teach alternative education students from all three high schools were announced Monday night at a special Western Foothills Regional Unit 10 board meeting.

The proposals, which may be acted on in one form or another at the regular board meeting set for next Monday, came from Superintendent Tom Ward following a wrap-up of a first run-through of a 2010-11 operating budget.

Ward proposed that the district pay health insurance premiums for those eligible teachers for three years equal to the difference the Maine State Retirement System pays and the total cost of those premiums.

Such a proposal, if approved by the board, could affect between four and six current RSU 10 teachers who have not indicated that they want to retire, Ward said, and save the district about $20,000 per retirement.

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“We’re not pushing people to retire,” Ward said. “This is for one time only.”

Ten teachers have already submitted plans to retire at the end of the school year. The incentive would apply to each of those who qualify, as well.

He said neighboring districts, including RSU 9 in Farmington and RSU 17 in Norway-Paris, have made similar offers to their staffs.

As each person retires, or if others leave the district for other reasons, he said those positions will be evaluated to determine whether someone should be hired to fill the slot.

Even if the position must be maintained, chances are that the cost to the district will be less because teachers with fewer years of experience may be hired.

In another possible cost-cutting measure, as well as to offer the same benefits to students from all three high schools, Ward suggested that alternative education high school students be taught in one place rather than in two, as is now offered in Dixfield and Rumford. Buckfield High School has no such program, he said, and there is a need to help decrease the drop out rate.

If a proposal is approved by the Peru Board of Selectmen and the school board, Ward said about 50 students would use the main floor of the former elementary school. With all alternative education students in the same place, fewer staff would be needed, he said.

He also wants to offer a similar program for middle school students from all three regions. A site has not yet been chosen and the board has not approved the concept of having a central place for all middle school alternative education students. That issue will also come up at Monday’s board meeting, when a final run-through of a possible 2010-11 budget will be reviewed.

Ward wants to see both alternative education programs begin in the fall of 2010.

The board is expected to act on a proposed budget that will go before residents at its April 26 meeting.

Ward has not yet said how many teaching and other positions will be lost as the district tries to develop a budget that is expected to have a $600,000 reduction in general purpose aid from the state.

A preliminary budget stands at about $35 million, up from $34 million for the current year.

eadams@sunjournal.com

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