Superintendent says cluster school plan not a done deal

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OXFORD — Superintendent Mark Eastman told the Oxford Hills School District Board of Directors this week that a proposal to eliminate five pricipals’ positions and one assistant principal’s job is not certain, but something similar must be done to meet drastic cuts in state funding over the next few years.

“It is not a done deal,” Eastman said of the plan to have three principals for the district’s eight elementary schools, not eight.

The plan will keep the elementary schools in Norway, Paris, Oxford, Otisfield, Harrison, Hebron, Waterford and West Paris open, and will retain current programming and reasonable class size. Norway, Waterford and Harrison schools would have one principal and two assistant principals; Paris, West Paris and Hebron schools would have one principal and two assistant principals; and Otisfield and Oxford elementary schools would have one principal and one assistant principal.

The plan has not been received well by all parents, including some in Otisfield and Oxford who signed a petition expressing their concern and the need for more information.

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The consolidation would save about $250,000 in administrative costs and another $500,000 in instructional costs to help meet the more than $4 million revenue loss expected in the next two years, Eastman said. It would also, in part, help deal with declining enrollment in the elementary schools, which has been up to a 28 percent drop in Harrison and Oxford over the last 15 years, he has said.

The Board of Directors will make the final decision on the plan, but Eastman said action has to be taken whether it is to approve this plan or another. “It is clear it is going to take a proposal similar to that to reach the current size of the deficit we’re facing,” he said. Other alternatives to reduce the budget deficit, including closing some of the smaller schools, combining grades and redistricting, are not favored, he said.

The superintendent will present the 2010-11 budget to the school board April 5. Directors will vote on the budget in early May, after public hearings April.

District voters must approve the budget in a two-tier vote set for June 3 and 8.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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