DIXFIELD – Nearly a dozen professional and support staff positions including a planned pre-kindergarten program will likely be cut from the proposed SAD 21 fiscal 2009 budget when board members act on it early next month.

On Monday, the board and administration agonized over the likelihood of the personnel cuts during their final budget development session.

The cuts are needed to keep the proposed budget, at $11.5 million, no greater than 2 percent over the fiscal 2008 budget. After anticipated attrition and retirements, Superintendent Tom Ward said three other people will lose their jobs.

Hit the hardest is the 350-student Dirigo High School, which will lose an English teacher, a science teacher, a reduction from full-time to half-time industrial arts teacher, and two educational technicians.

Also set for elimination are three educational technicians at Dirigo Middle School, one secretary at an as-yet undetermined school, one library technician at an as-yet undetermined school, and a pre-kindergarten teacher and educational technician planned for the new Dirigo Elementary School in Peru. The pre-kindergarten program may be reconsidered during next year’s budget development process, said Ward.

Other personnel changes include sharing SAD 21’s director of building, grounds and transportation with neighboring SAD 43, and a $13,000 reduction in payments for music tutors that could mean the end of instrumental instruction for fifth-graders.

Charles Maddaus, a high school English teacher, was concerned about an increase in class sizes, while science teacher Melanie Johnson asked how the reduction in elective science courses would impact students.

“Now, each teacher has about 80 students with an average class size of 13. You’re talking a significant increase,” said Maddaus.

Ward estimated that the average would likely rise to between 18 and 20 per class.

Johnson said the science department would lose the most electives, at six.

Canton representative Cynthia Bissell said reducing electives in any field reduces the chances for high school students to get a well-rounded education.

“If we hurt our kids’ education, that’s worse than property taxes,” she said.

Other reductions in the district’s overall budget include $12,000 in contracted psychological counseling, less guidance testing at the middle school, fewer professional health services, and reductions in the purchase of library books at the elementary and high schools.

Ward said the cuts or reductions are needed because the district is getting less money than expected this year in state aid to education. He said SAD 21 will receive only about $40,000 more than last year when it usually receives several hundred thousand dollars more than the previous year.

The board will take action on the budget at its May 12 meeting. Voters in district towns of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru will decide the fate of the budget in June.

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