MINOT — The RSU 16 School Committee on Monday unanimously approved a plan to move the adult education program from the third floor of the Mechanic Falls Municipal Building to the former Head Start building behind it.

Adult Education Director Nancy Watson spoke enthusiastically of the advantages the program’s new quarters offer.

“While our students have high praise for our program and staff, the one consistent criticism is that we don’t have enough space,” Watson said.

Adult education currently occupies about 1,700 square feet of space, as compared with the former Head Start’s building’s 2,552 square feet.

“And we’ve been told we are free to add onto the building if we want,” Watson said.

Watson also noted the terms of the lease agreement favor stability.

The Mechanic Falls Council has offered the RSU a 20-year lease at a cost of $1 a month, with the RSU assuming responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the building.

The School Committee also approved a unified contract for all of the district’s custodial workers.

The new contract replaces the three separate contracts that had governed workers in the district’s schools in Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland.

According to School Superintendent Dennis Duquette, the new contract will increase the amount paid in wages by about $33,000.

School Committee member Scott Sawyer, noting that the new contract was covering 15 workers, said that this meant the average worker would be getting a $2,000 raise.

Duquette noted that that is what it took to bring everybody, currently covered under very different contracts, up to parity. 

Sawyer asked whether the school consolidation law required that everybody’s pay had to rise to match the highest pay rate in a district.

“I’d like to have a $2,000 raise,” Sawyer said.

Duquette said that nothing in the consolidation law required that everyone’s pay rise match the highest rate of pay, but that the negotiating team also had to consider whether what the people were being paid were truly fair wages.

“Even with the raise, the pay our people (in custodial positions) will be receiving is the lowest in Androscoggin County and the northern part of Cumberland,” Duquette said.

The minimum starting pay for a custodian in RSU 16 will be $12 per hour under the new unified contract.

School Committee member Norm Davis said he was very concerned, particularly in light of the fact that the board has other contracts to deal with, including that with teachers.

“Our budget has to go before the voters and, if they think it is out of line, the whole thing can be shot down. None (of these workers) are being overpaid, but I don’t know anyone making more now than they were two years ago,” Davis said.

Duquette reported that he recently has received resignations of three of the district’s senior teachers, Suzanne Madden and Barbara Rimmer from the Minot Consolidated School, and Harvey Leighton from Whittier Middle School in Poland. Also received was the resignation of Poland Regional High School’s Dean of Students, Ray Lafrenier, effective at the end of the school year.

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