FARMINGTON — RSU 9 school board members voted Tuesday to approve a stipend of $9,000 to manage the Forum and the Bjorn Auditorium at Mt. Blue Campus.

The vote also allows the board to review data in January 2014 to see if that amount is enough or needs to be increased.

The money was not included in the current year’s budget.

Superintendent Tom Ward recommended a total stipend of $18,000 for a team approach to work year-round to manage the new facilities with high-tech equipment, including sound and lighting systems.

The Forum and the performing arts center are part of the $64 million renovation/construction project at Mt. Blue High School and Foster Career and Technical Education Center.

Three or four teachers who will use the facilities the most are interested in sharing the work to manage the system, Ward said.

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They would be trained and would share the responsibility for scheduling, supervising, lighting and sound needs for all groups, including those in the school and outside organizations that would want to use them.

The stipend would be divided among the teams they agree based on individual responsibilities.

This is the model that Marshwood High School has used for the past 13 years, Ward said. He used to be principal of the South Berwick school.

With a team approach, they could take turns supervising the facilities all year, he said.

Director James Black of Wilton thought the $18,000 is a little overboard.

“I would feel more comfortable with cutting that in half to $9,000,” he said. “There are too many variables to vote on $18,000.”

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It’s not known how many times the facilities are going to be used, he said.

“I feel it is easier to come back up than to go back down” with the amount, he said.

Ward said he could look at a lower rate as long as the board didn’t mind if the amount is too little that it be revisited.

“You’re right, we don’t know how many times it will be used,” he said.

Director Jennifer Zweig Hebert said he agreed with Black that it was a pretty large stipend. She requested more data from the Marshwood school to review the proposal.

Weld Director Nancy Crosby asked if they had any idea how much Mt. Blue High School was going to use it.

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They didn’t but Ward said two-thirds of the use would be in-district.

Initial training of the equipment was included in the construction project, David Leavitt, support services director, said.

Audio training started Tuesday, high school Principal Monique Poulin said.

Concerns were raised about the $9,000 stipend not being enough, especially with teachers having to go through all the training up front, and that it would a year-round service. Other concerns were the comparison to stipends already in place and the possibility that a full-time person would be needed.

Almost every place that has a performing arts center does have a full-time person, Ward said.

There are people interested in ongoing training, he said.

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“The main thing is we cannot let anyone who has not been trained touch the equipment,” Ward said. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment could go right down the tubes, he said.

The other thing is they are putting a lot of people off until a plan is put in place, he said.

There would be a fee for outsiders to use the facilities.

The team approach is cost-effective, Ward said.

Directors also asked for comparable figures from other schools that have a center for their next meeting.

Ward said Cony and Camden high schools were looked at and they spend much more than an $18,000 stipend.

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