MEXICO — The Regional School Unit 10 board took one step at Monday night’s meeting to potentially cut costs as they develop the 2015-16 budget, and discussed several other steps.

The board unanimously approved offering a retirement incentive for teachers who have reached the age and experience of eligibility.

Superintendent Craig King did not say how many may qualify, but he did report that a similar incentive for school year 2013-14 saved the district about $100,000 when nine staff members took the offer. The retirement incentive also encouraged three teachers to retire in 2012-13 and 10 in 2011-12.

The incentive calls for the district to provide retirees who take the offer $5,000 toward the cost of health insurance.

Much of the cost savings comes when replacement teachers with fewer years of experience replace those who retire.

The board also continued its discussion and informational gathering on whether RSU 10 should leave the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which is the organization that accredits the three high schools in the district.

King had said at the previous board meeting that NEASC reviews, reports and dues cost more than $100,000 for the three high schools over a 10-year period.

Buckfield Junior-Senior High School, Dirigo High School and Mountain Valley High School are in different phases of the NEASC process right now.

MVHS Principal Matt Gilbert said more than 30 percent of Maine high schools are not accredited. He and principals Mike Poulin of DHS and George Reuter of BJSHS contacted many colleges outside of the state to learn whether accreditation would affect college applications.

They were told that NEASC accreditation was not an important part of the application, but that student grades and the courses taken were. The principals already received similar comments from colleges within the state.

Before making a decision on whether to continue with NEASC, Gilbert, Poulin and Reuter were asked to call principals in Maine who head unaccredited schools to learn whether such a status affected their students’ college applications.

“We want to know the pros and cons of staying with NEASC,” said Superintendent Craig King, who also said he brought up the issue because of the unfairness of the price structure that costs the same for a small school — such as BJSHS with 160 students and 12 teachers — and a much larger one.

Byron representative Judy Boucher said that when the issue of whether to continue within the NEASC program came up a few years ago, many parents were concerned.

“Many could be upset,” she said.

Board member Barbara Chow, who has been involved in three reviews by NEASC teams, said the process was productive.

However, board member Brad Gallant said he has not seen any benefit to the costly and time-consuming process.

A straw poll of the board showed an overwhelming desire to leave the NEASC process.

The issue will be brought up again at the Feb. 9 board meeting.

King reminded everyone that the first of three public forums to gather input from residents on three possible plans for restructuring or closing some schools in the district takes place at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 28, at MVHS.


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