DIXFIELD — Directors of Regional School Unit 56 have received over 100 emails regarding possible cuts to the district’s first-year budget, interim Superintendent Brenda Gammon said at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

She read over a dozen of them that questioned cutting music and industrial arts programs. Many of them expressed concern about the possibility of losing alternative education teacher Rachel Buck and Dirigo Elementary School music teacher Tony Orlando.

RSU 56 will begin operations July 1, eight months after residents of the four towns voted to leave RSU 10 to save money and have more location control.

By the end of Tuesday’s meeting, RSU 56 directors had brought the initial proposed budget of $13.48 million down to $13.15 million, which would bring the average increase in school taxes for Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru to 24.5 percent.

Carol Roach, a Peru selectman, said that that during the towns’ withdrawal meetings they were told there would not be an increase in the town’s “and if there were it would be minimal.”

She said if the budget is passed as proposed, Peru is “looking at a 4 mill increase,” and although she is concerned about the children losing programs such as music and art, she is also concerned about Peru taxpayers, because many of them are on a fixed income.

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Proposed cuts, so far, include:

• Music program at Dirigo High School in Dixfield;

• Industrial arts program at the high school and Dirigo Middle School;

• Guidance program at the middle school;

• Athletic directors’ services at the high school and middle school;

• Extra- and co-curricular activities at the high school;

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• Overtime for Special Education; and

• Professional development. 

Craig Coulthard of Dixfield, an industrial arts teacher at the high and middle schools asked directors Tuesday why next year’s teachers’ summer salaries of $785,951, listed in a first round of budget cuts, had not been originally accounted for by the four towns withdrawal process.

He also asked them to consider that cutting the middle and high school industrial arts program could result in the loss of good teachers if the district decided to restart the program in the future. He also mentioned that losing the program would effect students’ educational needs.

Mark Bolduc, a Dixfield resident, said he wanted to hear the facts about the budget for next year.

“It was clear to me that the budget numbers were not well thought through,” he said, referring to the withdrawal committee’s proposal put before the four towns.

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Lexi Newton, a graduate of the high school’s alternative education program, credited teacher Rachel Buck with her graduating from high school.

“If it wasn’t for a program like Mrs. Buck’s there wouldn’t be that (alternative education) option for kids that are going through difficult times,” she said.

With a total of $2.32 million trimmed from the spending plan so far, the board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, at the high school to approve a budget to go to voters.

A public hearing on the budget is set for 6:30 p.m. May 30 at the high school.

In other business, Dirigo Elementary School Art teacher Karen Thayer and Pre-K teacher Jessica Robbins presented a PowerPoint presentation of their participation in a state-run pilot program titled Fostering Artful Early Childhood Classrooms.

The school ran a full-day program, while the other four schools chosen for the pilot project did half-days, Robbins said.

The school was given $500 worth of art supplies and had workshops to learn new ways of teaching art, Thayer said.

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Dirigo High School in Dixfield.


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