DIXFIELD — School principals pitched their budget requests to Regional School Unit 56 directors Tuesday night, including a junior varsity sports program, a part-time athletic director/assistant principal and more special education staff.

Jason Long advocated for funding junior varsity sports at T W Kelly Dirigo Middle School, where he is principal, and Dirigo High School. The programs were cut from this year’s budget.

“I feel very, very strongly that the middle school must fund J.V. sports,” Long said. “It is something the community has been very clear about wanting and it creates a fundraising cycle that is frankly untenable.

“There is a right way and a wrong way to go about doing things and the right way to build athletic programs is to know you’re going to have J.V. sports, not hope you’re going to have J.V. sports,” Long said.

High school Principal Lisa Twomey said she is requesting a part-time athletic director/assistant principal position for the high school and the middle school.

“As much as I’m seeing behavioral issues, emotional needs of our students are not getting the full attention that they deserve,” she said. The assistant principal would be able to help meet those needs, she said.


Another staffing request for 2019-20 was made by Heidi Connelly, special education director for the district, which serves Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru.

She said Dirigo Elementary School needs an educational technician to help support students in the pre-kindergarten special education program, and the high school needs a special education teacher and an educational technician.

“There is clearly a need for an additional teacher at the high school,” Connelly said, in addition to the two special education teachers there.

About 10 students, who the district was not expecting this year, have enrolled at the high school and need special education services, she said, making it the highest caseload of any school in the district.

“We’ve got one special education teacher overseeing 24 students where across the district the average is about 15,” Connelly said.

Principal Charlie Swan told directors he wants to expand a phonics program for kindergarten and first-grade students to include second-graders at Dixfield Elementary School.


He is also requesting a fourth kindergarten classroom because of the high number of students anticipated.

Other requests in his budget include $7,000 toward an after-school program. He said a grant for the program is ending in June and he and other administrators are seeking either another one or a continuation of the 21st Century grant.

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RSU 56 Superintendent Pam Doyen outlines the budget process for the board of directors Tuesday evening. (Rumford Falls Times photo by Marianne Hutchinson)

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