How much does “administration” in the Lewiston School Department cost taxpayers? That question has perplexed, baffled and mystified many. What is the definition of “administration”?

Working with Lewiston’s Bobbi Avery, chief administrative officer, and with Maine Department of Education personnel, the answer is challenging. The state budget process for all school systems has administration cost divided into 11 different articles. To find total administration costs, one would have to go through all 11 articles. But when the state defines Lewiston’s administration costs, only two articles are included — Article 6, system administration (Lewiston, 2.12%) and Article 7, school administration (Lewiston, 3.82%).

The resulting report shows very low administration costs across the state.

However, administration costs found in the other nine articles are NOT included. Lewiston’s other nine articles contain the following administration costs: Special education, $1,152,230; ELL, about $530,000 (includes two principals/assistant principals); improvement of instruction, about $250,000 (includes the assistant superintendent); LRTC, about $250,000; and several others.

The school districts are following the state budget process. This 10-year-old budget process was designed for more transparency so the public could see where/how their money was being spent and uniformity across Maine, but not to show total administration costs.

The Maine Legislature needs to require that school districts report all administration costs in all 11 articles in one report to show the total cost transparently to all Maine taxpayers. That would demystify total administration costs across the state, providing more accurate public information. The current percentage of administration cost reporting process is misleading.

 Crystal Ward, Lewiston