DIXFIELD — Regional School Unit 56 will hold its fifth budget validation and hearing for this year’s school budget on Thursday, Dec. 19, at Dirigo High School at 6:30 p.m. A referendum in each town will be held Jan. 7.

The $12.72 million budget set for Thursday’s validation eliminates money for a principal for Dirigo High School and was approved by an 8-2 vote by the board of directors during their meeting on November 26.

A motion to increase the budget to save the position failed to pass.

By cutting the DHS principal position, Superintendent Pam Doyen would become both principal and superintendent for the district and the change would decrease the budget by $36,000.

The $12.72 million budget for 2019-20 represents a 3.5% increase from the previous fiscal year and an average increase of 11.2% in assessments for Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru.

The first budget of $13.27 million was rejected in June. It was 8% higher than the year before and would have raised town assessments an average of nearly 23 percent. The second budget in July dropped to $12.9 million, a 5% increase and a 15.6% average increase in assessments.

The third proposal in September of $12.9 million was a 5% increase from the previous year and an average 15.6% increase in assessments. The fourth budget this month was $12.79 million with a 4.1% increase from the previous year and an average increase in assessments of 13.64%.

Because the district did not have an approved budget to start the new fiscal year July 1, it has been legally operating at spending levels that represent about a 4% increase from 2018-19, Doyen said previously.

In other business, at the Regional School Unit 56 meeting on Tuesday, Director of Technology Brian Keene updated the board of directors on the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant to be received within months by the district.

The full grant amount awarded, $499,676, will be shared between RSU 56 schools in Dixfield and Peru, RSU 10 schools in the Rumford and Buckfield areas, RSU 83 schools in the Bingham and Moscow area, RSU 87 Carmel and Levant schools, and Region 9 School of Applied Technology in Mexico.

“Our share (of the grant funding) will be right around $100,000. We’ll be getting two 75” smart panels for each school, for a total of six panels, and each school is getting one videoconferencing unit. The rough time frame is getting it in three to four months,” Keene said.

Keene also noted the technology department has two other grants that they are currently working on, a 2019-20 Security Camera Grant and a 2019 E-rate grant.

The Security Camera Grant applied for through the Dixfield Police Department, “funds one year of software called Eagle Eye, a security surveillance software. It runs with cameras we currently have and it will also work with our cameras in the future,” Keene said. This type of software allows emergency personnel to connect in, he added.

The E-Rate Grant, a federal government grant award based on free and reduced lunch levels, awards funds toward computer infrastructure for computer networking, Keene said. RSU 56 will “hopefully see around $80,000,” from the grant, he said.

In other news, T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School social studies teacher Abigail Wood has been nominated for the national LifeChanger of the Year award. Wood was nominated for the award by Melanie Prescott, the parent of a student at the middle school.

“Abby is present and active in these kids’ lives. She leads them to success by being a diligent, hardworking example,” Prescott said according to a press release from the LifeChanger of the Year organization.

The award “recognizes and rewards the very best K-12 educators and school district employees across the U.S. who are making a difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership,” reads the press release.

Seventeen individual awards will be given during the 2019-20 school year and a grand prize winner will receive $10,000 to be shared with their school/district.

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