PERU — Regional School Unit 56 Superintendent Pam Doyen told directors Tuesday that the goal is to have the 2020-21 budget “approved on the first attempt and provide a fine education program for our students.”

She recommended starting with the current budget, which passed Jan. 7 after five referendums, and deciding what it will take to maintain it and then “we’ll prioritize additional items or programs that we would like to add back in.”

The district, made up of Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru, approved the 2019-20 budget of $12.71 million to cover from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020. It is is 3.5% more than for 2018-19 and represents an 11% increase in assessments, on average, to the four towns.

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

Lisa Sanborn, secretary at T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School in Dixfield, is presented with a certificate nominating her as a Lifechanger of the Year. School Principal Jason Long does the honors at the RSU 56 board meeting Tuesday evening. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

Looking ahead to the next budget, she said it is “going to be really important that when we come with our basics that both the board and the community have opportunities to give feedback.”

During February and March directors will hear spending proposals from administrators at Dirigo Elementary School in Peru, TW Kelly Dirigo Middle School and Dirigo High School, both in Dixfield, and departments such as curriculum, technology and special education.

Doyen said the March 24 board meeting would include an invitation to selectmen, community members and others “to come in, look at the budget, see what we have put together.” Their input would be welcomed, she said.

“It all sounds good,” Director Bruce Ross of Dixfield said, adding his concern was getting every administrator on board with the budget.

“We’re going to need to stay as fiscally responsible to every line item that we have in,” Ross said.

Director Carl Lueders of Canton said, “What pained me through that whole process was we were trying to pass the budget and we really had a dramatic loss of services (and) programs. We need to get that out there, the public doesn’t really know that.”

Major cuts last year included music classes for grades seven to 12, intervention and after-school programming at the elementary school, and the principal’s position at Dirigo High School.

In other business, Dirigo Middle School secretary Lisa Sanborn was nominated for the 2019-20 LifeChanger of the Year award. The program by National Life Group recognizes and rewards kindergarten through grade 12 school employees who make a positive difference in the lives of students.

Teacher Stacey Gilbert nominated Sanborn, saying she has “a huge impact” on the school, the staff and students and is “a shining light for some of the most challenging students.”

In other matters, Director William Hine of Peru resigned but did not give a reason. He had served since June 2019. Konstantin Aslanidi of Peru was appointed to succeed him.

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