Dirigo Middle School teacher Sara Thurston, left, speaks Tuesday at the Regional School Unit 56 board of directors meeting at Dirigo High School in Dixfield as Superintendent Pam Doyen listens. Thurston was hired as athletics and activities director, beginning July 1. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

DIXFIELD — The Regional School Unit 56 board of directors approved a $14.28 million budget Tuesday for 2024-25.

The spending plan is $718,776, or 5.3%, more than this year’s $13.56 million. It represents an average increase of 6.76% for those who pay property taxes in Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru.

The budget includes funding to retain Nordic skiing for Dirigo Middle and High schools, the middle school Speech and Debate Club, the Technology Club, the winter cheering teams, online streaming of directors’ meetings and an athletic director assistant position.

Before the board’s vote at the high school, middle school students Charlotte Peters and Isaac Delude of the Nordic ski team, high school Nordic ski coach Dave Buck and parents Jessica Delude, Erin Peters and Bethany Meehan-Poulin spoke about the benefits of the two teams.

Delude said she did not want any of the student programs cut, and that many students only like one after-school activity. For her son, it is skiing.

Buck, who has coached the sport “for the past 14 years in one capacity or another,” said Nordic skiing benefits young people facing adversity who take it on and prevail.


“I worry that this decision (to cut Nordic skiing) would deprive students of the opportunity to learn a lifetime sport and the health benefits of an outdoor sport that is so perfectly suited and historically tied to our area,” Buck said. “And I worry that if we continue to cut student programs, it will severely impact the school community and the greater community’s ability in the future to attract families to the area and workers and to build a healthy tax base.”

A districtwide hearing and initial vote by the public on the budget is planned for 6:30 p.m. on May 28 at the high school, and a final vote at the polls is set for June 11 in each town.

In other matters, directors hired Kaelyne Thompson as Dirigo High School principal and Sara Thurston as athletics and activities director, both starting July 1.

Thompson lives in Vermont and attended Tuesday’s board meeting via Zoom.

Thurston is a teacher at the middle school and spoke at Tuesday’s meeting. She succeeds Nick Karavas, who is resigning at the end of the school year.

As of July 1, Pam Doyen will end her combined position as the high school principal and remain as district superintendent.

The combined position was created in October 2019 due to budget cuts.

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