RSU 40 fills jobs, completing renovations

By Beth A. Birmingham | Aug 09, 2014
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Business Manager Karla Miller makes a recommendation to the school board on financing the remaining renovations to schools within Regional School Unit 40 at a meeting Aug. 7. Also shown is new Superintendent Steve Nolan.

Union — Twelve nominees were approved to fill vacancies in Regional School Unit 40 Aug. 7 by the Board of Directors.

Superintendent Stephen Nolan presented his nominations to the board seeking approval.

Appointed were: Christine Simmonds, Day Treatment teacher, Medomak Middle School; Cassandra Alley, music teacher, Warren Community School; Diana Phillips, first-grade teacher, Friendship Village School; Jesse Langford, LifeSkills teacher, Medomak Valley High School; Alyssa Ouellette, kindergarten, Miller School; David Palin, industrial arts, MVHS; Susan Iltis, part-time music, FVS/Miller; Crystal Priestly, part-time art, WCS; Jennifer Baroody, third grade, WCS; Natalya Nikitina, math, MVHS; Barbara Kopishke, third grade, Prescott Memorial School; and Christine Hill, part-time Family and Consumer Science, MVHS.

The board also accepted the resignations of Hannah Hoster, third-grade teacher, Prescott Memorial School; Krista Spera, ed. tech Day Treatment, Warren Community School; Nate Grade, physical education and health 4, Prescott and Medomak Middle Schools; and Amanda Shortall, sixth-grade teacher, WCS.

At its July 17 meeting, the board had approved the following appointments: Christina Labbe, teaching principal, FVS; Jamie White, pre-K teacher, Miller School; Kevin Richardson, science teacher, MVHS; Kara Wordell, elementary teacher, Miller School; and Crystal Uleau, kindergarten teacher, Prescott Memorial School.

It also accepted the resignations of Joan Ridgeway, sixth-grade, Union Community School; Brittany Grierson, CNA, LifeSkills, Miller School; Darcie Watkinson, kindergarten teacher, Miller School; William McClellan, seventh- and eighth-grade math/science teacher, Medomak Middle School; and Christina Lanphere, Resource Room, MVHS.

Nolan said there are currently about a half dozen positions still to be filled.

"It is directly in response with the resignations," said Nolan. "We're getting close, but we are not quite there yet."

He added that he does conduct exit interviews and there does seem to be some consistency with the reasons for the resignations. He said he will share his findings with the personnel committee.

An update on the new pre-kindergarten program was also given. There are currently 25 students signed up for the Miller School program — all Waldoboro residents, and 22 signed up at Warren Community School — 16 from Warren and three each from Washington and Union. No residents from Friendship have sought enrollment.

Transportation is being provided to those students who are on a current bus route to Miller School and WCS. Any students not on an existing route will need to either make arrangements for transportation or be dropped off at a location on the route for service.

The new program — which is voluntary — involves district start-up costs for the initial year, but would become state-funded after that.

Warren Community School and Miller School in Waldoboro are the initial facilities for the pre-K program, but it is open to students from the other towns within RSU 40. There are 32 slots available at each of the two schools.

The goal is to start with the two larger schools and expand to the other three, past Interim Superintendent Michael Cormier previously said.

In order to accommodate adding two pre-K classes at each of the two schools, the fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms are being consolidated into two as well — increasing class sizes.

This was a concern of several parents early on in the discussion of the program. One noted WCS was failing, but now is improving. It was felt that increased class sizes while taking away teacher assistants will be detrimental.

"Data shows that 50 to 80 percent of students in kindergarten were not ready," said Kim Shroeter, director of Instruction, at a meeting earlier in the year. She added "kids are coming in a year or two behind where they should be."

Siemens funding approved

Business Manager Karla Miller shared information about funding opportunities for the completion of the renovation projects.

The district received three bids for funding. Androscoggin Bank put in two packages — one for 15 years and one for 10. Siemens Financial, another division of Siemens Industry, came in with one for 17 years at a rate of 4.67 percent.

"That's lower than Androscoggin's 15-year at 5.76 or even their 10-year at 5.16 percent," said Miller. Her recommendation was to go with Siemens, which was met with approval from the board.

The board voted unanimously last November to borrow money from Androscoggin Bank for the Qualified Zone Academy Bonds funding for the Siemens Energy Management Plan.

Following an audit by Siemens Industry, Inc. last year, the energy-saving recommendations totaled $2,215,794 — include lighting retrofit, roof ventilation/replacement, boiler replacement, walk-in refrigeration/freezer control, heating pump replacement/repair, air conditioning, water heater replacement, and EMS upgrades, among other things.

The Maine Department of Education informed RSU 40 it recommended the State Board of Education approve the district's application for purposes of issuance of a QZAB in the principal amount of up to $1.44 million to be used to fund the project.

Siemens Industry, Inc. entered into a contract for the project and began the work in February. Completion of the project is expected late fall.

RSU 40 procured a proposal with QZAB lease purchase financing for a term of up to 15 years at a net interest cost of 1.2 percent.

Under normally taxed standards the principal and interest on the bond of $1.44 million would be $127,000 per year. With the 1.2 percent tax rate offered by Androscoggin Bank that amount falls to $105,000 — saving the taxpayers $22,000 annually.

Over the life of the 15-year plan, normally it would be a cost of $474,000 to the district. However, the QZAB approach lessens that cost to $132,000 — or a 72 percent savings in interest.

QZABs may be used for rehabilitation or repair of school buildings, purchasing equipment, developing course materials, and/or training teachers and other school personnel, but not for new construction.

"The major components of Phase II of the project include the roof replacement at Warren Community School, lighting, wood pellet boiler and air conditioning replacement at Union Elementary School," said Miller.

Other business

An increase in student and adult lunches was also approved. Student lunches will increase by 5 cents  to $2.90 and adult lunches will go from $3.80 to $4.00.

The board also approved the go-ahead for 16 classes scheduled for this coming year with under 10 students enrolled in each at Medomak Valley High School.

Principal Harold Wilson said a lot will change between now and the beginning of school, but the percentage is significantly lower than other years. The classes represent 7 percent of overall class offerings.

The next school board meeting is Thursday, Aug. 21. The first day of school for kindergarten through ninth-grade in RSU 40 is Tuesday, Sept. 2. All classes will be in session Wednesday, Sept. 3.

RSU 40 serves the communities of Friendship, Union, Waldoboro, Warren and Washington.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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Staff Profile

Beth Birmingham
Staff Reporter
594-4401 ext. 125
Email Me

Beth rejoined Courier Publications' news staff in February 2013. She previously worked at The Courier-Gazette from 1981 to 1990.

Her coverage area includes Warren, Union, Friendship, Waldoboro, Washington, and Thomaston and RSU40.

Beth has a passion for photography, and a degree from the University of Maine at Augusta, in affiliation with the Maine Photographic Workshop in Rockport.

Aside from photography, Beth enjoys running and walks along the waterfront, as well as other outdoor activities. She has a daughter, Claire, who is 14.

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