SAD 1 sets date for budget workshop, gives update on high school graduation

3 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — SAD 1 officials announced preliminary budget numbers for 2021-2022 and revealed current plans for an in-person graduation ceremony during the latest board meeting Wednesday.

Superintendent Ben Greenlaw said that the district’s budget workshop will occur at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 12, in the Presque Isle High School cafeteria. The workshop will be followed by the board’s next regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19, in the high school cafeteria.

The district is proposing a total budget of $26.6 million, an increase of 2.7 percent from the 2020-2021 budget of $26.2 million. Though the total estimated tax commitments from SAD 1’s five communities — Presque Isle, Westfield, Mapleton, Chapman and Castle Hill — are still being calculated, Greenlaw said those proposed numbers will be presented at the budget workshop.

He attributed the higher total budget to increases in employee salaries per the district’s negotiation agreements and in “supplies and property services” for next year’s budget.

Greenlaw said that the 2021 budget will be the third one in a row that aims to not increase the school’s tax commitment.

“We are using $546,000 in cash balance along with the $200,000 in increased funding in our EPS this year to cover the $700,000 increase,” Greenlaw said, though he emphasized that the exact cash balance, along with other budget numbers, are still preliminary and won’t be final until the school board approves the budget.

“We will have a better idea [what the cash balance will be] as we get closer to the end of the year,” he noted.

SAD 1 will receive an increase of $200,000 in state EPS allocation, from $18.7 million in 2020 to $19.4 million this year. Thirteen million will come directly from the state, while the five communities within the district will contribute the remaining $6 million.

During their meeting the board also heard from David Bartlett, principal of Presque Isle High School, who provided an update on several year-end events, including graduation. 

Instead of the typical graduation date — the first Friday of June — the school has decided to hold the ceremony at 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 12, at the middle school’s Johnson Athletic Complex. If weather prevents the ceremony from being held outside, graduation will be held inside at The Forum.

Though many details, including social distancing measures, are still being discussed, Bartlett expects that the outdoor venue will allow graduation to be more traditional than last year’s ceremony. Students can potentially graduate as an entire class instead of in small groups during separate ceremonies.

“We want to not only give our seniors the opportunity to graduate together, but also to invite as many guests as possible,” Bartlett said, listing the benefits of an outdoor ceremony. 

Bartlett noted that current graduation plans are subject to change and could be affected by COVID-19 case number trends and related changes in state guidelines regarding indoor and outdoor gatherings. Regardless, he said, the school will comply with all necessary requirements to hold graduation as normally as possible.

“At the very least, we’ll have last year’s experiences to fall back on,” Bartlett said, while discussing a possible alternative to current graduation plans.

He also announced that, in place of the canceled fall 2020 musical, Presque Isle High School’s drama Club, Shipmates Playhouse, will hold a musical revue on Friday, April 30, and Saturday, May 1, at the auditorium. Instead of a full musical, students perform individual songs from Broadway musicals to a limited, socially distanced audience of family members and school staff.

Other annual events such as in-person academic awards ceremonies, prom and Project Graduation are also being planned in accordance with Maine CDC guidelines, Bartlett noted.

In other business, the school board approved hiring Holly Vining as SAD 1’s new business manager and Bill Guerrette as the new principal of Pine Street Elementary School beginning July 1. 

Last fall, Vining stepped down from her position as business manager for RSU 50 in Dyer Brook and is the finance manager for Aroostook Regional Transportation System in Presque Isle. 

Guerrette teaches eighth grade English language arts and social studies at Presque Isle Middle School and was named Aroostook County Teacher of the Year in 2018. He will replace outgoing Pine Street principal Loretta Clark, who is retiring after 40 years with SAD 1.