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Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, June 21, 2012
Monthly bill for Island school expenses up to $141,961 in Stonington

by Alice Wilkinson

Although there was nothing they could do about it, the Stonington Selectmen spent some time discussing the cost of the Island schools at their June 18 meeting.

They had a lot to say about the size of the recently passed amended budget, which came in at $6.61million, up $147,000 from the budget proposed by the school board.

Town Manager Kathleen Billings-Pezaris said, for that money they should have a “rip-roaring special ed program…a rip-roaring gifted and talented program and a rip-roaring program for the regular students.” Particularly irksome to the selectmen was the decision to have two fifth-grade classes at 12 students per class. Each selectman had stories of being in classes of 25 or more, and puzzled over how much the school costs the town.

“For the money we’re putting into it, why aren’t we getting more out of it?” Billings-Pezaris asked. The selectmen also commented on the declining enrollment and increasing costs. The fact that Deer Isle’s monthly bill is more than twice as high, at $334,745, gave them little comfort.

Selectman Donna Brewer said she thinks the students aren’t challenged enough. Other complaints about the school ranged from the high number of substitutes to the lack of a unified K-12 curriculum. Selectman Chris Betts added that the school doesn’t need to develop a curriculum—“why can’t they just use the curriculum from a school that is working?” he asked. He cited North Haven, also an island school, less expensive than Deer Isle’s and working better.

Much of the rest of the meeting was devoted to routine business. The Harbor Committee had forwarded its approval of a fund-raiser for Relay for Life to take place on the pier on August 12. The lobster dinner will include live music, as they approved it, pending a completed application. Selectman Richard Larrabee said that this didn’t mean that the “gates were wide open.”

The Moose Island Causeway project is nearing completion. A final coat of asphalt will be laid on June 23, and then all that remains is placing signs and reflectors. Billings-Pezaris suggested that at least one sign should advise people to yield to big vehicles. The causeway is wider than it used to be, but is still narrow.

Larrabee said it looks good, and Brewer added that the whole waterfront is looking good, with Greenhead Lobster’s new building, Shaffmaster and the new Co-op building.

The new sidewalks downtown are also looking good, but Board Chairman George Stevens said, “Yes, but they don’t work,” referring to people’s walking in the middle of the road instead of on the sidewalks. There were some interesting suggestions to deal with the problem, which has been a source of annoyance to the selectmen for years. Billings-Pezaris said someone suggested that the sidewalk should have been built down the center of the road, with traffic moving on either side.

Billings-Pezaris reported that complaints about the high noise level on June 18 from Frances Cormier’s quarry behind the Galilean Gospel Church led her to send Roger Stone up to measure the noise. Indeed it did exceed the town’s 65 decibel limit, and she asked the selectmen if they wanted to send him a letter of violation with a $500 fine. They did.

A Water Company meeting preceded the selectmen’s meeting and Water Company President Donna Brewer handed Water Company Superintendent Roger Stone a file of paper turned over to her by outgoing school Superintendent Bob Webster relating to the water line and sanitary district lines in the vicinity of the former school building. There is a water line, that runs to the gym building through the basement of an adjacent residential home. Stone said he would look it over. The selectmen have been trying to find something in writing that gave the water company an easement to run that line.

They also approved Stone’s request to attend a seminar on UV water treatments, as well as a request for $713 to purchase a new pump for one of the wells.