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Originally published in Castine Patriot, October 11, 2012
Gap looms between Castine budget and maintenance needs
“It all needs to be done, but we don’t have the money”

by Anne Berleant

A Facilities Committee report at the October 7 school board meeting made clear that the Adams School building needs upgrades to its exterior locks, emergency and exterior lighting and student bathrooms, “but we don’t have the money,” said member Joe Spinazola upon hearing the report.

Member Temple Blackwood heads up the Facilities Committee, with Principal Katie Frothingham, custodian Albert Varnum and Castine public works employee Henry Erhard as members. The report stated that the top priority was installing new emergency lighting. “Our system is not operating and not repairable,” said Blackwood, because of its age. The cost of replacing the system was bid at $3,299 by Gary Brouillard.

The second priority is exterior door lock repairs and replacements, “resulting from years of too much open sharing,” reads the report. Blackwood recommended a programmable key-pad lock for the ramp door “so we don’t have to give out keys,” and restrictions on handing out keys “for all other doors.”

“Being able to lock doors and say that the school is intact from one day to the next is important,” Blackwood said.

Superintendent Mark Hurvitt said there is “a little money” in two accounts for purchased property and repairs after budgeted expenses, and “a little” in the contingency account. “We really sharpened our pencils at budget and this is where we’re at,” he said.

The 2012-13 school budget, approved by the board, and then at town meeting (with the addition of around $25,000 for a full two-day French program and one day of guidance each week) was trimmed to keep down an increase caused by high school tuition and special education costs, which were higher than in previous years.

“I’d be nervous about paying for these unexpected expenses now,” said Spinazola. Chairman Kathy MacArthur agreed.

The upstairs bathrooms suffer from broken and cracked toilets (not yet leaking), a rusted ceiling tile grid (“it may fail to hold ceiling tiles,” the report states) and a separation between the walls and floor.

However, volunteers provided much of the routine maintenance over the summer, including painting and scraping of the front steps to hold off replacing them for one more year, some interior painting and clearing the grounds and garden of overgrown vegetation.

The newly purchased school bus, sent out for repairs shortly after its delivery, has no estimated return date, Hurvitt reported.

“The transmission is not talking to the engine—it’s a software issue,” he said.

Blackwood asked whether the company who sold the bus could provide a loaner bus. “We’ve been pretty patient,” he said. Hurvitt will inquire.

In other news, Castine met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in math and reading, but, at 92 percent attendance last year, missed AYP in that area by one percentage point and is on monitor status.

“My guess is the following school year will be under a different set of governance,” Hurvitt said. Maine has asked for a waiver, “like 30 other states,” from AYP, a No Child Left Behind requirement.

Guidance counselor Megan Bitteroff handed in her resignation as of October 30 because “things weren’t working with piecing together the jobs,” Hurvitt said. Bitteroff was hired by Castine and Surry to provide guidance; Hurvitt will advertise the position.

Laurie Flood was unanimously approved as girls basketball coach, as was Bill Schubeck as jazz band director for 2012-13.

David Hatch will plow for 2012-13 at $48 per storm, as unanimously approved by the board. “It’s the same price it’s been for 11 years since I’ve been on the board,” Spinazola commented.

“Specials,” which include art, music and physical education, will not issue letter grades in a pilot program that anticipates an overall, union-wide grading change in 2013-14. Instead, students will be graded on whether they exceed, meet or do not meet expectations. One result is that specials grades will not affect a student making the honor roll, Frothingham said. The board unanimously approved the grading change.

An official PTC is in the process of being formalized, with interim president Christine Spratt leading an October 12, 7 p.m. brainstorming meeting at the Manor Inn.

Lastly, the board approved the annual trip by the Calvineers to the New Bedford, Mass., right whale conference from October 12 to 14. Each Calvineer has a topic and meets with a scientist on that topic. The cost to the school is $150 for hiring a substitute for teacher Bill McQueeney, which comes out of the substitute teacher account. The remaining costs of the trip are funded from the Calvineers account.

The school board next meets Wednesday, November 7, 5 p.m., at the school.