Welcome to the new RSU # 14 Superintendent’s blog page. I will be writing here on a regular basis to keep our school community updated on what’s happening in the District.
Sandy Prince, Superintendent
May 9, 2013
The Proposed FY14 Budget approved by the Board of Directors will continue to support our Mission of ensuring “Success for All RSU #14 students.” This alive and highly-valued Mission plans, guides, and supports every aspect of our District work. In the development of this proposed budget, we have strived to maintain financial stability with all programs and operations of the District. It is our intention to assure our wider school community that financial stability depends on accurate enrollment projections, appropriate staffing to match enrollment, good fiscal planning and control, and maintaining an appropriate balance between expenditures and revenues at all levels.
The $39,690,874.74 proposed budget is a 1.87% increase over the current year’s budget of $38,960,507.13. To give you a four-year perspective, the average budget for RSU #14 increased an average of .52% between 2010 – 2014.
The difficult economic landscape that began in 2007-2008 continues and we are faced with Federal challenges with spending controls, debt limits, and entitlement programs, all of which resulted in reductions. In the State of Maine our current budget challenge resulted in a curtailment of $13 million in education funding, of which $198,891 was targeted to be taken from our RSU #14 FY13 operating budget. The $198,891 loss of funds will not be restored.
Curtailments are not new to us. For the FY09 budget, we had a curtailment of $635,748; for FY10, the curtailment was $962,400. Total curtailments since 2009: $1,797,039. Funds for Essential Programs and Services for schools is 44.8% below the 2006-2007 funding level. For three years voters in Maine elected to honor school funding at 55% while the State Legislature had enacted a law to maintain funding for public schools at 55%; this has not been possible due to our economic times.
We have seen a significant shift with costs from the State to local taxpayers. We believe that we have built a responsible, prudent school budget that will be presented to the public for a vote on May 29 at 6:30 p.m. in the Windham High School Auditorium.
As this LINK Newsletter is being published we are faced with the Governor’s proposal that would reduce State expenditures on teacher retirement by $28 million – by having school districts contribute to the costs. The Governor’s proposed Biennial Budget shifts up to $14 million of retirement costs to the school districts. This is a new and added expense of $500,000 in our proposed budget.
Along with public dollars being diverted to charter schools, we anticipate a reduction in subsidy as the monies for a student attending a charter school will follow that student.
The State Legislature is in the process of deliberating on the State Biennial Budget. Hence, the following tax implications are PRELIMINARY, TENTATIVE and subject to change depending upon Legislative action. The Windham tax rate is projected to increase by 4.04%. The Raymond tax rate is projected to increase by 0.56%. If projections hold, it is expected that there would be an annual increase of $106.34 in taxes on a Windham home assessed at $250,000. Similarly, in Raymond, there would be an annual increase of $29.13 in taxes on a home assessed at $250,000.
In summary, both the School District staff and the Board of Directors built a responsible budget that maintains the essential services for our students. As always, we appreciate the RSU #14 wider school community. Please plan on attending our Public Budget Meeting on May 29, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. in the Windham High School Performing Arts Center. We also ask that you vote for the budget on June 11 at the polls. Polls will be open in Windham at Windham High School and in Raymond at Jordan-Small Middle School from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Sandy Prince, Superintendent posted 05/09/2013
March 1, 2013
2013 Secondary Principal of the Year
It gives me great pleasure to announce that Pender Makin, Principal of the REAL School (Regional Education Alternative Learning) in RSU #14 – Windham Raymond School District – has been selected by the Maine Principals Association as the 2013 Secondary Principal of the Year.
As a school district we are very proud and pleased that Pender has received this prestigious award. Unquestionably, under Pender’s leadership, the school culture encourages all members of the school’s community to believe in themselves and to go after their life dreams. There is an entrepreneurial spirit at REAL, which Pender has modeled and instilled in both students and staff. The RSU #14 District Mission Success for All is very much the norm for students at the REAL School.
Among many impressive skills that Pender exhibits, she is incredibly gifted with integrating a broader vision into the routine structures of the school. Constantly pushing her ability to see the larger picture while managing the day-to-day complexities of a school with excellence, she superbly leads the school organization toward constant improvement and has built a team of staff who are highly regarded, both at the State and the National levels.
On behalf of the RSU #14 – Windham Raymond School District – we congratulate Pender Makin for being recognized as the 2013 Secondary Principal of the Year.
RSU #14 Budget Information
The FY14 Budget will be presented to the Board of Directors on March 13, 2013.
As always when we develop a District budget, I remain committed to ensuring that our District Mission & Vision continue to move forward. Without a strong teaching staff (who, by the way, do the most important job in the world and one of the hardest), our journey to achieve the goals of our Strategic Plan could not happen. I truly believe “a culture of collaboration and support” has enabled us to have an organization that is high-performing.
During the first part of building a new budget, we continue to be faced with many challenges – not unlike surrounding school districts. (See our challenges for the FY14 Budget development below.) One could view these as potholes as we move toward our road map changing to a learner-centered, proficiency-based system of education. However, putting on our Optimistic Hats, perhaps we could view these challenging economic times as an opportunity. It forces us to be clear about our promise for helping all students graduate career-and-college-ready for the 21st Century. With limited resources, it can allow us to get tight on the importance of what initiatives we embark upon and stay true to our priorities. It pushes us to focus on accountability for doing the “right thing,” rather than on “doing this right.” With such a premise, we will further our knowledge base to offer students instruction and educational experiences that provide them the opportunities to meet the Common Core Standards.
In essence, my point here is to view the challenging times of budgeting as an opportunity to clean out the physical and mental clutter we are often faced with in education. I refer to this as cleaning out our mental attics. Let’s discover a freshness on how we think of and view education, which I would argue is an acceptable norm here in RSU #14, by letting go of those old ideas that we’ve being dragging around in education and that have been draining people’s energy.
We are at a pivotal point where we stay centered on our important work of Success for All. Tough budget times will not prevent us from imagining a dramatically more productive future for our organization.
Challenges we faced as we develop the FY14 Budget:
$100 million shortfall in DHHS current budget – higher-than-expected spending for MaineCare, the State’s Medicaid program.
- $35.5 million drop in forecasted tax revenue which meant a curtailment would be hitting each school district. In an earlier report, the State thought it would be $26 million off-pace with revenues.
- Economy has not grown as fast as anticipated. Energy prices spiked in the summer of 2012 and in the early fall, we carefully followed the Fiscal Cliff issue which caused businesses and consumers to be more cautious.
- Communication from Augusta that with Federal revenue reductions the supplemental budget could range between $50 million and $200 million.
- Getting to 55% funding is bleak. General Purpose Aid has dropped from 43.83% in FY12 to 42.97% in FY13. In 2004 voters wanted funding for education to be at 55%. State is withholding $18.5 million of the $65 million June payment – it will be up to two weeks late in July. Some Districts may have to tap into revenue anticipation notes to make payroll, or take a loan anticipation note.
- Continue to budget 10% in health insurance given that this is an unknown.
- Reminder that last year we had a tax increase in both Towns (on the school side)
- Anticipating curtailment, put a freeze on FY13 budget spending
- On January 11, there was a proposed $6.2 million, two-year State budget. Starting July 1, 2013, this would save more than $52 million and the revenue sharing proposal will hit every city and town.
- Reduce State expenditures on teacher retirement by $28 million by having School Districts contribute to the cost. The proposed biennial budget shifts $14 million of retirement costs onto School Districts. By extension, local property taxpayers, on top of a nearly $23 million reduction in General Purpose Aid, this is a double whammy that adds up to $27 million curtailment for State support of public school operations.
- On January 13, 2013, we were told that we would receive $198,891 less in GPS (curtailment).
- Department of Education spreadsheets are showing the financial impact of shifting more than $28 million in retirement costs on to the School Districts. RSU #14 will need to cover the costs of this, which is approximately $522,461.99.
- The spreadsheet also shows a continuing cut of $12.6 million in General Purpose Aid for 2013 – 2014. This cut was introduced as part of an emergency curtailment of spending in the current fiscal year.
- The spreadsheet shows with the Biennial Budget, the retirement cost shift and the GPA cut mean there will be $27 million less going out to operate schools next year. We are at a seven-year low in terms of State funding for schools. Districts are now being asked to pick up a $28 million retirement obligation.
- The Department of Education notified us the FY13 Sequestration is scheduled to go into effect on March 1, 2013, assuming the Sequestration has not been resolved. Special Education and Title I programs will be reduced in 2013-2014, beginning on July 1, 2013. A 5.1% reduction is anticipated.
History of Challenges Since 2009
- Past curtailments
- 2009 curtailment of $635,748
- 2010 curtailment of $962,400 Total of Curtailments: $1,797,039
- 2013 curtailment of $198,891
- With ARRA funds now gone, the Operating Budget for RSU #14 decreased by $1,935,616 over the FY09 and FY10 Fiscal Years
- Five of the last six years budget had curtailments.
- 55 jobs were eliminated over the FY09 and FY10. (To-date we have eliminated over 60 positions.)
- fixed costs of 80% for salaries
- energy and food prices increasing
- insurance increases
- very little in Federal dollars
- FY13 and FY14, State subsidies are the same flat funding
- The average budget for RSU #14 decreased an average of 2.35% over three years (2010 through 2012)
Sanford J. Prince IV, Superintendent Posted: 03/01/2013
January 2, 2013
Dear Staff and School Community Members:
As you are probably aware, over the holiday period Governor LePage issued a $35.5 million reduction in State spending. The curtailment order is designed to balance the State’s two-year budget given the downward projections of revenue. Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen stated in a recent press release that the curtailment would result in a $12.58 million reduction to General Purpose Aid to local school districts.
This action on the part of the Governor means that RSU #14 will receive $198,891 less in State aid in this fiscal year (ending June 30, 2013) than was anticipated. This action will require immediate attention to our financial position in order to assure that we finish out the school year without over-expending our budget.
At this time I have issued a hard freeze on purchases in anticipation of the impending financial challenges the State is faced with. No requisition will be approved unless it is absolutely necessary to maintain educational programming with no reasonable alternative. Such a freeze will remain in place until we learn more in the months ahead as the Legislature has an opportunity to propose different cuts in order to close a $35.5 million budget shortfall.
I will be meeting with our Administrative staff on a regular basis to monitor our spending and to ensure that we are fiscally solvent at year-end. Unquestionably, this curtailment, along with many others, has become a challenge for public schools during the economic downturn.
I appreciate very much the hard work that each of you is doing to support our youth with our limited fiscal resources. I will continue to keep you apprised.
Sanford J. Prince IV, Superintendent Posted 01/02/2013
December 20, 2012
Dear Parents and School Community Members:
It has come to my attention that there have been reports that it is possible that high schools in York and Cumberland counties may be the target of someone intending to do harm. These reports are unsubstantiated at this time. I want you to know that I have thoroughly investigated the matter to the best of my ability in an effort to ascertain if our students are in harm’s way.
My investigation included communicating with the Windham Police Chief, our School Resource Officer and the Windham High School Principal. At this point, my investigation has not indicated that this is a credible threat. Nonetheless, I am compelled to ensure that our students are in a safe environment and I will be placing additional precautions in play for today and tomorrow. Specifically, in addition to having a School Resource Officer at Windham High School, the Windham Police Chief has assured me that they will pay special attention to the Windham High School site. I have consulted with each School Principal in the District and we have determined that all exterior doors will be locked today and tomorrow.
I will continue to speak with law enforcement today and if I have any information that needs to be passed along, you may rest assured that I will do so.
Thank you for your continued support of RSU #14.
Sandy Prince, Superintendent
December 16, 2012
Dear Parents and School Community Members:
As an RSU #14 School Community we are deeply troubled regarding the shooting that took place on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Our thoughts and prayers certainly go out to all the families and staff who have been impacted by this horrific, senseless violence.
This is a stark reminder of the importance of our safety procedures and we want to assure you that student safety is and always will be the top priority of this District. Our safety practices are long standing and this letter is to remind you of our ongoing safeguard procedures that are in place.
- The District has an Emergency Response Plan and Team in place. This plan is rehearsed and updated annually and allows us to respond to various kinds of emergencies and disasters.
- Our schools have a safety team that assists our schools with practicing evacuations and lockdown drills. Debriefing after is their practice to ensure the lessons learned sharpen our plans and better prepare us if an emergency should occur.
- All school crisis plans and emergency plans and measures remain confidential for the sake of security in our schools.
- Crisis Plans are updated each summer and the Board of Directors, by State law, is required to annually vote on the Emergency Response Plans. This was done at the Board’s November 28, 2012 meeting. It should be noted that the Board of Directors routinely has a Board Workshop on recent upgrades to our emergency planning efforts and this took place on December 12, 2012.
- The excellent relationship we have with our local law enforcement results in open and frequent communication which is vital to ensure we are all working as a team to ensure safety for our students.
- 2-way radios are used in each school with our Building and District Administrators, including custodial staff to ensure communication can happen immediately if a need arises.
- We maintain an Emergency Communication System that we use to connect rapidly with our parents by phone, email, or text.
- School personnel are trained and follow District policies to take rumors of possible violence/threats seriously and they work quickly to investigate.
- We have used the COPs Grant monies, awarded to us by the US Department of Justice, to upgrade our surveillance cameras. Additionally, we were able to hire a national consultant to review our Emergency Response Plan and Crisis Plan and provide suggestions. Training at the National Conferences on School Violence has allowed our local enforcement officers to attend and bring any new learnings back to the District.
- In the past two years we have installed cameras and GPS devices in all of our school buses.
My hope is for this letter to assure you that we have continued to be vigilant in our efforts to keep students in our schools safe at all times. I have attached some resources that may be helpful to you as a parent if you talk with your child about this tragic event.
On Monday our schools will be ready with resources for our students – administrators and counselors will be available to speak with any student who may have concerns.
Thank you for your continued support of RSU #14.
Sanford J. Prince IV, Superintendent
Parent Magazine: 5 tips on talking to kids about scary news – by Sasha Emmons
National Association of School Psychologists – Coping with Crisis – Tips for Parents & Educators
American Psychological Association APA – includes several tips for parents
American School Counselors Association
A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope
Impact on RSU #14 if the Fiscal Cliff Should Happen
This month many questions have emerged around the Federal and State budgetary issues and the uncertainty as to the impact these will have on our local schools. My intent here is to surface what I know at this time and to keep the RSU #14 wider school community informed.
As a school community we need to stay informed if indeed Federal funding cuts occur without a plan approved by Congress. Local schools would be impacted with automatic spending cuts that could happen as early as January 2, 2013.
The Maine Department of Education has over $110 million in Federal education monies that go directly to the Maine school districts in the current budget year 2013. Much of these Federal dollars impact programs with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which supports special education, Title I, Title II-A (which supports students who lag behind their peers), the Improving Teacher Quality State Grant (which supports class size reduction and teacher development), and the 21st Century Community Learning Center grants. This could ultimately force an 8.2% cut in Federal funding which would impact Maine school districts.
State average could see a reduction cross the board of $613.67 per pupil. The RSU #14 budget for FY13 receives $930,099, which represents 8.2% of the budget and is a loss of $256.02 per student.
As schools face continued budget constraints, I am desperately hoping that partisanship doesn’t get in the way and that the financial cliff is avoided.
State Revenue Forecasting
A report in October by the State’s Revenue Forecasting Commission shared that revenues were $26 million off the expected pace for the current budget. This week we have learned that this number has risen to $35.5 million. With lower than expected revenues, this is likely to have an impact on schools, particularly if the Governor issues a State spending curtailment.
When the State issues a curtailment, the Legislature approves a supplemental budget and the monies we receive from the State could possibly be reduced. My sense is that we will know better in January if an approved supplemental budget comes from Augusta.
$100 Million Shortfall in DHHS
As of this week, we have learned that Maine faces another challenge in the Department of Health & Human Services as they face a $100 million shortfall for the budget year ending June 30, 2013. This challenge, mixed with the most recent State revenue forecast of a $35.5 million shortfall, along with the financial cliff looming, requires much attention from everyone.
I think it is clear that both our Federal and State lawmakers have an incentive to come together and work toward a budget solution knowing that their decisions could have a real impact in the classroom.
As we learn more, I will provide you with updates. My best to you all.
Sanford J. Prince IV, Superintendent posted 11/30/12
Evidence of Greatness!
In 2010, the University of Southern Maine’s Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation (CEPARE) conducted a study of public school that were identified as High Performing. Windham High School and Windham Middle School were identified as High Performing and included in the case studies. One of the questions that came out of that 2010 study was “how do schools move towards becoming More Efficient?”
Over the past two years, the Maine Education Policy Research Institute (MEPRI) at the University of Southern Maine developed a set of metrics for identifying schools whose students are beating the odds by performing significantly better on state assessments than is predicted from student and community characteristics, and to use this same metric to identify improving schools. The goal of the two-phase study has been to identify the strategies and practices that these two types of schools are using to support all learners.
Jordan-Small Middle School has shown improvement over the past four years and has been chosen as a case study in the CEPARE/MEPRI study.
For a school to be considered More Efficient, it has to be both performing well and getting a good return on education spending.
Higher Performing schools qualify with the following characteristics:
- Three-year average composite scores on state assessments that are at least 1/3 standard deviation above state average, and above predicted scores based on student demographics and prior performance;
- Two-year average percent Meeting Proficiency and percent Partially Meeting Proficiency above the state average; and
- In the case of high schools, a graduation rate above the state average.
Efficient schools are defined as demonstrating:
- A “return on spending quotient” (defined as the school percentage of students at or above the “Meets” proficiency level divided by the school per-pupil operating expenditure) above the state average and above what would be predicted based on pupil characteristics.
The efficiency criterion identifies schools that are not spending disproportionately more than other schools for the higher performing student outcomes achieved.
The inquiry in Maine schools is guided by over forty years of research in effective schools. The study is intended to investigate whether these characteristics accurately portray successful Maine schools. More importantly, the study employs case studies to describe how these characteristics are manifested in the working pr