Vassalboro board puzzles over lunch program finances

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro School Board members puzzled over lunch program finances at their June 18 meeting, after Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer recommended they reallocate $30,000 to start covering the program’s debt even though it doesn’t owe any money to anybody.

Pfeiffer explained that the “debt,” about $130,000, is on the books because the program spends more than the state reimbursement. Having red ink on the books displeases the auditor, and the board should deal with it.

However, in the real world the school department pays what it owes from other accounts and grants.

The main reason for the debt, Curriculum Coordinator Mary Boyle said, is that students who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals do not apply to use the program. Therefore the state does not reimburse the school department.

Re-elected Board Chairman Kevin Levasseur said less than $2,000 of the debt is due to families who owe lunch money to the school – “a drop in the bucket.” He said 53 percent of Vassalboro Community School (VCS) students don’t eat school meals, bringing their own.

Board members talked about making the meal program more inviting and about the need for more information about the free and reduced-price program. Pfeiffer said parents can apply at any time, not just when the application form comes home as school opens in the fall. Board member Jessica Clark suggested putting the application form on the website.

No decisions were made; the meal program will be on a future agenda.

The decision that was made, after continued discussion from the May meeting (see The Town Line, May 30), was to expand the VCS Title I program from a small group of students identified as falling behind academically to the entire school.

Boyle said the current program, staffed by three educational technicians and a literacy specialist, targets students with difficulty in English. A school-wide program would continue to assist these students; add students on the borderline of falling behind the rest of their class, who get no service under the targeted Title I; let Title I staff work in the regular classrooms; and perhaps allow adding help in math.

Board members unanimously approved the change. Levasseur commented that he expects it will “benefit more kids and not have to jump through so many [bureaucratic] hoops.”

Pfeiffer and Levasseur expect two new buses to arrive later in the year. Transportation coordinator Lisa Gadway explained that she will analyze needs, talk with drivers about their preferences, consider quality and longevity and seek price quotes before ordering buses tailored for Vassalboro.

“It’s not just, ‘Hey, send me a bus.’” You have to know what you want,” she said. Boyle and Gadway work out of the former office of AOS (Alternative Organizational Structure) #92 in Waterville, serving one or more of the three ex-AOS member towns (Vassalboro, Waterville and Winslow) under contract.

In other business June 18, board members unanimously hired Tabitha Sagner as full-time social worker at VCS. She previously was a half-time contract worker at the school; Pfeiffer said she had a good record and both she and personnel with whom she has worked are pleased to have her as a full-time staff member.

Board members accepted the resignations of special education teacher Deborah Spiller and third-grade teacher Lynn Wells, both of whom have moved to other jobs, Pfeiffer said. The positions are being advertised.

Board members gave preliminary approval to a minor change in the 2019-2020 school calendar: changing the name of the October 14 holiday from Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, following new state legislation.

They discussed scheduling a strategic planning workshop, probably in August, to look ahead for the next five years. Continuing their policy of taking a July break, they scheduled the next regular board meeting for Tuesday evening, Aug. 20.


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