Vassalboro school board takes up several money items

Vassalboro Community School (contributed photo)

by Mary Grow

Although discussion of the 2024-25 budget doesn’t start in earnest until February, Vassalboro school board members had several money items on their Jan. 22 agenda.

Board members approved wage increases for five categories of substitute employees, to keep them slightly ahead of the state minimum wage that went up to $14.15 an hour on Jan. 1. Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer said the increases were coordinated with the Waterville and Winslow school departments and keep Vassalboro competitive with most other area schools.

The current year’s budget will cover the higher pay, Pfeiffer said. Additional pay increases for more employees will be discussed as part of planning next year’s budget.

Board members also accepted Special Education Director Tanya Thibeau’s recommendation to hire a part-time IEP (Individualized Education Program) coordinator for the rest of the current school year, to help oversee these programs at Vassalboro Community School.

The current year’s budget will cover this position, Thibeau said, because one of VCS’s social workers is part-time – she could not find the full-time employee whose compensation was included in the 2023-24 budget.

Thibeau informed board members of proposed legislation that, if approved, would expand special education in public school to three- and four-year-old students. She said Maine is one of only two states without such a program.

Maine Commissioner of Education Pender Makin has promised generous state financial support if the program comes into effect, Thibeau said.

Pfeiffer distributed copies of the lease under which the day care program run by Jenifer Lizotte uses VCS space. He asked board members to consider whether it should be renewed for another year and if so, whether there should be changes, specifically a small increase in the $25 a day rent, due to inflation.

Pfeiffer strongly supports continuing the day care program at the school. He had high praise for Lizotte and her staff; said he has heard of no other local facilities that would take over if the VCS program were discontinued; and called the program “a big win for the community.”

VCS Principal Ira Michaud and Assistant Principal Tabitha Brewer seconded Pfieffer’s commendation. They said Lizotte runs a good program with well-trained staff, goes out of her way to accommodate families’ needs and consistently cooperates with school staff.

The current lease runs to the end of the school year, so immediate action is not expected.

Pfeiffer said when secondary-school tuition rates for calendar year 2024 came out in December 2023, they were about 5.5 percent higher than for 2023. The Vassalboro board had anticipated and budgeted for the increase, he said.

The superintendent reported on on-going work at VCS, like installing the ceiling fans authorized last year, and on use of the building as a warming center during the December power outage. Thanks to cooperation from residents and school staff, the warming center was a success, he said.

Town office staff are collecting names of residents who would like to be trained to work as volunteers at the center in future disasters. Pfeiffer said about 20 people had signed up so far.

Other business at the Jan. 22 meeting included approval of three new hires: Gifted and Talented teacher Rod Robilliard and Special Education Technicians Julie Chavez and Isaac Mercier. Board members accepted two resignations, from Speech and Language Pathologist Sharon Peabody and Special Education Technician Heather Bassett.

The next regular Vassalboro school board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, at VCS.


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