School positions in jeopardy as Madawaska faces declining enrollment and budget season

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9 April 2012

MADAWASKA - Some parents and teachers in Madawaska are expressing concern over an announcement made by school administrators at a district-wide “emergency staff meeting” the administration called Thursday afternoon that revealed proposed cutbacks that, among other things, would eliminate positions in the math, science, English, and physical education departments.

Cuts in other departments may also be on the way.

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BIG CHANGES - The school day will look a lot different for students at MMHS next academic year if recently proposed changes are implemented. - Pettengill Jerkins image

According to several meeting attendees, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear for their job security, Superintendent Terry Wood announced to staff Thursday that due to a decline in student enrollment in the district, those involved in this stage of the budget process were proposing cutting one position in the math department, one in the science department, one in the English department, and one half of a position in the physical education department. According to one meeting attendee, these cuts will also reduce the number of Advanced Placement classes the school can offer, specifically AP English Literature.

The agenda at the next school committee meeting scheduled Monday, April 9 at 4 p.m. mentions no discussion of cuts. Madawaska High School science teacher Gisele Faucher said Superintendent Wood told meeting attendees there may be a second round of cuts in the history, French, and business departments as well.  

It is unclear at this point which specific teachers the cuts would impact. Administrators asked teachers in the respective departments to fill out Reduction in Force (RIF) paperwork, which will help the teachers union and school administrators to decide on which individual teachers to eliminate, should the proposal move forward. The RIF forms take several things into account, including teacher seniority.

This is just one of the many changes administrators and board members are discussing in the Madawaska School Department as of late that raises concerns in the community, however.

According to Faucher, Principal Wayne Anderson informed her on March 26 that the school was eliminating all science labs in biology, chemistry, physics, advanced chemistry, and anatomy/physiology from the following year’s curriculum because of scheduling conflicts with the master schedule. Faucher said that the administration’s decision to move to a new six block, four day rotating schedule is possibly the cause of some of the scheduling conflicts.

Faucher said it seems as though the administration is making the schedule changes in “secret,” and rather than including teachers in the discussion as they’ve done in the past, the administration is informing teachers after they’ve already decided on the changes. Only the changes just keep coming.

“It was literally held under a plastic tarp until Mrs. Wood unveiled a new schedule about two months ago,” said Faucher of the new class schedule. “Now surprise! More changes.”

Eliminating science labs, in conjunction with the new 60-minute block schedule, as compared to the current 80-minute blocks, would effectively cause the science program to lose 45 hours of instruction time per year, or 11.25 hours per quarter. Other non-lab classes stand to gain 3.75 hours of instruction time per quarter, or 15 hours per year, under the new schedule. Faucher said she was concerned about the loss of hours in the science curriculum at a time when most schools are focusing on strengthening their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) classes.

In the past few weeks, students at MMHS were finalizing their schedules for the upcoming year and trying to familiarize themselves with the new system. Now, with these recent announcements, they will be going back to the drawing board.

The school committee meets Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. Superintendent Wood declined to comment until after that meeting, however without the item of position cuts on the agenda, it is unclear whether the topic will come up for discussion without the public having proper notification beforehand.

Comments

School positions in jeopardy

Maybe they should look at cutting electives instead of core curriculum classes. PCM is a joke, the college application process should be being done by the guidance dept. There are multiple electives under the English umbrella, cut a few of those and leave AP intact! Studies have shown that students who take AP are more likely to do well in college and graduate on time. Cutting science labs will lead to students who are ill prepared for college careers in everything from nursing to engineering! If the problem is the new schedule scrap it and go back to the old one! I'm glad my son only has one year left! At the rate they are going, there will be no MHS left in a few years because we won't offer enough courses to be certified!

School Cuts

I must agree. My son is entering MMHS in the fall and I am worried if he will receive the complete education he needs to prepare for College. Cutting labs could seriously affect our accreditation in the state. I understand that this economy is not conducive to the best we can give our kids, but there must be cuts that can be made in areas that still allow the best possible education for our children in these circumstances. They are our future. They must be prepared. It makes me consider returning to a home-schooling format just to give him what he needs. I am sure that there are other resources that can be utilized to make up for some of the deficiencies. Organizations can work together, combining resources and staff, to get the job done and save money. There must be another way than simply CUT, CUT, CUT!

MMHS School Changes

Being a student at MMHS I find it to be very odd that the students at the school had no say in any of our schedule changes. While the superintendent sits at her desk it is us, the students, who must deal with the changes whether we like them or not. I understand that sometimes we need to just go with the flow because we have no control under certain circumstances. However, removing our science labs can jeopardize many students futures if they are going into any nursing program at a University. One of my classmates is going to college for nursing and chemistry is a required course. By taking it in highschool she would be saving money, due to the fact that she won't be required to take it. They say that they must cut our labs because of the new schedule. Here's an idea, leave the schedules the way they are! We have tried a similar copy of this schedule in the past and it didn't work then. I am currently an AP English and Literature student and I can honestly say it is one of the best classes I have ever taken, and I think that it should remain untouched. To sum up my frustrated feelings towards the subject at hand, I'd like to leave one last note to the superintendent. Before you start new changes, think about how many students futures you are messing with.

Don't the powers that be want

Don't the powers that be want our children to have an education?

How do they expect these kids to survive college?!

I couldn't help but register on this, just to comment on this one article. I am a 2006 Madawaska High School graduate, and remember the importance of my high school classes in forming the base of my future in college. I chose to pursue a 4 year degree in Nursing, which coincidentally includes MANY science courses. I even remember clearly stating my frustration with how I felt very unprepared for the science load after what I had in high school--- which actually including taking the additional Anatomy/Physiology and was not required. So looking back now, and comparing with the new proposed cuts of SCIENCE LABS.. I cant begin to think how these high school students will be able to really learn the sciences hands on, and be even half prepared for what they have to go through next to acquire a degree. It saddens me to see these core classes being affected like this. I know that its a touchy subject to speak lowly about other courses, but I have to think that science/math/english are the primary backbones in most degrees. I just hope this board sits back and thinks about the future of these kids. I cant begin to imagine where this school is going to be in a few years if these cuts happen. All I can say is "Im glad it's not me", but I pity the kids that will be even more poorly prepared for college when this all goes through--- which I hope it will NOT!

Other suggested changes involved moving MES kids to MHS

The superintendent also discussed possibly closing Madawaska Elementary School, which is only 17 years old, and moving all the kids to Madawaska High School. I'm wondering how parents will react when they hear this news? I for one do not want my child moving from a relatively new, state of the art elementary school to an old building in need of repairs. No one argues that we are undergoing tough economic times, but I have to question cutting education so deeply that academic programs are only offered every other year or not at all. How will our students and children fare in comparison to other students from other communities? How will our students be prepared for the academic rigors of college, whether it be a two-year program or 4-year college if they do not have access to a tough and varied curriculum? How will the town attract new businesses and residents if our schools are not up to muster? Schools are the lifeblood of any small town, and great caution should be taken before completely gutting whole departments and programs. I wish the school board would allow Channel 16 WOWL (that's if this program doesn't get cut too) to broadcast their meetings once again, so that way the parents of this community would know more about what is happening with the schools. Parents, please start asking questions. Please start becoming involved. Attend meetings, speak up. If you don't speak up, the powers that be will assume you don't care.

To be honest I think MHS is

To be honest I think MHS is dwindling down to absolutely nothing. Unnecessary schedule changes, unnecessary cuts, and.... unnecessary spending on new lights in the gym? (Not that great, by the way.) You know, lights that "save energy," and turn off when there's no one in there. Hey, I have an idea! Turn the lights off when no one's using the gym! But hey, we absolutely NEED to spend thousands plus dollars, that's cool too. Not a big deal or anything when we know we have to cut a ton of teachers who we can hardly afford to pay, right? On a more serious note though, I know I can speak for myself and a lot of the other students when I say that the new schedule changes are horribly confusing and puzzling. It's probably been explained to me and others multiples times, and each time it's explained.. it gets more confusing. Time isn't an issue with our schedules now so I don't see why we need to change it, And our labs are very important when it comes to the science department, so why fix it when it's not broken? I'm in AP English this year and I honestly think it was one of the best decisions for my education that I have ever made, and to see some AP classes getting cut really angers me, due to the fact that AP classes are substantial in some student's early college preparation. I feel that Madawaska School Department needs to re-evaluate their priorities and keep in mind what's best for their students. We count on the people of our school, teachers and administration alike, to make sure that we're prepared for what's to come ahead whether it be middle school students coming up to high school, or high school students going off to college, and by cutting more and more courses, do they really think it's going to help us?

Here's a no-brainer.....

Here's a no-brainer..... there are 2 teachers..who have been there for 30 plus yrs......how much do they make?....after 30 yrs....??there are so many assistants,,,,really?..madame Cyr handled the main office by herself when I was in school...and we had 4 and 5 times the class size,,,,,it's not about the kids anymore,,,,kinda sad,,,,,these people are entrusted with preparing our children and it's all about money,,,,not what they NEED IN ORDER TO FUNCTION AT A SECONDARY SCHOOL.........and prosper in society.......new lights in the gym???are you kidding me?...here's another cost-saver,,,in the fall..when you turn on the huge ,,lights at the soccer field for practice??..don't...huge buses to go get 4-5 kids at tech??,,people have forgotten what is important...and the bully mentality of administration is discouraging....good luck...,

School?

Did you happen to ever attend and graduate from high school??????????? You're punctuation is quite effective.............,,,,,,...,,,,,...--++)(*&^^* The kids at tech get bused there for a reason. They're putting themselves one step ahead of anyone going into their fields, so that in the long run, sorry to say it, they'll probably get a job that pays much, much, much, more than yours.....goodluck......,

Dear skinnyCRISCO,,,,my

Dear skinnyCRISCO,,,,my apologies if my punctuation offended you,I never said end tech..I asked why a huge school bus carts a handful of kids,when they could use a smaller vehicle.,,Hate much??..:)

First of all, I am quite

First of all, I am quite disappointed in our school system. Being a graduate of the 2012 class, I am not impressed at all by what the school is doing. Making Channel 17 mandatory? When people say that PCM is a joke? PCM is an amazing class, and I can honestly say that this is the only class this year that I've actually learned something in. We learn tons of things that should be taught to graduating kids. Mrs. Boucher is one of the best teachers around, and for me to say that is saying a lot. No, instead of filming sports, kids should be taking that extra chemistry class or science lab, and it should BE MANDATORY. I know many people that have not been accepted to college because they need to take so many general education classes. That is completely bogus! School is supposed to be preparing us for our future! And if it's not even doing that, then why go? Do you honestly think that super-intendants care? Have you seen who's on our school board? The school cut whale watching in Chemistry class, WHICH IS CONSIDERED TO BE EDUCATIONAL ON MORE THAN ONE LEVEL.... we learn many things while going there, and the kids enjoy it since this is the only field trip we ever get! But yet they don't touch the sport scene! Why is this? We require only ONE year of a second language, yet TWO YEARS of gym?!?!?! Come on now, that doesn't seem right. Do we honestly need to learn how to play basketball to survive in the working world? I highly doubt it. Instead, we should be learning that second language, ecspecially in an area where French is very common. What happened to "school comes first?!" What a joke. I have lost all faith in this school system, and I can't be happier that this is my last year.

Agree

accept, Yes, cutting the field trips isn't the greatest idea, but sports shouldn't be where we make cuts right off the back. Students learn more life skills participating in sports than in any class or field trip. Getting hyped over your slight disability in the sports area won't help the cause, but....as for the rest of your piece I agree.

Madawaska school dept cuts

I need to comment about the proposed faculty cuts and science lab elimination. As parents we need to be informed of the changes that will affect our childrens education, we should not have to read articles in newspapers or even hear from our own children about what might happen. We as parents should be informed of any curriculum changes and how it will affect the education of our children. I understand the need for budget cuts, but what I don't understand is why our children are feeling the blunt of all of this nonsense! I always thought that Madawaska School Department put the children "FIRST" and I am beginning to feel otherwise. Also we should not be cutting out the science labs, the science labs are important for those who want to pursue a career in the medical field. Why not cut out Potato Harvest? Why not increase each school day by one hour and have 4 day school weeks? Why not have full day Teacher workshops and give the children the full day off instead of 1/2 days? I am sure there are many other areas where we could cut back. I am a parent who is concerned about my childrens future in the Madawaska School Department, will the school department be able to give what they need to excel in college?

Science labs are vital

I am so proud to call Madawaska my hometown – it is, as a friend from a DC suburb put it, “like one of those small towns in America that used to exist, in the past. A real community.” The special thing about this ‘old-fashioned’ community spirit in Northern Maine is – it does still exist! Education quality is vital, and forms the underpinning of a productive, economically-sound society. To cut labs from science courses should be unthinkable! Much of the learning in STEM courses (science technology engineering and math) comes through asking questions, thinking about real-world problems, "doing science." In addition, science labs provide more instruction time to help out struggling students. At a time when our nation is very interested in improving STEM education, decreasing instructional time and hands-on activities is an injustice to students in Madawaska. While I understand the causes behind the exodus of young people from the town (I am among them), and the coincident dwindling enrollment in schools comes as no surprise, the firing of three teachers is heartbreaking. It is an undeniable fact that there are fewer students, so this reduction in force, while deeply sad, may be unavoidable. My heart goes out to them, and to their families. It will then follow that the schedule will need to be rewritten, and remaining teachers will need to change their curricula. I urge the school board to rethink the cancellation of science labs. Parents and community members, please speak up! An education in Madawaska enabled me to go to college and successfully build a career far from home. Attend the next school board meeting on May 7. The futures of your young people depend on it! http://www.madawaskaschools.org/district/meeting/SCH.%20COMMITTEE%20MTG....

Let the cuts begin!

OK....so they want to cut back the labs and teaching staff from a school that already has pretty much lost access to the arts, and suffered a major round of cuts only last year. One has to wonder just how much more they can cut before this school loses its accreditation? So...what happens when they lose their accreditation? This is the best part for us, as parents: we get to choose the school district we want to send our children to, and have the tuition paid by the government. Fort Kent, meet my three daughters! They've always said they wanted to go there, because they have a better school anyway. I couldn't agree more! Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! Way to go MMSH! You don't think it can happen here, look again, it happens in places with much wealthier schools. Where are your priorities?

Dear my3sons, I am more

Dear my3sons, I am more concerned with what you are trying to say in your argumentative response to this article. What is it about the soccer field lights you would like to change? Cut them completely? Do you think cutting them completely would eliminate cutting of teachers? Keep those things running year round wouldn't even cost the $60,000 or so that a teacher makes.

Teacher salaries

Slight correction to the discussion above. While I don't doubt that the annual cost of soccer stadium lighting is less than a professional salary, I did want to point out that the average annual salary for teachers in Madawaska was $41,112 in 2011. Maine as a state overall is ranked 35th in teacher salaries, however student performance ranks very high nationally, based on NAEP scores (National Assessment of Educational Progress). All individual teachers in Madawaska, including the most senior faculty, in fact made less than $60,000 annually in 2011. Compare that with the average annual mean wage of $40,190 for all occupations in Maine in the same year. A teaching position requires a college education, and is compensated on par with all jobs, including those that do not require such specialized training. Also bear in mind that for many teachers, summer is not "free time" but is filled with further job training and coursework to maintain their professional certification status. Make of it what you will, but there are the stats. (http://www.teachersalaryinfo.com/maine/teacher-salary-in-madawaska-schoo...) (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_me.htm)