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