Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) 98 school board members made the new Rocky Channels Education Service Center (ESC) official Jan. 14. The meeting was the first time the board – which also acts as board of directors for the ESC – functioned by holding two meetings separating the duties of the AOS 98 board from the ESC.
AOS 98 board members voted to serve as the ESC’s fiscal agent and to approve a 2020-2021 AOS operating budget of $614,922 with assessments of $582,922.
Since former AOS 98 finance officer Kathleen Pearce performed human resource duties, and finances have been handed off to Falmouth firm Berry Talbot Royer, the board discussed Superintendent Keith Laser’s recommendation of a $4,000 stipend to central office executive assistant Evelyn Andrews.
With 200 employees in the district, human resource responsibilities are large, Laser said. The stipend will be raised to $8,000 for the full year next year, under the budget voters will decide Jan. 23.
“I think an $8,000 raise is a little high,” said CSD member Stephanie Hawke. “It's not good for office morale when one person gets (more).”
“It's a lot of extra responsibility that the other person doesn't get,” noted Laser.
After an executive session for a personnel matter, the board unanimously accepted Laser’s $4,000 recommendation for the stipend covering the rest of the current budget year.”
Southport Central School representative Adam Harkins clarified, the stipend is for the job, “not the individual.”
Laser cautioned, once Andrews becomes accustomed to human resources, the stipend may be even higher due to the workload. With fewer people to do the central office work, board pushback on a small stipend is frustrating, said Laser.
“From 2019-2020 to 2020-2021 my budget is down … I'm bringing in $56,000 of my salary as a result of filling out the paperwork to become an ESC … You brought me aboard and my goal is to make (this) a better organization than when I got here. Look around: Policies, fixing the buildings, all this stuff has been accomplished this year and I'm getting nickled and dimed … I've got to take care of my people. If I'm not taking care of my people, then I don't belong here.”
Georgetown Central School representative Alaine Pinkham agreed. “We're in this position because of being cheap.”
Laser noted Andrews continues to master more skills and find ways to cut time and effort, but several members said the extra workload is not likely sustainable.
Georgetown Central School representative Kelly James said the discussion seemed to be out of fear of work overload and because Andrews has become such an asset that losing her and replacing her with someone with less experience would be devastating.
Board members agreed to table Laser's recommendation for revising the executive assistant job description.
Said Pinkham, “I think it just needs to be carefully communicated that (not revising the job description) is not a lack of confidence. It's more about trying to protect her sanity, protect her from 'too much.' If she gets through six months of this and says 'forget it’ –”
“– This gives her an out,” James said.
Education Service Center
The ESC board voted to appoint Laser executive director of the ESC, elect its officers to match those of the AOS 98 board: John Bertolet, chairman; Thomas Abello, vice-chairman; and Peggy Splaine, secretary. The board elected James as its treasurer.
Members approved an ESC operating budget of $677,922 which is accounted for in the AOS 98 budget, not in addition, Laser clarified.
The board voted Maine Department of Education revenue be placed in the ESC's undesignated funds and that AOS 98 serve as the ESC's fiscal agent. The board also voted that each member’s dues to the ESC will be $250, which will go in undesignated funds.
The AOS 98 budget meeting is at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23 in the Boothbay Elementary School gym.