As the SAD 3 board begins to work on building a budget for the 2010-2011 school year, the prospect of one or more school closures in order to achieve cost savings drew concerned parents to the board’s Feb. 8 meeting.

Board Chairman Glenn Couturier noted the higher-than-average audience size at the beginning of the meeting, and he sought to assure parents that such action was not likely to happen soon, and might not happen at all.

“There has been little discussion and no decision made on which school or schools may be closed,” he said. The board has been looking at how one or more closures would impact student learning, transportation costs and other factors.

Couturier said there is a lengthy process in place, as specified by state law, regarding the closing of a school. Those requirements, including a vote by the town(s) that would be affected by a particular school closure, mean shutting down any school would happen later rather than sooner.

“Realistically, it’s doubtful that any schools will be closed in 2010-2011,” said Couturier.

When an audience member began asking specific questions about how the closure of the Morse Memorial School in Brooks would affect the towns that send students there, Couturier said such questions were hypothetical and that there was no point in asking them right now.

“Those questions could be asked about any schools and any towns,” Couturier said. “There has not been a school named to close, and I’m hopeful we won’t have to do that.”

At the end of the meeting, a parent told board members that those people sitting in the audience were not “alarmists,” and that if they were they would have been there a year or two earlier when rumors first started to swirl.

“We’re just concerned, and we don’t want to get blindsided,” said the parent. Board member Phil Shibles commented that being a concerned parent is a good thing.

Also at the Feb. 8 meeting, board members met with Superintendent Joe Mattos in a closed-door session to discuss his contract. Mattos had previously announced his retirement, which was set to be effective Sept. 30, and a search for a new superintendent is already under way.

At a previous board meeting, though, Mattos and the board had heard from an education consultant that Mattos’ leaving after the school year had begun might pose a problem when recruiting new candidates. The consultant said most people would be looking to start the job July 1.

After the Feb. 8 meeting, Mattos said he and the board discussed the pros and cons of pushing his effective retirement date up to June 30, in order to bring on a new leader starting July 1. Both sides eventually agreed that the earlier date would work better.

However, Mattos said that by retiring earlier he will now incur a financial penalty with regard to his retirement pay. Mattos said the board will consider at a future meeting how best to address that issue, and that whatever decision they make will be public information.

With regard to the search for a new superintendent, board members unanimously approved the formation of a 10-member search committee. That committee will include five board members (Couturier, Shibles, David Thompson, Lisa Cooley and Katherine Eickenberg), one teacher, one support staff member, one member of the administrative team (Deb McIntyre’s name was suggested), one representative from the central office (either Business Manager Barbara Van Deventer or Human Resources/Office Manager Lisa Letourneau) and one member from the Special Education Office (Director of Special Services Carrie Thurston).

Eickenberg said there had been some discussion of having a community member serve on the search committee, but that board members decided having an open meeting with community members instead would be adequate. That meeting is set for Wednesday, March 10 at 7 p.m. at the Clifford Performing Arts Center at the Mount View School.

Another subject addressed during the Feb. 8 meeting was that of student schedules at the Waldo County Technical Center in Waldo. Couturier made a point of saying that district officials feel SAD 3 students get a good education at WCTC, but that there are concerns with regard to scheduling.

Currently, students attending WCTC spend half of the school day at their home school and the other half at WCTC.

“In my mind, in a perfect world, they would attend a full-day schedule here at this school, and then be able to spend a full day at the tech center,” said Couturier.

While the issue has sometimes come up during budget discussions in the past as a means of cutting down on transportation costs, Couturier said, it is not just a financial issue. He said the scheduling also has an effect on the education students are receiving.

Couturier addressed his comments to WCTC Director Chris Downing, who was in the audience. Couturier said the board’s request was that a study committee be formed in order to look at the issue and come up with suggestions on how things might be done differently.

“We really need to look at the kids, number one,” said Couturier. “What value are we getting here from bringing them here [to Mount View] in the morning, then having them bused there [to WCTC], then back here, then home again. That’s a lot of busing. An outside observer would probably say, ‘This doesn’t look like a good way to operate.'”

Mattos said the board had come up with three specific issues for the proposed study committee to look at: increasing the amount of instructional time for students, reducing transportation costs for sending schools, and looking at the overall operation of WCTC to see if there are additional operating efficiencies that can be achieved.

Mattos said the board hoped the study committee could begin work by March 1, and report back by Nov. 1, so that any changes might be implemented in time to be incorporated into the 2011-2012 budget cycle.

“We don’t object to a study, we really don’t,” said Downing. He agreed there would be benefits to having students attend WCTC all day — such as allowing students in the building construction program to spend a day working at a job site — but said the WCTC schedule must be such that it also allows students to meet the necessary academic requirements at their sending school.

Mattos asked Downing to head the study committee, and Downing agreed to do that.

In other business Feb. 8, board members unanimously approved the nomination of Kim Anderson as a special education technician at the Morse School in Brooks. They also noted the upcoming retirements of three district staff members, each effective June 30: Joy Seaver, special education; Sheila Gilully, English support staff at Mount View High School; and Linda Moody, secretary at Mount View Elementary School.