At a budget forum on March 22, the CSD school board announced it had reached a tentative agreement with the teachers’ union after more than a year of negotiations. Details of the three-year teaching contract are still being finalized.
Judy Rhodes, president of the Island Teachers Association, confirmed the tentative agreement. If union members ratify the finalized contract the board will take it up it at its April 3 meeting.
During the budget forum, board and community members discussed proposed cuts to coaching stipends, the decision to combine the two grade four classes into one grade five class next year, and a proposed cut of a middle school reading position.
Board chairman Mark Cormier said the coaching stipends are built into the teaching contracts and cannot be cut. Principals Mike Benjamin and Todd West, along with Superintendent Robert Webster, had proposed the cut of approximately $63,000. A community member asked if that money would be put back into the draft budget, or if cuts would need to be made to other programs or areas. Cormier said specifics of budget numbers would be addressed in later meetings, once priorities had been set.
The proposed combined fifth grade class—which would eliminate a teaching position—was discussed. Several parents, special education teacher Dorothy Conte and fifth grade teacher Linda Weed expressed concerns with combining the class.
Two sets of brothers—three brothers and two brothers—would be placed into a single class for the first time.
Board member Vicki Zelnick asked if the possibility of combined grades had been considered, such as a grade four, a grade four/five and a grade five class. Webster said the board had considered it at least three times in recent years, but never made the move toward the change. Cormier said the board has “always made the numbers work” and pushed that choice down the line.
“Multiage classes is a philosophical change,” said Linda Weed. “If we’re going to go in this direction, we need time to implement that.”
The potential cut of a middle level reading position was then discussed. Torri Robbins, the current middle level reading teacher, said she was concerned with how the middle level would keep literacy a priority. “Leaving that in the hands of one language arts teacher, I’m afraid we won’t meet everyone’s needs,” said Robbins.
Middle-level language arts teacher Dawn Robbins said the middle level had found a program that is working. A parent of a middle level student said she was concerned her daughter would not get the attention she needs in reading and writing.
The board meets Thursday, March 29, for a third budget meeting. The agenda includes the high school library position, the gifted/talented position, technology and the possible relocation of the high school music program to the elementary school.
The school board meets Tuesday, April 3, at 5 p.m. at the elementary school for its regular monthly school board meeting.