News Feature

Penobscot
Originally published in Castine Patriot, November 29, 2012 and The Weekly Packet, November 29, 2012
At first draft, Union 93 budget increases under $10K for 2013-14
Ben Wootten elected as new chairman

Joe Spinazola and Ben Wootten

The School Union 93 board met at the Penobscot Community School on November 20. From left, outgoing board chairman Joe Spinazola (Castine) and new chairman Ben Wootten (Blue Hill).

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

Board members from the five schools in Union 93 met on November 20 to preview the 2013-14 union budget and elect a new chairman. The towns of Blue Hill, Brooksville, Castine, Penobscot and Surry are members of the union.

At first draft, the budget for the union’s central office is $492,643, up 2.37 percent from this year’s $481,228. The budget covers administrative costs for all central office operations, including superintendent and staff salaries and the special services office. Each school contributes to the central office budget based on its current enrollment figures.

However, before reviewing the budget draft, Jon Smallidge, chairman of the Blue Hill School board, proposed a two-year cycle for serving as chairman of the Union 93 board, to “help the towns be more involved with the board.”

A board chairman is elected each November, with Joe Spinazola serving for the past six years.

Ben Wootten added to the proposal, suggesting that the board secretary be “heir apparent” to the chairman, in order to “work their way into the job and not depend too much on input from the superintendent.”

“I’m not sure we can put that together tonight,” said Superintendent Mark Hurvitt.

Wootten also asked that three subcommittees be formed, covering personnel, budgetary and curriculum matters.

“I would need to know more exactly what these subcommittees are going to do,” said Penobscot School Board member Anne Hayes-Grillo.

Legally, the function of a personnel committee “would have to be very narrow,” said Joe Spinazola, a Castine School Board member, as personnel decisions are “clearly laid out” in law as the job of the superintendent. “Our job is to hire the superintendent and pass the budget.”

“There’s a flawed way things are going,” said John Richardson, of the Blue Hill board, without stating any specifics.

“You’re undermining the superintendent,” said Spinazola. “We hire him to hire personnel. If we don’t like it, we don’t have to rehire.”

Board members agreed to discuss “more solid ideas” for the proposed subcommittees at the December 17 board meeting.

Following this discussion, Richardson nominated Wootten as board chairman; and board secretary Kathy MacArthur of Castine nominated Spinazola.

Each board member is allotted a number of votes based on the Maine Department of Education’s reporting of the 2009 census count, with Blue Hill having the most votes at 2,695 and Brooksville the least at 935.

Laura Pellerano of Surry asked that the voting be cast by secret ballots.

“Public business should be done in public,” said Hurvitt. However, a voice vote gave neither candidate the majority 3,867 votes needed to elect.

When the written ballots were counted, Wootten was elected with 3,871 votes, with 3,386 for Spinazola.

MacArthur was unanimously reelected as board secretary.

In other business, the board unanimously approved extending curriculum coordinator Rachel Kohrman Ramos’ contract from December 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013 to align it with other union staff members, and to raise her salary by $1,050 for that period.

Before the approval, Wootten and Richardson objected to approving the extension before Ramos’ evaluation on December 17.

“It’s hard to vote and discuss without an evaluation in front of you,” said Richardson. “It’s a poor way of going forward with these things.”

Spinzaola disagreed. “We made a bad move in the beginning [in not ending the original contract on June 30, 2013]. This is our chance to correct it.”

In the first review of the 2013-14 budget, Hurvitt noted a $2,080 raise for business manager Carolyn Heller, in “an attempt to move closer to state average” for that position.

Heller’s current salary is $45,747, with the state average salary for business manager at $70,000 with same responsibilities and job description, said Hurvitt. “Carolyn has launched us into the world of technology very well, and is our human resources manager.”

“I think she’s way underpaid,” said Driscoll.

Other proposed salary increases ranged from $14 to $14.50 per hour for bookkeeper Heather Lanpher to a 2.5-percent increase for Hurvitt, to 3.2 percent increases for Ramos and Special Services Director Sheila Irvine. The superintendent salary for 2012-13 is $104,040; the curriculum coordinator salary is $61,440, funded by grant money; and the special services director salary is $70,000.

The board next meets on December 17, 5:30 p.m., at the Penobscot Community School, where it will be asked to approve the 2013-14 budget.

Joe Spinazola and Ben Wootten

The School Union 93 board met at the Penobscot Community School on November 20. From left, outgoing board chairman Joe Spinazola (Castine) and new chairman Ben Wootten (Blue Hill).

Photo by Anne Berleant
Special Services Director Sheila Irvine

Special Services Director Sheila Irvine updated the School Union 93 board at its November 20 meeting. One hundred and twenty students have been served by her office “as of today—the highest number this union has served, period.”

Photo by Anne Berleant