By Edith Tucker

The Berlin Sun

GORHAM — The Gorham-Randolph-Shelburne Cooperative School District school board voted unanimously on Tuesday evening, Jan. 14, to set its proposed 2021-22 school operating budget at $8,850,844, a 0.9 precent increase over the this year' budget.

The board also went into non-public session to discuss a proposed teachers’ contract that they ratified.

Two members whose spouses teach in the district recused themselves and left the room.

The board voted to unseal the non-public session minutes if, as expected, the teachers did ratify the contract the following evening.

“The teachers voted in the affirmative on the contract last night, and the school board's non-public vote has been released indicating that its members also approved the new contract,” reported SAU 20 Superintendent David Backler in an email exchange.

Under the new two-year contract which voters will be asked to pass as a separate warrant article at the annual school meeting on March 4, teachers will receive a 4.5 percent increase in the first year and 2.75 percent in the second, which is a 6.4 percent increase over two years, he explained in a Friday afternoon phone call.

The school budget, including the proposed teachers’ contract, stands at $8,961,627, which represents a 2.1 percent increase over the Fiscal Year 2020 budget for the current school year.

Gorham’s Budget Committee asked that school taxes not increase by more than 3 percent, setting a goal which the board was able to fulfill.

It will be presented to Gorham-Randolph-Shelburne voters at a public hearing at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23, at the Gorham Middle High School cafeteria.

At the beginning at the budget process, both Ed Fenn principal Christina Binette and Gorham Middle High School principal Jennifer Corrigan requested funds to hire additional teachers, but it became clear during board discussions that the district would continue to rely on some part-time teachers.

The budget materials handed out at the board meeting show that Gorham’s anticipated 2020 school tax rate would rise to $16.74, up from $16.26 for a 2.9 percent change; Randolph’s anticipated rate would climb to $6.13, up from $5.31 for a 15.5 percent change; and Shelburne’s anticipated rate would climb by nearly $1 to $7.83, up from $6.88 for a 13.8 percent change.

Backler also reported to the school board that a program to install LED lights over the summer would save substantial sums of money, with an expected payback of only 2½ years. On the other hand, the superintendent said that a proposed solar project is not yet ready for prime time. “The more we looked into it, the more questions arose,” Backler explained.

The panels must be located off site. For the project being considered, panels would be installed at the Gorham airport, where an aquifer that is part of the town’s watershed is located. Some high schools are involved in helping to research the project. Backler thanked town manager Denise Vallee for her involvement and enthusiasm.

The board also voted in a second reading to adopt the 2020-2021 school calendar. Sept. 2 will be the first day of school for students, who would not attend school Labor Day, Sept. 7.

The schools will be closed on Wednesday, Dec. 23, since Christmas Day is on Friday.

The winter vacation runs from Feb. 22-26, and spring vacation from April 26-30. Graduation for both Gorham and Berlin high schools will be Friday, June 11, 2021. The last day of school would be Monday, June 17: a half-day for students and a full day for teachers.

The board also voted to adopt the proposed program of study. Board member Benjamin Mayerson requested that parents of students who will be participating in the Capstone course be given a head’s-up on what will be expected of students.

Nine interactive whiteboards, some permanently installed and some mobile, will be added to the technology available in the schools.

Student representative Aimee Bousquet said that the theme of this year’s Jan. 24 intercession — between semesters following two days of mid-term exams — will be “Onward and Artward.”

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