FARMINGTON — The Regional School Unit 9 Board of Directors has approved hiring four new ed techs to help serve the needs of four special education students within the district.

The board also approved a proposal to change the way budget proposal are reviewed and deliberated in an attempt to make the process more efficient and transparent.

Board members unanimously approved the four hires at their meeting Tuesday night following a request from Special Education Services Director Christine Gatto-Shea. The board approved using as much money that was available in the district’s payroll account, with the remainder of the money coming from the un-designated fund, to cover the unexpected $74,819 expenditure.

Going into the school year, the district had 74 special education ed techs serving the needs of students among the district’s seven schools. Gatto-Shea said this staffing would have been enough if special education needs stayed the same within the district as last year; however, that is rarely the case. The four students who need the one-on-one all day assistance of the newly established ed tech positions had either moved into the district since the start of school or had been newly identified as needing special education services, Gatto-Shea said.

Each student who is identified as needing special education services has an individualized education plan, called an IEP, which legally mandates that the student receives the necessary specialized services and instruction, Gatto-Shea said. Because this is mandated by law, the district must provide that student with the level of ed tech service outlined in the IEP which can range from minimal time to full day supervision and instruction. If a district does not have the available staff already they must hire additional ed techs, as was the case this year.

“We try to do the most we can within our budget,” Gatto-Shea said. “But we can’t guarantee we won’t add any positions. We can’t say we won’t fill a position when there is a need.”

At the end of the last school year the district had about 86 special education ed techs Gatto-Shea said. However, of those ed techs, only 76 were established positions that had been created and budgeted for going into the school year. The 10 other ed tech positions were not established positions and instead were created based on need and filled by substitutes throughout the year, being paid form the district’s substitute teacher account rather than from the special education budget.

Those positions, since they are not officially established within the special education budget, do not carry over to the next year.

Additionally, during budget deliberations two vacant ed tech positions within the special education budget were cut.

Gatto-Shea said that while the district was able to serve the needs of its special education students with that number of ed techs going into the school year, it took a great deal of efficiency and consolidation. “We were really kind of operating already at bare bones,” she said.

Going forward with the hiring of additional ed techs, Gatto-Shea said she will fight to formally establish ed tech positions within the special education department instead of filling the positions with substitutes so the positions do not disappear from year to year.

“I hope we don’t have to do the same thing again next year, because it is very disruptive (to the students),”she said.

In other business, the board accepted a proposal from Chesterville school board director Craig Stickney to make amendments to the way the school board conducts its budget process. Stickney said his proposal — which will have the whole board continuing to act as the budget committee but keep a running list of the cuts and additions it recommends — will make the process more transparent to the public and keep the board accountable.

For the second budget year in a row, voters in RSU 9’s 10 towns shot down the initial budget proposal recommended by the school board. This year voters narrowly passed a $32.75 million budget during a second referendum vote in July.

Rather than hearing all of the budget proposals from administrative teams representing the districts cost centers before deliberating on possible cuts or additions, the board will hear proposals from one cost center and then immediately go into deliberations specific to that cost center before moving onto the next budget proposal. When going through each cost center’s budget line by line during deliberations, cuts and additions made by the board will be noted in a separate spread sheet, which will be brought forth to the next meeting.

Stickney argued that this method will give the board a better sense of what needs are being brought forth by administrators and where money can possibly be moved around.

Once the board has gone through each cost center’s budget, a proposed working budget for the whole district will have then been formed, and the board will hear proposal from administrators on what cuts made by the board should stay and what should be added.

Other board members asked that in addition to Stickney’s proposed changes, administrators present the board with a proposal that demonstrates the minimum budget their cost center needs, which presenting the board with a list of additional needs they will need in the future but may not be able to afford presently.

Superintendent Tom Ward said prior to the budget season beginning, the board will hold a public meeting to inform district residents on the changes to the budget process.

RSU 9 serves the towns of Chesterville, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Starks, Temple, Vienna, Weld, and Wilton.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.