As members of the Waterville Board of Education who are not currently up for reelection, we are responding to the recent article about candidates for the board (“Three incumbent Waterville Board of Education members face challenges in Tuesday election,” Oct. 31). Some of the comments in the article indicate a lack of accurate information or a misunderstanding of the current realities in Waterville public schools.

While it is true that the student population has declined over the years — about 10 percent in the past 10 years — the demands of teaching our students has increased. Technology, science labs, literacy and math specialists, special education, nurses, counselors, and therapists are all important components of education. Each requires space. Every year, the board tours each school, learning about programs and the use of school space. There is little or no empty or unused space.

Earlier this year, a committee evaluated the potential savings of closing the Hall School. The committee recently reported back to the board that the cost of renovating to create appropriate space for middle-schoolers at the high school would far exceed any savings.

One comment was that the board should attend more City Council meetings so we would better understand the city budget. According to the city charter, there is a combined city-school finance committee, designed for representatives from the two groups to discuss budgets. In addition, school board members do in fact attend council meetings, especially when budgets are being discussed. It is rare, however, that city councilors or the mayor attend board meetings.

The school board has a very transparent budget process. In February, we start working on our budget and continue through several meetings. These meetings are open to the public, yet attendance is usually very low.

There was another comment that consolidation needs to be explored. That has been and continues to be an issue. The Alternative Organizational Structure is the result of lengthy consolidation conversations years ago. Now it is time to reevaluate that, something we have already been doing for several months.

Another issue raised in the article is teacher salaries. It is true that Waterville has significantly lower salaries than other area schools. The board is well aware that our per pupil spending is among the lowest in the state and we need additional funding to remedy that. We are also well aware of the concerns of taxpayers. After all, we are taxpayers too. The state needs to do its fair share, with revenue sharing a critical focus. On the Board, we do our best to provide the best education possible in as fiscally responsible a way as possible.

Sara Sylvester represents Ward 1 on the Waterville Board of Education and is board chairperson. Joan Phillips-Sandy represents Ward 3. Pamela J. Trinward represents Ward 7.

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