JAY — The Regional School Unit 73 board of Directors voted unanimously Thursday night to hire an additional special education teacher for grades seven to 12.

“The numbers at the middle school and high school are very concerning,” Special Services Director Cherie Parker said. “Our caseloads and classrooms are bursting at the seams and the staff, even the very veteran team we have at the high school, is voicing overwhelmed, not enough hours in the day, drowning feelings.”

The teams within each building have done their best to move students around to even out caseload numbers, Parker said. “Legally each teacher can have 35 students on a caseload,” she noted. “We are just at the beginning of the year and the caseload numbers are between 25 and 30 in the resource rooms and 16-19 in our more intense life skills and behavior programs.

“When the numbers go above 15 in the behavior program and life skills, it becomes very stressful because almost all academic programming is taught to the students in these rooms on an individualized basis according to the Individualized Education Plan.”

Maine Unified Special Education regulations outline the permitted student-teacher ratios as:

• Ages 10-14, eight students to one teacher


• Ages 15-20, 10 students to one teacher

• An education technician would allow five additional students in the classroom

Some teachers at both schools are exceeding these group sizes due to identified student needs, Parker noted. Of the 381 students in special education, 223, or 58.5, are in the middle and high schools, she said.

“If we look at projecting for next year using the current numbers, the middle school will lose 33 to promotion and gain 42 incoming sixth graders,” Parker said. “The high school will lose 19 to graduation and gain 33 incoming ninth graders.” In 2023, there will be 119 special education students at the middle school, 127 at the high school for a total of 246 or about 65% of all special education students in the district, she added.

In the monthly report Parker gave earlier in the meeting, she noted there are 33 students in the referral process, an increase of 16 since the beginning of the school year.

Current special education numbers:


• 74 students at the primary school, a decrease of four

• 84 students at the elementary school, an increase of seven

• 110 students at the middle school, an increase of nine

• 113 students at the high school, an increase of four

An educational technician III position is open at the middle school, educational technician I and educational technician II positions are open at the primary school and an educational technician III at the elementary school, Parker noted.

The special education teacher has been advertised as certified for grades seven to 12, Parker said. Once hired, the building coordinators at the middle and high school would meet to figure out how to make the best use of that teacher, she noted.


Board Chairman Robert Staples of Jay said he spent his first four years teaching special education. With that many students teachers are trying to keep their heads above water, he noted.

“It is not safe,” Staples said. “This request is definitely needed.”

Director Joel Pike of Jay asked how the position would be funded.

There is local entitlement carryover and money is put in the contingency fund every year, Superintendent Scott Albert said. “We can find it,” he added.

“The state needs to take over this stuff,” Director Joel Pike said. “Every school department gets into this, this stuff needs to be done. You have got to take care of the kids.”

Vice Chairwoman Robin Beck asked if there was enough money in the budget to hire two special education teachers.


“If we need it, we will find it,” Albert said.

Parker said she contacted some former applicants but hadn’t heard back from them.

Earlier in the meeting, community member John Benedetto of Livermore Falls asked if there had been any discussions about the paper mill in Jay closing and how that was going to affect budgets.

Albert said information is being gathered to use in the budget process. He said he reached out to state Education Commissioner Pender Makin to see what they can do in the three district towns.

Students from Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls attend Spruce Mountain schools.

Noting that special education issues raise budget concerns, Director Phoebe Pike of Livermore Falls said, “Our teachers, students need to be supported. It will pay off in the long term. If we don’t support them who will?”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. 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.