Sunday, March 31, 2019

Proposed FY 20 School Budget Work Update

The Gorham School Committee will be voting on a proposed FY 20 School Budget at their regular meeting scheduled on April 10, 2019.  Although this is certainly not the last step in the budget approval process, it is an important one so I wanted to provide an update to parents regarding what is contained within the Proposed FY 20 Gorham School Budget at this time.  Here's a quick overview of the highlights of changes proposed at each school/program level:

Gorham High School:

The current proposed budget includes the addition of a 4/5 Health/PE teacher in order to accommodate for the large "bubble class" that is currently at the 9th-grade level.  The budget also includes the addition of a half time Educational Technician position in the learning lab. This position will be used to help provide support for students in the area of literacy and math at the grades 9-12 levels.

At one point there had been discussions of reducing positions in the alternative education program and 2-3 teaching positions, but after considerable conversation, these positions remain within the proposed budget.

Gorham Middle School:

The current proposed budget contains no substantial changes to positions or programs at Gorham Middle School at this time.

K-5 Schools:

The proposed budget currently includes the addition of a teaching position at Narragansett Elementary School.  This additional position will allow Narragansett to add a 4/5 classroom as well as maintain three grade 3 classrooms for the 2019-20 School Year.

The budget also currently adds one additional teacher to Great Falls Elementary School to account for a large third-grade classroom projected for next year.

Finally, the current proposed budget adds a new K-5 School Resource officer to be shared across our K-5 schools.  Currently, we have one SRO for GHS, and 1 more SRO that is shared between GMS and our three K-5 Schools.


The proposed budget includes funds to purchase additional i-pads for Kindergarten classrooms.  The budget also includes funds to purchase additional Chromebooks to be placed on carts and used for students in grades 1-3 in order to provide enough working laptops for instruction and for testing.

Finally, the proposed budget holds off on purchasing new laptops for GHS students as they are still in extremely good working order.  The budget does add funds to account for a shift in shared services with the Town of Gorham who has decided to hire its own full-time technician as their technology needs grow.  This means we now need to fully fund our 32 hour a week position without shared costs with the Town for 2019-20.

School Nutrition:

The proposed budget includes $30,000.00 additional local dollars to fund our SNP program.  These funds will allow us to keep up with labor and supply costs (due to our increasing enrollments) as well as to begin trying to make continuous changes to our program to improve the quality of our meals.


The proposed budget includes funds to add two new buses and two new bus driver positions to our budget.  These positions are needed to address our increasing enrollments.  These positions will also allow us to adjust our existing routes to create "inter-zone" specific routes that will then eliminate the need for transfer buses for students traveling across attendance zones.  In essence, this will allow us to add 10 minutes on to the morning for K-5 students and 10 more minutes onto the afternoon for K-12 students without asking students to ride buses longer, get up earlier, or arrive home later each day.

Special Education:

The proposed budget includes two additional Ed. Tech. III positions to address increasing populations and decreasing federal fund allocations.


The proposed budget includes a Capital Improvements Budget addition of over $600,000.00.  These funds are needed to fund a modular expansion proposed at Narragansett Elementary School.  This modular expansion will be done in two phases in preparation to shift attendance zones for the 2020-21 School Year so that we will "funnel" all additional growth in Gorham at the K-5 levels towards Narragansett Elementary School.  The first phase of the project will be to fund three modular spaces and associated site work.  These three modular buildings will become home to 4 additional classrooms, one set of boys and girls bathrooms, and an electrical/plumbing/technology "closet" that will house the infrastructure needed to support continued additions.  Phase I will be completed during the course of the 2019-20 school year although no students will be in the modular spaces until the 2020-21 School Year.  Over the course of the spring and summer of 2020, we will then add three more modular spaces.  Of those three, two will be combined to create a new cafeteria space (eating space will remain where it is) and one will be added on to Phase I to add two more classrooms.  Overall then, when Phase I and II are combined in preparation for the 2020-21 school year we will have space for 6 additional classrooms and a cafeteria which will free up the gymnasium space for use with our physical education classes.

The funds associated with phase I of this expansion are currently within our regular proposed FY 20 CIPS budget so even though there will be a separate referendum question on this item in June (due to our town charter's requirement for a referendum on any individual project whose costs exceeds $250,000.00), the funds to pay for this project are intended to be within our proposed school budget and not bonded.

The Town Council will be discussing this referendum question at its meeting on Tuesday, April 2 of this week.

Overall ESTIMATED Impacts:

I underline the word "estimated" so that folks are clear lots of things can still change in this process.  The state could change our funding, the town could update its property tax base numbers, the School Committee could still reduce or add items to the proposed budget and the Town Council can still reduce or add items to the proposed budget.

But as of right now, March 31, 2019 the estimated impacts of the proposed FY 20 school budget are as follows:

*  This budget would represent an overall increase in expenditures of 6.87% or $2,674,665.00.   A large portion of these operating increases can be attributed to just maintenance of existing positions ($1 million) or increases to our CIPS budget ($600,000.00).

*  Assuming an increase in property tax base of $25 million, the proposed budget would increase the mil rate by 9.59% or $1.15 on the mil.

There are lots more details that are associated with this proposed budget...but hopefully, this summary provides good insights into the highlights.  Once the school committee approves the proposed budget on April 10, it will then be sent to the Town Council.  The Town Council will review and meet jointly with the School Committee on May 14th to learn the details of the proposed budget.  The Town Council will then vote on the proposed budget (and can make possible adjustments to the proposed budget) on June 4.  Whatever is approved on June 4 then goes to voters via referendum on June 11, 2019.

As always, if you have any questions regarding the proposed FY 20 School Budget, please ask!

Thank you!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

GMS Upcoming Parent Event Focused on Bullying and Discrimination Prevention

As you may know, we have been very focused over the past year on working to strengthen our culture of kindness and compassion at GMS. We have some of the best students and the best staff in all of Cumberland County working at our Middle School for sure, but it is still a middle school of more than 630 complex and ever-changing adolescent students and therefore, this work is NEVER done. 

We continually endeavor to create the most positive cultures possible for our students and we will continue to work on this never completed canvas on behalf of our students!  Just over the course of the past year, we have done several things to specifically work to strengthen our practices in the areas of preventing bullying and discrimination behaviors through a focus on kindness and compassion. 


*  We have conducted rounds of individual meetings between administration and students of various ages and backgrounds to get a sense of their perspective on the existing culture and climate at GMS.

*  We have conducted specific training with all GMS staff (above and beyond the state required minimum) to review all bullying and discrimination policies and procedures with all staff so that all staff are well trained in how to appropriately respond to reports.

*  We have publicly reviewed all bullying policies and procedures with the Gorham School Committee so that the Gorham School Committee is clear and so that our public is better informed as to what these policies and procedures are and how they operate if a report occurs.

*  We have conducted specific training with GMS staff on:  "Spread the Word to End the Word", Adverse Childhood Experiences Training, Social Media Training, and Restorative Practices Training.

*  We have implemented additional "internal control" measures using google forms to ensure that if a report of bullying or discrimination occurs, it is recorded, communicated, investigated, and reported in a manner that meets all requirements of our policies and procedures.

*  We have re-vamped our discipline structure at GMS so that it is more consistently implemented across all grade levels and teams with restorative practices being a foundational approach whenever possible.

*  We have worked with "Sandy Hook Promise" to offer a program called "Start with Hello" to our students this past fall.  This program encourages students to reach out to one another, to be positive and encouraging, and to make sure no student is left on their own.

*  We have conducted digital citizenry assemblies for all students with follow up activities during advisory periods.

*  We continue to work to strengthen our advisory periods in order to continually promote daily opportunities for positive interactions between students and adults and between students and their peers.

*  We have conducted 7th grade Common Sense Media lessons on the topics of a digital footprint, bullying, discrimination, and other elements of digital citizenship.

*  Our Civil Rights Team has facilitated activities with advisory groups to help celebrate Black History Month, and Women's History Month as well as a "get to know each other" activities series where students in advisory classes asked questions of each other to find out who has what in common and then discussed those commonalities using a facilitated protocol.

*  We have worked with staff using materials from CASEL (The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) to provide training to staff on trauma informed practices which is at the heart of understanding one another before making assumptions - a core component of kindness and compassion towards one another.

*  We have also used materials from CASEL as part of our advisory program to provide specific instruction to all students on how to manage their emotions, set goals, show empathy for others, establish positive relationships with their peers and make responsible decisions.

*  Our students participate in prevention-based curriculum from our social worker on emotional regulation strategies, self esteem, values, and peer pressure as well as suicide prevention over the course of each school year.

*  Our student support team sets up daily lunch meetings and other small group meetings for students to discuss student behavioral concerns and to problem solve relational issues between peers, often serving 80+ studentes each week in this one setting alone.

*  We continue to provide a full team of social and emotional support staff for our students including 1 guidance counselor, 1 social worker, and 1 substance abuse counselor who all meet with students 1:1 or in small groups whenever needed.

*  Most recently we had the whole school participate in an event called "Spread the Word to End the Word" (check out to learn more), a program aimed at kindness and compassion, specifically towards those with special needs.

I am sharing this with all of you to let you know that we have been working hard with staff and students so far this year to make the words of "Kindness" and "Compassion" a part of every day vocabulary at GMS.  But while this work goes on (and will continue to go on)...issues in these areas are not just the school's alone to bear.  Making Kindness and Compassion a key part of our lives, and thereby working to stamp out bullying and discriminatory behavior in our schools and in our community is a community-wide endeavor and this important work must now begin to turn in that direction.

As a means to help start this community wide conversation, Gorham Middle School is planning to host the first of what we hope becomes a series of parent evenings to begin in the month of April.  We are working to bring in a renowned professional speaker to engage parents and families in this important discussion and to begin to open up this important conversation to our entire community.

We are finalizing dates now, but wanted to give everyone a heads up to be thinking about this and looking for the date/time when it is announced so that hopefully as many parents and their children as possible can attend.  Specific details should be forthcoming within the next few weeks.

As always, I do encourage parents/guardians to reach out to me if you have questions.  I also want to encourage parents/guardians who have ideas about how to broaden these important discussions within our community to please share those ideas.  Our intent will be to continue this focus, both internally and externally into the next school year and well beyond.

Thank you!

Monday, March 4, 2019

GHS Building Update, FY 20 Budget Development and more!

Wow, I can't believe that I haven't written since late January! Hard to believe we are already in March and hopefully this white stuff we are all growing tired of will soon be gone and the beautiful green of Maine's spring and summer will return.  I'm sure we are all looking forward to that!

Before I get into the "meat" of this post regarding FY 20 budget development and a quick update on the GHS building project, I just wanted to take a moment to send out a heartfelt THANK YOU to students, staff, and community members who pulled together in a very short period of time to celebrate the life of Officer Wayne (Pooch) Drown last week.  The lessons learned by those of our students attending the services were significant.  They watched as an entire community mourned the loss of an incredible person.  They watched community leaders show emotions they would otherwise never see. They watched folks cry and other folks support them in their grief.  They watched almost 2,500 people celebrate the life of service that Pooch personified.  They could see the very real positive impacts on others that service can have and what it truly means to be a member of a strong community.  Folks stepped up, and came together in incredible ways to make it all happen.  I don't know about anyone else, but after having been a part of that service, I feel an extremely strong sense of pride in being able to serve this incredible community, and I just wanted to say THANK YOU to those that helped celebrate Pooch and all that his life stood for.

Now on to my updates. . .

Proposed FY 20 Budget Development Update:

Of course with spring, comes school budget development season!  As is the case every year, the months of March, April and May are the intense times that our administrative team works closely with the School Committee and then later with the Town Council to develop a budget for the coming school year that does its best to balance the needs of our children with the needs of the taxpayers who we ask annually to support our incredible schools. 

As you all know, in recent years we have had increasing costs to support our increasing student populations here in Gorham.  We have worked hard to balance these costs with our community's ability to support our schools and continue to work hard to do so. 

This year, the Gorham School Committee instructed me to start our budget development process a little differently than in the past.  This year, they provided a "target" overall expenditure increase number and asked that in the budget development process, I present to them a budget that met that target.  The target that was set was an operational increase of just 2.75% over FY 19.  In order to hit this mark, that means that I could only propose an increased budget of a little over $1 million dollars in operational expenses for FY 20.  When one understands that it costs us just under $1 million to simply "roll forward" our existing staff and programs for students it provides the context to understand that in order for our administrative team to hit that target, we had to propose significant reductions to the initial proposed FY 20 budget.

The budget that was presented to the Gorham School Committee on Feb. 13, 2019 represents an operational expenditure increase of 2.72% over FY 19 with an overall expenditure increase (including Adult Education & a summer benefits reserve amount) of 3.22%.  At the time that the budget was presented to the School Committee we had not yet received initial state subsidy amounts so we simply used FY 19's numbers on the revenue side to fill in those blanks.  Therefore, as the School Committee was advised - YOU SHOULD NOT LOOK AT THE REVENUE SIDE YET as it is not accurate!  Those numbers will fill out more accurately as we move through the budget approval process.  If you want to see the details of our initially proposed School Budget, you can check out the 270+ page budget booklet that presented to the School on February 13, 2019 by CLICKING HERE and for a little more "context" you can check out the slide presentation shared with the School Committee on Feb. 13, 2019 by CLICKING HERE.   If you are looking for a summary list of all proposed additions, you should go to digital pages 24 and 25 of the budget booklet (or hard copy page 21 & 22)  and if you want to see a summary list of all proposed reductions, you should go to the digital pages 48 and 49 of the budget booklet (or hard copy page 44 & 45).

Since that original presentation, the School Committee has been asked to read the 270+ page proposed budget booklet.  They have asked questions and the administrative team has provided answers that can be reviewed by CLICKING HERE.  They have also held a full day budget workshop meeting this past Saturday where they have reviewed additional information and where they dove more deeply into the details and implications for all proposed additions and reductions to the budget.  They have developed a system of discussions and "straw poll" tentative agreements or TA's that allows for every School Committee member to ask questions of the administrative team and to voice their opinions regarding each proposed addition or reduction prior to making decisions to keep items out, add items in, or bring items from the proposed reductions list back into the proposed budget.  School Committee members may also suggest their own ideas on additions or reductions.  The March 2nd full day meeting was just the beginning.  There are 4 more budget workshop meetings scheduled.  Those are (starting at 7:00 p.m. and held at Central Office) scheduled for:

*  March 11, 2019
*  March 18, 2019
*  March 25, 2019
*  April 1, 2019

These meetings are open to the public to attend, although public comments will not be accepted.  It is during these budget workshop meetings that the originally proposed FY 20 Superintendent's Budget becomes the proposed FY 20 School Committee budget.  It is this budget that will be approved by the School Committee on April 10, 2019 and then sent to the Town Council for their approval and from there to the residents of Gorham in the form of the validation referendum vote scheduled for June 11, 2019.

So this is already a long blog post with just the budget to focus on...but I did want to also take a minute to share a little information on the GHS Building Project Discussion...

GHS Building Project Update:

If you haven't already done so, please check out our UPDATED GHS Building Project Website which you can view by CLICKING HERE.  This site is absolutely stuffed with incredibly detailed information to help the public stay up to date on our work!  The only thing missing is an updated Q&A section, which I am working on right now so should soon be up and operational.

Once you have reviewed this site - WHICH I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO DO - please also be sure to participate in a very important "Thought Exchange" Survey which will help guide the next phase of work with the GHS building committee.  You can participate in the thought exchange survey by CLICKING HERE.

Next big items for the public to be aware of are:

*  Presentation of the first INITIAL estimate of project costs to GHS Building Committee - March 12, 2019

*  Presentation of the first INITIAL estimate of project costs to Gorham School Committee - March 13, 2019

*  Presentation of the first INITIAL estimate of project costs to Gorham Town Council - March 19, 2019

*  Public Forum #2 held at GHS - March 26, 2019

*  Traffic Engineering Study - Conducted over the course of March and early April, 2019

*  "Hard Launch" of the "Gorham Pride" Athletic Capital Campaign - by end of March, 2019.

There is much more detailed information on the please check it out...and also please know that that website will be where we archive all information pertaining to this project.  We have agendas and notes from all meetings, we have results from feedback on surveys and public forums, etc.  We are working hard to make this as transparent a process for our community as possible...and as always - IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO EMAIL ME!  I have already heard significant amounts of misinformation out there in the community regarding this project...I'd much prefer people ask questions of me so I can provide accurate information to folks!

Well, that's a long enough blog post for now!  More to come!  Please stay tuned!