Food, operations posts don’t make budget cut

BAR HARBOR — Funding for two new positions in the Mount Desert Island Regional School System that were recommended by school board committees last spring is not included in the $2.1 million budget for next year that the board is expected to adopt Dec. 16.

The two jobs are director of operations and director of food services.

The operations director would oversee and coordinate facilities maintenance, repair, custodial and transportation services throughout the school system. The job would include recruiting and training employees, providing professional development and coordinating equipment purchasing, maintenance and sharing.

Superintendent Marc Gousse listed $90,000 for the operations position as a possible addition to the preliminary base budget he presented to the board Nov. 25.

Noting that school administrators have to deal with everything from roof repairs to boiler replacements, Gousse said, “Our principals are amazing educational leaders, but I don’t think any of them has a boiler license. There is a whole host of things that just aren’t in their wheelhouse. They do a good job working to address those things, but that is not intended to be the primary focus of their positions.”

Gousse told the board that, although providing principals with “operations and logistical support” is still important, “It has now been superseded by the need, the demand for behavioral and social supports for our schools.”

He said the $90,000 he included as a possible add-on to the budget for a social worker position to serve all of the schools was now a higher priority. That also was the consensus of the school board members.

When creation of the position of operations director was first proposed six months ago, board member Ingrid Kachmar said it was “totally needed” and urged Gousse to include it in the budget for next year.

But at last week’s board meeting, she said that, while she still feels strongly that the operations position is important, it is not as high a priority as the social worker.

As for the job of food services director for the school system, Gousse did not offer funding for that as a possible add-on to next year’s budget.

“Food service is not where the pressing need is because we have people [in the individual schools] doing good jobs,” he said. “And I couldn’t bring both [the food service and operations positions] forward because that would break the bank.”

Gousse told the Islander that he tries to balance the legitimate needs of the schools with the need to keep costs as reasonable as possible for taxpayers.

“I think we have to be really judicious about our [requests],” he said. “The responsibility is on us that, if we’re going to ask for things, we’d better be prepared to provide the rationale for why we need them and how the money is going to be spent.

“I’m concerned about some of our communities that may not have the resources,” he said. “So, I’m having a hard time as an educator asking [for new spending], knowing what the impact could potentially be.”

The proposed budget for the school system’s central office will be up for approval by registered voters in the eight towns served by the schools at a Jan. 22 meeting at the Mount Desert Island High School.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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