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School leaders disappointed with commissioner’s remarks – April 14, 2017

School Boards and superintendents are concerned with the rhetoric coming out of the Department of Education of late, belittling the importance of strong school leadership and claiming there is enough money in a system that still underserves the neediest children.

“We were very disappointed to hear Commissioner Hasson call for school consolidation and downplay the need for more school funding. Bob was a superintendent for 20 years, and he improved his district while he was there,” said Maine School Superintendents Association President Steven Bailey. “We had hoped he would be a voice for public schools in his new job. Unfortunately, he appears to have taken on the governor’s voice.”

Hasson, who was appointed commissioner just last week, raised concerns with school leaders earlier this month in an interview with Channel 8, when he said, “We’ve got too many districts, and we’ve got too many superintendents.”

Later in the interview when asked about additional funding promised to schools with the passage of Question 2, he responded:

“I’m going to study this more and work on it more and be very public about it, but there really seems to be enough money in the system.”

That concerned many in the school community, particularly those serving lower-income students.

“I have a high percentage of children in poverty in my district, and we work very hard to make up the achievement gap that simply is a result of being disadvantaged,” said Maine School Boards Association President Becky Fles, chair of the SAD 11 district based in Gardiner. “I recall that as Bob chaired the Blue Ribbon Commission on improving schools in Maine, he said he wanted more money for the disadvantaged. But the budget he and the governor have proposed is below this year’s level, with mandatory costs like teacher retirement going up. What happened?”

Both the Maine School Boards Association and Maine School Superintendents Association opposed the governor’s budget, with close to 30 school board members and superintendents testifying against the funding cuts that support all aspects of system administration and central office staff, including the superintendent and business office. The budget is now in the hands of the Appropriations Committee, which will make a recommendation to the full Legislature.

“We hope that as this process moves forward, legislators will weigh the commissioner’s priorities and remarks, against the needs of students and their districts,” Bailey said.

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