Sunday, March 9, 2014
Mike LeBlanc won’t be attending today’s budget meeting at Forest Hills Consolidated School. Crystal Allen, who played basketball for LeBlanc before graduating from the Jackman school in 2009, says she expects the current girls basketball team to be there.
LeBlanc is one of four teachers in the Forest Hills system who faces a position being cut from full-time to part-time under the superintendent’s recommendations. The budget meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., today, at Forest Hills.
Dr. John Davis, who serves as superintendent for the Forest Hills and Massabesic school districts said this year’s budget is “almost like a perfect storm,” with less money coming in here, more money going out there, and insurance costs up 8 percent.
“We’re like just about most other school districts in the state,” Davis said.
LeBlanc is a full-time physical education teacher at Forest Hills, and has taught at the school for 16 years. He commutes daily from his home in Skowhegan.
“Early in my career, I’d stay up once a week, but now I just go home,” LeBlanc said. “I’m not getting rich doing it.”
LeBlanc, who was recently named the Morning Sentinel Girls Basketball Coach of the Year and also coaches baseball at Forest Hills, indicated it would be very tough for him to continue to coach two sports at Forest Hills if his teaching position became part-time. He’s hopeful that something could be worked out.
“It’s really not set yet,” he said. “There could be a lot of changes. There could be nothing. Once they finalized it, they could work it out with the schedule so I could be there.”
Davis recommended the district also reduce one full-time position at each of the elementary, middle school, and high school levels, for a total of four reduced positions.
“We still have really nice pupil-teacher ratios when you put the staff together,” Davis said. “It’s just not what we’ve had in the past couple years, and I’m not a very popular guy right now.”
Davis said Forest Hills had a student-teacher ratio of 9-to-1, and should his recommendations be approved, that will go to about 12-to-1. As a comparison, he said at Massabesic, that district is going from 20-to-1 to 25-to-1.
Davis takes care to point out that his recommendations are under a worst-case scenario. He said the best way to avoid those reductions would be for the board “to go to the voters and say, ‘OK, we need more revenue.’ ”In his words, the overriding theme behind his decisions on which positions that he recommended be reduced was, “How do I provide a comprehensive program for all the students that are there?”
For her part, Allen believes the presence of teachers like LeBlanc makes for a better overall experience for the students.
“He was there for me — more like a father figure,” Allen said. “I see how much he still helps all the girls. There’s so many teachers that are just there to teach, but he’s really there for the students. All the students look up to him. He’s a role model for everyone.”
Allen added that LeBlanc has done a lot of work behind the scenes, such as opening the gym so people could play basketball, and running strength and endurance programs.
“The time he puts in for our school is unbelievable,” Allen said.
Allen said she won’t be able to attend the meeting because she is currently in school in Presque Isle, but Davis said public discussion would be allowed at the meeting.
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243