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AOS 77 hires Machias school official as new superintendent

The Quoddy Tides of Eastport, Maine

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The AOS 77 school board hired Kenneth Johnson of Marshfield as its new superintendent at a meeting on March 3 in Charlotte. Johnson's three-year contract is for a salary of $85,000 a year, plus health benefits. He will replace James Underwood, who is retiring.

There were five applicants for the position, and Stephanie Page of Lubec, the chair of the AOS board, says that Johnson will be bringing a great deal of experience in curriculum development and "all aspects of what a superintendent would be handling." As the curriculum coordinator for the past 11 years in AOS 96 based in Machias, Johnson is well prepared for a need that the schools in AOS 77 will have in working on the Common Core State

Standards and the state's standards-based report cards, Page says. "He's very forward-thinking" in those areas, she notes.

Page adds that the AOS board is looking forward to a smooth transition and will miss Underwood, who has served as superintendent since the AOS was formed in 2010. "Kenny's got some big shoes to fill," she points out.

Johnson, who is a native of Machias, also has been serving as the career and technical education director for AOS 96 and the principal of the small Wesley Elementary School. Previously he taught history and government at Machias Memorial High School for seven years. Along with a superintendent's certification, he has a certificate of advanced study in education- al leadership from the University of Maine at Orono.

Johnson will begin work as the new superintendent on May 1. "I'm looking forward to it very much," he says. "The folks have really made me feel welcome, and I look forward to getting to know them better."

The two AOS systems are similar in makeup, with AOS 96 including 11 towns, with seven elementary schools and one high school, and AOS 77 covering 10 towns, with seven elementary schools and one high school. "It is a challenge, but I've spent my entire career in an AOS system," says Johnson. "I'm familiar with the individual nature of the schools and how they keep their organizations separate."

He adds, "I understand the demands, and it's a challenge I'm looking forward to embracing."

Draft budget presented

At the March 3 meeting, Underwood informed the board members that they should expect a fiscal year-end balance of about $30,000, as he gave the board a first working draft of a budget for 2015-16. While the initial proposal shows a 4.7% increase of $30,000 to a total of $662,246, the increase for the towns in the AOS depended on whether or not Robbinston would be leaving to join with Calais. With Robbinston's vote to leave the AOS, the town's 10% share of the budget will have to be distributed among the other towns.

Also, Underwood expects that the budget increase will be reduced to about $15,000, in part because of savings in the projected cost for the superintendent's position. Underwood's salary this past year was $97,000, while Johnson's will be $85,000. Underwood is not receiving health benefits this year, but Johnson will receive full coverage on the single plan and 80% coverage on the family plan, for a cost of $19,452. While the cost for the superintendent's position will increase by over $7,000, it will be less than the draft budget's projected increase of over $18,000.

Reasons for the proposed budget increase include salaries, benefits and insurance costs. The draft proposes using

$35,000 of the $44,000 of the balance remaining after $92,000 was used for the current year's budget.

The board agreed to meet on Tuesday, March 24, at 6 p.m. at the Dennysville town office to further review the draft budget.

Audit outlines recommendations

The AOS 77 audit report for the fiscal year ending in June 2014 by James W. Wadman, CPA, makes a few recommendations, including that the AOS board, instead of the auditor, should take responsibility for the financial statements; that the board should review the financial transactions of the AOS, including bank statement reconciliations; and that two board members should authorize all warrant expenditures before funds are disbursed.

The report also notes that there were significant audit adjustments necessary to reconcile accounts receivable, accounts payable and accrued salaries. The audit work "disclosed that there were some pretty significant uncollected accounts receivables." The report states that the AOS superintendent's office agrees with the recommendations and will work toward implementing them.

Underwood says the audit points to why the central office needed an additional bookkeeper, who has now been hired. "We were unable to complete the final reconciliations for some [school] budgets" and end-of-month reconciliations were done on an irregular basis, he notes, because of the staffing shortage. In terms of the uncollected accounts receivable, Underwood says that payments are being made but the issue has been in crediting the proper account.

As for the recommendation that the board take a more active role in signing warrants, Underwood says that the Department of Education had recommended against that, since it could be perceived as giving the representative from one school the authority over how money is spent in the budget for the entire AOS. "It opens itself up to challenges by the board," he says. However, the AOS will look at developing a board team to sign the warrants.

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Original Publication Date: May 13, 2016

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