The AOS 77 school board is proceeding with a lawsuit against Calais over payment of the city's share of the AOS superintendent's contract, after mediation failed to resolve the issue. The dispute centers on whether Calais is responsible for paying its 37% share of the remainder of the contract, which extends until 2017. Although Calais has withdrawn from the AOS, the contract was agreed to when Calais was a member.
At the January 28 meeting of the AOS school board, Vice Chair Steven Knowles of Alexander related that the legal dispute had been discussed at a January 10 meeting with a mediator in Bangor. Among those attending, along with Knowles, were Superintendent Jim Underwood; the attorney for the AOS, Edmond Bearor of Rudman Winchell in Bangor; the attorney for the Calais School Committee, Daniel Stockford of Brann and Isaacson in Lewiston; Calais City Manager Diane Barnes; and Mayor Marianne Moore. The Calais representatives offered to drop their claim for Calais' 37% share of the unspent balance of the 2012-13 AOS budget, but "they didn't want to negotiate" on the superintendent's contract, said Knowles. The AOS 77 representatives were seeking to have Calais pay $31,320 per year for the remaining four years of the contract. "They didn't bite on any of that," said Knowles.
"We were all surprised at that," said Underwood, who added that "both sides are poles apart." The case will now proceed in Washington County Superior Court.
Concerning the possible impact on the AOS budget if Calais does not pay the 37% share of the contract, Underwood said the AOS has sufficient reserve funds for this year, along with $14,000 in contingency funds to cover legal fees.
In other action, the AOS board voted to set the superintendent's salary for 2014B15 at $97,000, with all benefits to remain the same but with no health insurance. Underwood will be paid the unspent balance from his cancelled insurance for the remainder of the current year. In 2011 his salary had been increased to $87,000 annually.
The contract for the director of special services, Elizabeth Cushing, was extended for two years with a 2% salary increase each year. A step increase per the salary scale was approved for the central office staff, with the health insurance being changed from the standard plan to Choice Plus for those not currently enrolled in the Choice Plus plan.
The AOS board will meet again on Tuesday, March 4, at 6 p.m. at Shead High School in Eastport to discuss the 2014-15 budget for the school system. Underwood notes, "Our goal is little or no increase" for the upcoming budget.