GROTON -- A week after voting to adopt a budget for fiscal 2015, repercussions of the budget shortfall continued to involve members of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee as they listened to aggrieved members of the high school's drama guild and raised athletic fees to help ease the fiscal crunch.
"Please save our teachers" and "support the arts" read signs held by students belonging to the high school's drama guild as they crowded the committee's meeting of March 12.
The students appeared before the committee to plead their case for restoration of a drama adviser who was laid off by Principal Michael Mastrullo several weeks ago.
Led by high school senior Emily Gaines, who read an impassioned statement at the start of the meeting about the value of the arts in general and drama in particular, the students feared that their much-loved program would eventually come to an end.
"Without the drama guild, we feel abandoned," said Gaines after presenting the School Committee with a petition signed by 220 fellow students.
Other students who spoke extolled the group's sense of inclusion and acceptance and how it helped them emerge from their personal shells.
Mastrullo himself explained that making the cut was not done in haste but with plenty of thought and in the best interests of the school.
"I completely understand their position," Mastrullo said.
The elimination of the after-school drama position was only one of many cuts triggered by a shortfall in the district's budget for 2015 that precipitated a crisis in which school officials cut $750,000 in spending and their counterparts in Groton's town government have had to find $1.4 million in new revenue in order to balance the books.
But Mastrullo told committee members that the drama guild would continue to exist as an after-school activity despite the layoff perhaps funded through increased fees for plays put on by students.
Already planned for April are performances of Shakespeare's "The Tempest."
Sympathetic to the students' dilemma, committee members voted to have Mastrullo look into ways the drama guild could be funded and to return with recommendations at a future meeting.
Also related to the budget situation was a vote by the School Committee increasing fees for the district's athletic programs to cover $50,713 an earlier vote cut from them.
The new fees would increase individual per program rates at the high school from $300 to $400 and the family cap rate from $1,000 to $1,500.
At the middle school, rates would remain the same.
Also at the March 12 meeting, committee members voted unanimously to hire Lyn Snow as the district's new pupil personnel services director to replace its current director, who is retiring.
Snow was recommended by Kristan Rodriguez, who was herself only recently hired as the district's new superintendent.
Rodriguez was a member of the search committee that conducted interviews with candidates for the job whose responsibilities include supervision and coordination of the district's special-education program, nurses and psychologists.
Although negotiations have yet to be completed, interim superintendent Anthony Bent said that Snow, currently employed in the Marblehead Public School system, could begin with a salary of $108,000.
Finally, committee members voted to approve overnight field trips for the high school's lacrosse, baseball and softball teams.