Thornton Academy officials sent a letter to families this week, letting them know that declining enrollments and smaller than usual state tuition increases will lead to staff reductions. So far, the number of layoffs has not been determined. The Forecaster file photo

SACO — Thornton Academy has put out the word to parents that fewer local enrollments, below average state tuition increases and fewer boarding students will mean budget cuts, including some faculty and staff.

It will be the second year of cuts at the private grade-six to -12 boarding and day school, which also serves as the public high school for Saco. In May, seven support staff and one part-time faculty member were laid off after the trustees’ board learned there would be about 60 fewer local students attending classes in the 2019-2020 school year. For the coming school year, about 40 fewer local students are expected to enroll.

Board of Trustees President Eric Purvis put out the word to parents to expect  cuts in a letter on March 3 as the board prepared the budget for the school year that begins in September.

“We have examined every budget line in every department and have reduced expenses wherever possible,” Purvis wrote. “Unfortunately, expense reductions need to occur across all categories, and will include faculty and staff reductions this spring. … We acknowledge and regret the painful nature of such actions and appreciate the loss of beloved colleagues will be difficult for all of us.”

Recent vacancies in administration and support staff for administration will remain unfilled, but Headmaster Rene Menard said there will still be staffing cuts, though as yet, there are no specifics.

“Unfortunately, additional reductions are necessary,” said Menard in an email. “We are still determining the number of faculty and staff positions to be reduced.”


Purvis wrote that the school is expecting 40 fewer publicly funded tuition students next year and increases in the state-mandated tuition rate are lower this year. As well, he said, political and economic forces have had a negative impact in the international student demographic — there are fewer international boarding students — and therefore less revenue.

This year, the tuition rate increase set forth by the state was 1.61 percent, less than the 1.9 percent increase in the prior year — and both were significantly below prior rates of 3.38 to 6.92 percent, according to a May 15, 2019 Portland Press Herald story by Gillian Graham.

In the current school year, there are about 60 fewer local students than in the prior year, resulting in a loss of about $700,000 in tuition revenue. From 2016 to 2019, Thornton Academy experienced a decline of 78 publicly funded upper-and middle-school students, Graham wrote.

Menard and Purvis both said in examining the budget for the upcoming school year, every line in every department had been examined and expenses reduced wherever possible.

“We are also assessing how we deliver programming and maximizing every opportunity to increase efficiency,” said Menard. “It’s important to note that these planned expense reductions will allow Thornton Academy to maintain the full breadth of course offerings and the high-quality programs currently available to our students; all academic, arts, athletics, and extracurricular opportunities offered at Thornton Academy will remain intact.”

Cuts to faculty, staff and administration will be made with an emphasis on minimizing the impact on the student experience and maintaining current class size, Purvis said.

“Though we must make fundamental changes to the way we operate to ensure a sustainable financial model, we will preserve the quality and variety of program offerings,” Purvis said.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: