SAD 61 calls for due diligence regarding school water trips

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

A seven to eight-mile hike, a refreshing dip in Emerald Pool and sleeping in tents under a star-light sky have brought incoming Lake Region High School senior classes together over the past several years.

It is a bonding experience that many list as one of their favorite senior year memories, while also setting a “tone” for the upcoming school season, says Class Advisor Amy Mayo.

School Board director Stan Buchanan of Casco, however, raised the question of whether SAD 61 should reconsider swim-related outings following the tragic death of a 13-year-old Lewiston boy, who drowned at Range Pond State Park in Poland during a class trip.

Rayan Issa, a seventh grader at Lewiston Middle School, was playing football in a buoyed section of Range Pond when he went under the water and never resurfaced. It was the first swim-related death at a Maine state park in 35 years.

The tragedy resulted in several schools canceling end-of-the-school year swim trips, and lead school officials across the state to look at their policies.

“We have to talk about these things,” said Buchanan in wake of phone calls he has received.

Senior Awareness is slated for Sept. 9-10, leaving Sunday morning and returning Monday afternoon. It includes a hike at North Baldface Mountain in Conway, N.H. and a stay-over at Cold River Basin Campground.

“Senior Awareness is an opportunity to bring the class together for a shared experience (hiking and camping) that challenges them physically and mentally and gives them the chance to work together and depend on each other,” advisors Mayo and Lynn O’Donnell wrote in their request to the school board for an overnight trip.

The number of students taking part in Senior Awareness varies year to year, Mayo noted, but in general reaches 80 to 85 participants. All seniors are invited to attend. The student-to-chaperone ratio is 4-to-1, according to the request form (according to published reports, the Lewiston Middle School trip included 113 students and 11 chaperones and a lifeguard). As for plans for safety and emergencies, a “safety protocol” has been established, a local ranger is notified and the group includes a nurse and EMT. The group uses walkie-talkies and cell phones to create a line of communication.

As part of school board policy, a parent/guardian must give written permission for participation, all students and adults must follow district policies and school rules, and all adults traveling as part of the group must provide documentation of a Maine Department of Education background check.

One chaperone, LRHS math teacher Barry Johnson, said Emerald Pool — one of the cool-off stops on the hike — is “easy to watch.”

Superintendent of Schools Alan Smith noted that “there are no easy answers” when tragedies strike, but school systems can do its due diligence in trying to keep students safe. That “diligence” includes asking parents, as part of the permission form, whether their child can swim or not, and not leaving up to students to inform school staff, understanding the level of peer pressure teens face on a regular basis. Also, whether parents are comfortable with other facets of the senior trip.

Directors unanimously approved the overnight request.

In other school board news:

Safety plan always in flux. Although Andy Madura was unable to discuss SAD 61’s entire emergency response plan, he gave the School Board a good idea of how the district strives to keep staff and students “as safe as humanly possible.”

Madura, who is director of Transportation, Food Service and Maintenance, noted that SAD 61 has had an ERP since 2000, but it is continually modified to address a wide range of concerns and problems that routinely surface. The district works closely with law enforcement agencies.

He spoke about safety measures enacted from staff ID badges that are color-coded and changed on a yearly basis; panic buttons and cameras that monitor all points, which are directly wired to a 9-1-1 center and the State Police; measures that can “contain” a building, including fire doors; policies that send a school into lock-down or lock-out; and installation of AEDs and district-go bags that contain first aid items (soon to be added will be tourniquets to help providers — including staff, which will undergo training — stop bleeding).

Madura praised “local support,” especially in terms of funding, to put in place as many safety measures as possible in wake of school shootings across the country. What bothers Madura, however, “is that despite everything we do, it still might not be enough.”

Taking over. Aisley Sturk turned over the role of LRHS student representative on the SAD 61 School Board Monday night to Grace Plummer.

Personnel. The board approved the nominations of the following staff members:

Sandra Carter as a Grade 7/8 Math Teacher. This is a new position. Carter earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Thomas College, and previously worked as a substitute teacher at Windham Primary School and a childcare provider at A Place to Grow in Windham. There were 10 applicants, four were interviewed.

Reem Bechara as a School Counselor at Songo Locks, replacing Ellen Berry who resigned. Bechara earned a master’s of education in School Counseling at Loyola University and a bachelor’s degree in Hearing and Speech Sciences, and a minor in Human Development from the University of Maryland. Previously, Bechara was a substitute teacher at Portland Public Schools. There were five applicants, three were interviewed.

Roxanne Gagne as a receptionist at the Superintendent’s Office replacing Ramona Torres who is retiring.

Alexandra Ballard as a Speech Language Pathologist for the 2018-19 school year.

Stephanie Winslow as a Science teacher at Lake Region Middle School for the 2018-19 school year, replacing Douglas Maker, who resigned.

Rebecca Pope as a Science teacher at Lake Region Middle School for the 2018-19 school year. This is a new position.

Karen Arendt as a .8 Library Media technician at Stevens Brook Elementary School for the 2018-19 school year, replacing Martha Jackson, who is retiring.

Rachel Hubka as a Social Studies teacher at Lake Region Middle School, replacing Katherine Istomina, who resigned.

Melissa Warren as a Kindergarten teacher at Stevens Brook Elementary School, replacing Thomas Letourneau, who resigned.

Julianne Brosnan as a Grade 1 teacher at Stevens Brook Elementary School, replacing Adrienne Abramowitz, who resigned.

Brendan Williams as a Social Studies teacher at Lake Region Middle School, replacing Susan Hanington, who resigned.

Kristen Foley as a Gifted and Talented teacher for Grades 6-8, replacing Kenneth Donahue, who resigned. She earned a master’s of education in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern Maine and a master of art in English at the University of Maine and a bachelor of arts in English and Philosophy at UMO. Previously, she was a Grade 6 ELA teacher at SAD 61. There were three applicants, one was interviewed.

Kayla Musielak-Hanold as School Psychologist at Stevens Brook and Songo Locks Elementary, replacing Katie Kolbe-Holden, who resigned. She earned a doctor of Philosophy from Michigan State University, a master of art in School Psychology at Michigan State, and a bachelor of science in Psychology and a minor in Linguistics at Michigan State. Previously, she was a neuropsychology postdoctoral fellow at Goodwill NeuroRehab Services in Portland. There were five applicants, three were interviewed.

Lori Demarest as a Grade 3 teacher at Stevens Brook Elementary, replacing Miranda Walker, who transferred to a Grade 1 position. She earned a bachelor of science in Childhood Studies at Plymouth State University. Previously, she was an Ed Tech II at Falmouth Elementary School. There were nine applicants, three were interviewed.

Resignations. The board accepted the following resignations:

Kim Hutchins, Special Education teacher at Songo Locks.

Michelle Pierre, nurse for Lake Region High School and Lake Region Vocational Center.

Rebecca Webb, Ed Tech at Stevens Brook Elementary School.

Retirements. The following staff members plan to retire:

Jerry Irish, custodian at Lake Region Middle School, effective June 30, 2018.

Ramona Torres, receptionist at the Superintendent’s Office, effective June 29, 2018.

Melinda Aubin as a Grade 1 teacher at Songo Locks.

Holly Patenaude as a Grade 3 teacher as Songo Locks School.

Katherine Istomina as a Social Studies Teacher at Lake Region Middle School.

Amity Gottschalk-Prado as a teacher at Stevens Brook Elementary School.

Adrienne Abramowitz as a teacher at Stevens Brook Elementary.

Grants. Two grants were accepted — 2018 School Breakfast Challenge for $500, and 2018 Summer Meals Grant, additional funding of $3,800.

Donations. Jessie Gaumont donated $500 to the Stevens Brook Elementary School Student Council; the estate of Beverlee Smith donated $1,000 to Songo Locks Elementary School.

Art Work for the Permanent Art Collection. Superintendent Al Smith and Board Chairman Janice Barter recognized the following students whose artwork was chosen for the Permanent Art Collection at the Central Office: Maximillian Gabriel, Grade 1, Songo Locks Elementary School; Trinity Attwood, Grade 8, Lake Region Middle School; and Aisley Sturk, Grade 12, Lake Region High School. The elementary and middle school students each received a check for $25 and the high school student received a check for $50.

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