SAD 61 notes: School project positions clarified; ‘Pledge’ or not to ‘Pledge’

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Tackling a rather light agenda Monday night, SAD 61 school board members had two heavy comments dropped on them.

First, Sebago Director Joseph McMahon asked that his position regarding the Crooked River renovation project be amended in the school board’s official minutes.

McMahon wants to support a plan to address the overcrowding problem at Songo Locks School, but he is unable to support “this plan” — the $9.6 million proposal to renovate and expand the Crooked River facility off Route 11.

McMahon was the lone dissenting vote at the Oct. 19 board meeting to officially move the proposed CRES project to a Dec. 1 public hearing and a Dec. 8 district-wide referendum vote. Fellow Sebago Director Ben Bowditch abstained from the vote.

Later in the night, under “Superintendent’s Report,” Al Smith sought to clarify comments he made during the CRES project forum held at Sebago Elementary last month.

He strongly pointed out that a vote for the CRES project does not mean SAD 61 would then look to close Sebago Elementary.

Some Sebago residents have pointed to the fact that the CRES project would create more space than the current enrollment and thus open the door to take on Sebago students.

Smith admitted some enrollment figures mentioned during project discussions were inaccurate, and apologized. Projected numbers for the Grades 3–5 is 252.

While he was unable to offer a guarantee that Sebago Elementary closure talks would be shelved during the 20-year note on the CRES project, as requested by one Sebago taxpayer, Smith reiterated that there have been no formal school board discussions about closing SES.

When asked after the board meeting Monday the reasons for building CRES larger than some feel is necessary (see letters in this week’s Opinion section), Superintendent Smith says construction projects are designed to consider the educational needs both short-term and long-term — some 40 to 50 years from now.

Short-term, existing class sizes at CRES do not meet current state square-footage standards.

Long-term, SAD 61 could see enrollment increases and would be prepared.

“One of the first things people look for when they are considering buying a new home is what does the community offer as far as a school,” he said. “A new school certainly would be attractive.”

Thinking about the Pledge

Bob Casimiro has attended a variety of civic organization and municipal meetings, both in Maine and Massachusetts, and before each opened, the “Pledge Allegiance” was recited.

When he attended a SAD 61 School Board meeting at Lake Region Middle School this past August, he was a little surprised that the “Pledge” was not part of the proceedings.

So, he asked directors “why not” at their Oct. 19 meeting, and the question was up for discussion Monday night at Songo Locks School.

Casco Director Stan Buchanan called Casimiro’s suggestion that the “Pledge” be recited before SAD 61 meetings as a “tremendous idea.”

Bridgton Director Nina Stoddard said she “would love to see it.”

In her 17 years on the school committee, Board Chairman Janice Barter said the “Pledge” had not been recited. So, she suggested that board members consider how to proceed, and the group would vote at their next meeting, scheduled for Nov. 16 at LRHS, at 7 p.m.

School reports

  • LRHS Principal Erik Good has been impressed with his student body. First, they carved 2,000 pumpkins — at $10 each — as a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine.

Then, 21 students took part in a “celebration/concerns” discussion with the principal, looking at what Lake Region H.S. does well and what could use some improvement. Good said students were both “thoughtful” and “mature” in their comments.

Good also noted that Parent/Teacher Conferences attracted an attendance figure of about 40%.

The school will honor area veterans on Tuesday, Nov. 10 with a free luncheon at 11:30 a.m., followed by a program at 12:30 p.m. The event will be organized by the student group — Teens Without Borders.

  • LRVC Director Rosie Schacht reported that the vocational center had a strong turnout for Parent/Teacher conferences.

A pumpkin auction (30-plus) held at Black Bear Café in Naples helped raise over $1,100 for the Skills USA program.

Over 250 students visited the College Fair, which included 32 colleges, technical schools and financial organizations.

  • LRMS Principal Matt Lokken reported conference attendance ranged from 89% for Grade 6 and from 57% to 81% in Grades 7–8. Staff will look at ways to improve turnout numbers.

The school took part in Red Ribbon Day with various efforts to create alcohol and drug awareness.

The principal also noted attempts are being made to keep the school’s web page up-to-date as Lokken sees the site as an effective tool to connect with the community — one reason he also writes a blog, which can be accessed there.

  • Adult and Community Education Director Madelyn Litz reported on current enrollment numbers and the upcoming release of the new program brochure due out in December.

Litz noted that advisory meetings will be held in Fryeburg (Norway Savings Bank) and Bridgton. She hopes to attract former students, business people, service providers and others to help guide where the area wishes to take the Adult Ed program.

Grant-seeking

LRMS will be targeting Perloff Family Foundation grants for a robotics program ($7,000), which will include building a robot to explore natural settings, such as a porcupine den, as well as purchase a 3-D technical and design program. The school will also seek out a Honda grant.

Personnel moves

Greta Marley-Hughes was approved at the Oct. 19 board meeting as a Standards Interventionist at Stevens Brook Elementary School, replacing Jessica L. Hunt, who transferred to another position. There were nine applicants, one was interviewed. Previously, Greta was a tutor with MW Education Services/Ace It Tutoring in Oxford and a resource assistant/ESL tutor in Brunswick schools.

Chelsea Wheeler resigned as a Speech-Language Pathologist, effective Oct. 30.

Amy Santos resigned as a Day Treatment Support Technician at Stevens Brook Elementary School, effective Oct. 8.

Alana Doughty was approved as a Tester/Consultant/Tutor for English Language learners.

Anita Quinlan was appointed as Head Teacher at Sebago Elementary School.

Alyson Copeland has resigned as a Special Services secretary, effective Jan. 1, 2016.

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