SAD 61 notes: Withdrawal public hearing to be held in Sebago this Monday

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

While the high school might be the “centrally-located” spot in SAD 61, the state’s commissioner of education has decided Sebago will host a public hearing regarding the town’s interest in withdrawing from the school district.

Last week, Maine Department of Education Commissioner Robert G. Hasson Jr. notified the Sebago Withdrawal Committee that “conditional approval” of the withdrawal agreement between Sebago and SAD 61 has been granted.

The next step is to hold a public informational meeting regarding the withdrawal proposal.

Initially, the SAD 61 School Board talked about holding the public hearing at the high school, but Commissioner Hasson set the hearing for this Monday, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Sebago Town Office.

The town office is located off Route 107 (or 406 Bridgton Road).

The hearing will be run by SAD 61 School Board Chairman Janice Barter. Also on hand will be Sebago Withdrawal Committee consultant Dr. Mark Eastman. Attorneys for both parties could also be in attendance.

The hearing is to discuss “the merits of the proposed agreement of withdrawal” and possibly amend the current pact.

Within 30 days following the hearing, the Sebago Withdrawal Committee will forward the final/amended agreement to Commissioner Hasson.

If changes to the agreement are made, the commissioner would review those adjustments. If approved, a referendum vote date would be set. Prior to the referendum, which is targeted for Nov. 7, a final public hearing to discuss the withdrawal question on the ballot would be held in late October.

In other school board news from the workshop held Monday at Stevens Brook Elementary School:

Setting and meeting goals: At the start of each new school year, school board members often look back at the previous year’s goals to determine if progress had been made and look ahead to new projects.

Oftentimes, “goals” remain untouched or incomplete. Board Chairman Janice Barter would like to see directors target certain goals for the 2017-18 school year and make a more concerted effort to turn goals into realities.

Some targets include:

  • Superintendent of Schools Al Smith will continue to work with administrators to develop ways to identify high school students who might be better served either enrolled in the alternative education program, vocational courses or adult ed.

Smith told directors he is both unhappy and “extremely frustrated” with the current process.

“We need to make it work better for the kids,” he said. “The problem is the programming, not the building.”

While Smith doesn’t want to see labels placed on freshmen, he also doesn’t want a determination made by the end of student’s junior year — that’s too late, Smith noted.

Smith said he has had “good conversations” with teachers and administrators, and hopes to make some inroads this year.

  • Crooked River School project will return to the discussion table, likely once Sebago decides in November whether to leave SAD 61 or stay.

With the existing portable at Songo Locks School reaching 10 years in age, SAD 61 needs to look both short and long-term regarding alleviating overcrowding there. Crooked River will likely be part of the answer, but at what cost and what will be done at the Route 11 facility?

  • The Chemical Abuse Policy was written and put in place back in 2006. Major change is on the horizon. With the legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational uses, SAD 61 will need to adjust its policy regarding the drug.

Based on legal opinion from the district’s attorney, SAD 61 will recognize the use of marijuana for medical purposes, however, its policy will outline where the drug can be used.

Marijuana use, including approved medicinal purposes, will remain forbidden on school grounds. A caregiver (for those students under the age of 18) will need to administer the drug offsite, Smith said. Students, ages 18 and older, can self-administer, but again, it will occur off school grounds.

Other medications are currently administered by the school nurse.

“It’s (marijuana use) nearly an impossible task to police,” Casco Director Stan Buchanan said. “It can be put into anything.”

Directors will likely form an ad hoc committee — which could include parents, teachers, administrators and school board members — to look at the issue and develop a policy.

  • Bridgton Director Karla Swanson-Murphy continues to hear concerns and questions from parents regarding the high school’s change to proficiency-based diploma.

“We need to communicate in a different, better way with parents about what we are doing and why we are doing it,” she said.

Smith has seen a draft created by LRHS Principal Erik Good explaining the new proficiency-based approach.

The question is what is the best way to “communicate it” and “help parents understand it,” Swanson-Murphy asked.

  • Casco Director Phil Shane questioned why the middle school parking project had yet to be addressed.

Superintendent Smith said gaining a Department of Environmental Protection permit has stalled the project. The hope is the site is cleared by fall.

Smith reported that resurfacing the high school track is close to completion, and the new elevator at LRHS will be in place “hopefully before school opens.”

Shane also called for having Facility Committee meetings on a separate night from regular school board meetings, “so more can be accomplished,” he said.

Personnel: Adrienne Abramowitz was approved as a full-time Grade 1 Teacher at Stevens Brook Elementary School, replacing Emily Howes, who resigned.

Roberta Polland as a full-time Resource Room Teacher at Stevens Brook Elementary School, replacing Amy Boclair who resigned.

Danielle Woodbury as a full-time Day Treatment Support Tech at Songo Locks School, replacing Kate Dargie who resigned.

Christina Castonguay as a part-time (5.25 hours/175 days a year) school bus driver, replacing Stefanie Crockett, who resigned.

David Aiken as a part-time (5 hours/ 175 days a year) van driver.

Jon Lebreque as a head custodian at Songo Locks School, replacing Richard Doble, who resigned.

Joe Dorner was approved as a JV boys’ soccer coach.

Kim Guptill was approved as a JV volleyball coach.

Next meeting: The next regular board meeting will be held on Monday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. at Lake Region Middle School cafeteria.

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