SAD 61 School Board rejects day care proposal

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

When Carrie Castonguay arrived as the new director of Adult Education at SAD 61, a day care program for enrolled students was in the “red.”

So, the day care was shut down.

The need for childcare, however, never went away, Castonguay discovered.

So, she went back to the drawing board, looked at what went wrong with the previous program, and developed a new concept — a Child Development Center, a smaller scale effort that would take 12 children ages six months to school-age and expose them to educational instruction.

“A number of our students have said there is not adequate daycare in this area. We felt it was worth looking into it,” Castonguay told the SAD 61 School Board Monday night at Lake Region High School. “We felt this could be a win-win situation.”

A win could be identifying deficiencies some children may possess and addressing those areas before they arrive at kindergarten.

Another win would be to tie the program in with childhood development programs at surrounding colleges, such as St. Joseph’s College in Standish or community colleges in Auburn and South Portland.

Lake Region Vocational Center Director Rosie Schacht has surveyed students about programs they would like to see offered at the school and childhood development keeps coming up. Two years ago, Schacht proposed adding the program to the vocational mix, but due to budget constraints, the idea was placed on the back burner. Since money remained an issue this year, the proposal never made it to the budget consideration phase.

A “lead teacher” would oversee the curriculum and recordkeeping, and additional help would be needed to cover gaps in the schedule since the Center would be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

SAD 61 Assistant Superintendent Deb Howard recommended that the lead teacher be “certified.” Castonguay, however, leaned more to a candidate possessing an associate’s degree as a way to keep costs down.

The Center would be licensed through the state, and would follow a fee schedule based on Cumberland County rates. Fees would be collected at CRES.

Noreen Casey, a kindergarten teacher at Songo Locks School with 30 years of teaching experience, felt the Center is exactly what the Lake Region needs. Because expectations of what skills youngsters should possess by the time they head to kindergarten have been “ramped up” in recent years, Casey sees such a Center as an effort to better prepare children.

“It’s a chance to work on good language skills, motor and thinking skills. It will be a rich literacy environment,” Casey said.

Castonguay projected that to break even, the program would need six children. She also noted that the district still had some money on the books for childcare.

School Board member Stan Buchanan of Casco was concerned about the district carrying a money line that “we have no need for,” especially at a time when cuts were being made. He also questioned what impact a district-operated day care would have on private businesses.

School Board Chairwoman Janice Barter of Naples clarified the “money on the books” question explaining that when the Young Parents Program was created in 1989, money was included to cover childcare. Money remains on the books to assist a student who has a child but wishes to complete her high school programming.

School Board member Cindy LeBlanc of Bridgton, who has operated a state-licensed day care facility for the past 17 years, said “a number of people are looking for a day care” and she “agreed” that the proposed Center would be a good idea.

School Board member Phil Shane of Casco disliked the idea of adding another program to the CRES building at a time when the district could again revisit the idea of reopening the building as an elementary school.

Before directors voted on the proposal, Buchanan added that launching the program “would be ill-advised at this time.” The measure was defeated with seven directors voting “no,” one voting “yes” and LeBlanc abstaining.

In other board notes:

More notice needed. Sebago Director Richard Merritt suggested that the district discontinue the practice of adding items onto the agenda shortly before scheduled meetings. He felt a 24-hour notice rule should be in effect. The issue will be discussed at a future meeting.

Personnel moves. Tracie Peterson was approved as a special education teacher at Stevens Brook Elementary, replacing Norma-Jean Senechal. There were seven applicants, three were interviewed.

Susan Hanington was approved as a social studies teacher at Lake Region Middle School, replacing Peter Gillingham, who resigned. There were 33 applicants, eight were interviewed.

Paula Jondro was approved as a special education teacher at Songo Locks, replacing Joshua Obptande (who is transferring to a day treatment teaching position at Songo Locks). There were seven applicants, three were interviewed.

Krista Spera was appointed as a day treatment support technician at Songo Locks, replacing Stacy Smith. There were 12 applicants, four were interviewed.

Tracy Smith is transferring from a high school special education teacher position to a special education teacher position at Lake Region Middle School.

Other resignations. Don Weafer as an English teacher at Lake Region H.S.; Cynthia Bruno as a math teacher at Lake Region M.S.; Zilfa Ong as a family consumer science teacher at Lake Region M.S.; Megan Grimshaw as a guidance counselor at Lake Region M.S.

Donations accepted. The Bridgton/Naples Farmers’ Market Association donated $500 to Stevens Brook Elementary School for the greenhouse project.

The Maine Historical Society donated $150 to Sebago Elementary School so third grade students could finish their walking tour of Portland that had been rained out.

 

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