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Sanford School Committee Meeting 10/2/2023

By: Kendra Williams

Members Present: Paula Cote, Amy Sevigny and Jennifer Davie

Absent: Kelly Termath and Melissa Simpson

Student Representatives: Aiden Gendron and Emma Adawadkar. Junior Elsie Gendron was appointed as a new student representative.

Athletic Director Zach Lemelin presented and explained the details of a proposal to establish a SHS Hall of Fame/Honor as a standing committee at Sanford High School that will have a constitution and bylaws. A motion to approve the proposal was unanimously approved.

School Counseling Director Beth Letourneau provided an overview of comprehensive district social and emotional learning; student needs and protocols; PK-12 career readiness; staff support and supervision and partnerships with area agencies. She also highlighted the current challenges, especially student mental health and how it’s affecting academics, behavior and attendance.

Sanford Performing Arts Director Brett Williams provided an overview of upcoming events in the SPAC, including music festivals, district student performances and several performances presented by organizations that rent the facility. He then offered a preview of the upcoming performances for the 2023/24 Spotlight Series beginning on October 21 with the Capital Fools. Tickets are on sale and selling well. There are an increasing number of people from the surrounding coastal communities who have discovered the SPAC and are becoming regular attendees. More information here.

Committee Reports

The Special Education Advisory Committee met last week and focused on reviewing referrals and administrative procedures. There was good dialogue and efforts to make the experience of families personalized. A plan is in place to develop a resource pamphlet. The next meeting is on 10/18 and will include a discussion on special education roles and responsibilities.

The Stipend Advisory Committee is having its initial organizational meeting this week. Stipends are important but can often be overlooked in negotiations and collective bargaining. This is an effort to ensure that a system is in place so they’re not put on the back burner.

Superintendent’s Report

Student representatives

Aiden Gendron reviewed the upcoming Spirit Week and Homecoming events. Emma Adawadkar shared appreciation and thanks to the members of the district’s custodial staff as today was National Custodian Day. Also, Club Day will be held next week during all of the lunch periods to give students an opportunity to learn about the various clubs. The students, along with Mr. Nelson, provided an overview of the latest edition of the Sanford Spotlight Newsletter. See it here.

Mr. Nelson gave an update, review and explanation of student enrollment as of 10/2/23. The numbers at the beginning of October are what determines the state subsidy. This year enrollment has increased by 59 students and is currently at 3,169.

Directors Reports

Assistant Superintendent Steve Bussiere announced the Maine Department of Education has awarded a Stronger Connections Grant of $364,500 to the Sanford Schools that will be effective from 9/1/23-9/30/26. The goal of the grant is to increase student engagement, attendance and behavior through outreach and positive behavioral supports.

Mr. Bussiere also shared 2022/23 attendance data by grade and also for students with Individual Education Plans. All absences matter. Of concern is that 29% of all students were chronically absent, meaning that they missed 18 days of school or 2 days of school a month. 34% of students with IEPs were chronically absent. Grade 8 had the highest average absence rate and grades 1 and 4 the lowest. Targeted interventions for grades above the 10% level might be needed as well as consistent messaging about the connection between attendance and student success. He gave an overview of the efforts that are taking place to reduce absenteeism with elementary attendance teams making good progress.

The RFP for a transportation bid is ready to be released this week. The process will end with final approval of the transportation contract by the School Committee during the first meeting in January in time for budget deliberations.

He also provided updates related to current transportation including afternoon delays due to road construction and the impending addition of two new drivers who are about to complete their training and licensing. This will enable the addition of another bus route.

Business Administrator Cheryl Fournier discussed the 2022/23 year-end financial report. The auditors are still working on it but are making good progress. She provided an estimate of the amount that will need to be withdrawn from the fund balance and what needs to be contributed to reserve. In total, it still comes in below budget. Revenues also look good.

New Business

The Sanford Schools Legacy Foundation submitted a request, from donations received, to name two classrooms and a small conference room in honor of William Ferguson, a long-time English teacher at Sanford High School who was recently deceased. One of the classrooms will be at the current Sanford Middle School where he taught before his retirement when it was Sanford High School. The other will be an English classroom at the current SHS. The conference room, also at SHS, will be named The William Ferguson Literature Conference Room in recognition of his ability to foster a love of literature and writing in his students.

In addition, approval was also given for the naming of 2 classrooms in the Business and Marketing wing for former long-time business teacher Lorraine Chick.

The School Committee approved a request, explained by Ms. Fournier, to move $33,490 into the Capital Reserve Fund and $69,749 into the Unexpected Special Education Cost Reserve Fund. These are two of the four reserve accounts approved by the voters in 2017 to ensure that capital and fluctuating expenses do not become a burden to taxpayers when they arise in a given year.

To ensure an adequate pool of substitute nurses, a proposal to increase pay rates to become equitable with some neighboring school districts was unanimously approved.

Superintendent Nelson announced resignations and retirements, staff appointments and coaching transfers.

Policies and Procedures

Mr. Bussiere presented the first reading of the updated School Committee Conflict of Interest, which was unanimously approved.

He presented second and final readings of three updated policies: School Committee Member Authority and Responsibility; School Committee Member Qualifications and School Committee Resignations. All were unanimously approved as presented.

Items for future agenda

Ms. Davie was interested in data regarding students who receive breakfast at school and those who are tardy and not receiving breakfast.

Mr. Nelson reviewed calendar announcements of workshops and committee meetings.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:59

The full meeting may be viewed here.

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