School Committee 1/9 Meeting Notes

The Sanford School Committee met January 9, 2023. Jen Davie was absent, all other members were present.

Organizational Matters

Superintendent of Schools Matt Nelson began the meeting by announcing some adjustments to the agenda. The swearing in of new members was deleted from the agenda as that had been accomplished the previous week. Other items were moved up in order to be respectful of people’s time. The agenda item on the collective bargaining agreement was tabled as administration was not ready to move forward with it.

Election of Officers: Paula Cote and Amy Sevigny were reelected as Chair and Vice Chair, respectively.

Appointments to Standing Committees: Ms. Cote announced the following appointments:

  • Adult Education (SCAE Advisory Committee): Melissa Simpson
  • Curriculum: Amy Sevigny and Paula Cote
  • Dropout Prevention: Melissa Simpson
  • Personnel: Paula Cote, Jen Davie, Amy Sevigny and Kelly Termath
  • Technical School (SRTC Advisory Committee): Amy Sevigny and Jen Davie
  • Facilities, Grounds, Safety and Capital Improvement: Kelly Termath
  • Policy: Amy Sevigny and Paula Cote
  • Performing Arts Center: Melissa Simpson
  • Wellness Committee: Melissa Simpson
  • Legacy Foundation: Melissa Simpson
  • WSSR-TV Advisory Committee: Paula Cote
  • Special Education: Amy Sevigny and Kelly Termath
  • Professional Educator/Professional Growth: Paula Cote

Directors’ Reports

MIYHS: A group of Sanford’s school counselors gave a presentation on the results of the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey. MIYHS is a survey of Maine students in grades 5-12 that monitors health behaviors and attitudes regarding tobacco, alcohol, substance use, mental health, nutrition, physical activity and protective factors. Local statistics are compared with the state as a whole and results from previous surveys. The most recent survey was done in the fall of 2021 but due to the pandemic, it took the Maine Department of Education longer than usual to tabulate and compile the results. Here are just a few of the takeaways from the presentation:

  • Sanford High School students report use of marijuana, prescriptions drugs and vape products at a slightly higher level than the state average, but report alcohol and cigarette use slightly lower than the state average.
  • At Sanford Middle School, 7th and 8th graders report vaping and marijuana use at levels about double the state average.
  • One in five SHS students report using marijuana in the previous 30 days, which is down 3% from the previous survey done in 2019.
  • One in five SHS students reported vaping in the previous 30 days. Beth Letourneau, Director of School Counseling said she thought the actual number now was much higher. Student Representative John Paul Alexandre agreed.
  • Marketing and social media were identified as a big risk factor for youth substance use. Teens who use social media daily are five times likelier to use tobacco, three times likelier to use alcohol and twice as likely to use marijuana than teens who are not active social media users.
  • Bullying, both on Sanford school property and online, is down significantly from previous surveys, but is still above the state average.
  • 25% of SMS students report that they seriously thought about committing suicide, which is 5% above the state average and increasing with every survey. 21.3% of SHS students reported suicidal thoughts, a decrease from 2019.
  • 21% of York County high school students have had four or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which can include substance use in the home, divorce, domestic violence, bullying, abuse or neglect, homelessness, incarceration or death of a family members, and other things. Beth Letourneau, Director of School Counseling, said Sanford’s numbers are likely higher than York County as a whole. Students who have four or more ACEs have a much higher likelihood of substance use.

Assistant Superintendent Steve Bussiere said the Drug Free Community Task Force at Southern Maine Health Care is starting up again. A young adolescent who suffered health consequences of vaping will be coming to SMS to speak to students March 6.

Counseling: Ms. Letourneau and the other members of the counseling team gave a presentation on their work. The information they shared included:

  • The social workers in Sanford schools average a caseload of about fifty students each.  The top five reasons for referrals are anxiety, depression, home-related issues, social skills and self esteem.
  • Students are seen one-on-one or in small groups. Elementary students may also receive counseling on a “push-in” basis where they are seen in the classroom if there is a behavioral incident.
  • Counseling groups at SMS and SHS include grief, anger management, anxiety, social skills, attendance, substance use (student and home), self-regulation, study skills, self esteem and decision-making skills. The topics of groups are formulated based on student feedback.
  • At SMS, 66% of students report needing support for anxiety and stress.
  • The counseling team also works with outside agencies including Sweetser and Maine Behavioral Health to get students the help they need, however, there are often long waiting lists for services.
  • The district also has an outreach coordinator to help support families with issues such as housing insecurity.
  • Altogether, 73% of K-4 students in Sanford schools have some sort of individualized plan of service of intervention for needs including social/emotional/behavioral, academic or disability.

There was much more information shared than can be summarized here. For more detailed info, view the meeting video at youtube.com/watch?v=TaGmj0e0l4Q.

Water Quality: Mr. Bussiere reported that the fixtures that failed water quality tests were all replaced over the fall, and retesting shows that all fixtures are now in compliance. The test results have been posted on the individual school websites and paper copies are available in the school offices as well.

Superintendent’s Report

Communications: Mr. Nelson said the Child Nutrition Director for the state sent word that Sanford has completed the necessary updates to policies and procedures for food service and no further action is necessary.

Student Representatives: John Paul Alexandre gave an update on the upcoming sporting events. He is counting the days until the senior class trip to Italy during February vacation. Aiden Gendron reported on the Winter Ball scheduled for January 21 and the recent wrestling tournament. Emma Adawadkar talked about Wes Woodson’s recent talk at SHS on normalizing mental health and coping with the pressures of life. Students are getting ready for finals.

Sanford Spotlight: Mr. Nelson previewed the new edition of the Sanford Spotlight newsletter. View it here: sanford.org/o/sanford-school-department/page/sanford-spotlight-newsletter.

Staff changes: Mr. Nelson reviewed the list of staff resignations, appointments and transfers. He noted that Facilities Director Don Nichols is leaving the district to take a position in New Hampshire closer to his family. Mr. Nelson said he is very appreciative of the work Mr. Nichols did with construction, moving and Covid protocols during his time here. The position has been advertised, and Assistant Director Jason Dudley will be filling in as Interim Director until a replacement is found.

Calendar: Budget workshops will be held January 21, 25 and 30; and February 6, 13 and 27. Regular School Committee meetings are scheduled for January 23, February 6 and February 27. The Safety Info Night for parents will be held January 19 at SPAC.

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