The Sanford School Committee met December 19, 2022. Jen Davie was absent, all other members were present.
The minutes of previous meetings were approved.
Four students who are enrolled in Advanced Placement classes at Sanford High School spoke to express their concerns about the switch to a five-block schedule starting next year. As part of the change, AP classes will be reduced in length and will be held every other day instead of every day. The students’ concerns centered around not having enough class time to learn the material and complete the assignments. Another student sent an email to the School Committee with the same concerns.
Chair Paula Cote responded by saying the decision was made after a very lengthy process with input from all stakeholders. She asked that students have patience and trust the School Committee and administrators are working hard to provide the best educational opportunity for all students. She said a fact sheet will be coming out with more information to address the issues involved.
Recognition: Superintendent of Schools Matt Nelson recognized outgoing Committee members John Roux and Jonathan Mapes for their service to the School District over the past ten years. He praised their dedication to all students from Pre-K to adult education, and their leadership and contributions and presented them with plaques. Special Education Director Stacey Bissell spoke about their support for the BRIDGE program and how much their visits meant to the students. She presented them with bridges made by the students to thank them. Mr. Roux said he never expected to be on the Committee for ten years, and called it an awesome and educational experience that he would miss. Mr. Mapes said although being on the School Committee was a Herculean job, it was also the most rewarding volunteer work he has done.
Budget: Mr. Nelson went over the draft schedule of budget workshops and hearings, which will kick off with the City Council’s budget goal setting workshop on January 10. Mr. Nelson is proposing a full-day workshop for the School Committee on Saturday, January 21 to cover each of the articles that make up the expense side of the budget. Additional workshops will be held on Mondays through February 13, and February 27 if necessary, to review the revenue side. The School Committee will vote to adopt the budget February 27, before it goes to the City Council for further review and public hearings. The referendum vote is scheduled for June 13.
Scheduling Update: Mr. Nelson gave an update on all the work that is being done in preparation for switching to the five-block schedule at SHS/SRTC next year. Graduation requirement is proposing to change from 25 credits to 27, but it would be phased in. Credits are being increased for some core subjects and decreased for electives. Prerequisites for AP courses are being planned. New courses will be approved this week, the program will be done in January and scheduling for next year will begin in February. He said scheduling is a very complex operation, but the goal is to maximize opportunities for the greatest number of students. The proposal on graduation credits will come before the Committee in January.
Student Representatives: John Paul Alexandre gave an update on this week’s sporting events. He said Key Club has been ringing bells for the Salvation Army and caroling at Pinnacle Health Care. Aidan Gendron reported on a nuclear energy presentation at the school by Navy recruiters. Wednesday is the first home wrestling meet of the season and Christmas break begins Friday. Mr. Nelson added that the snow day last week affected the athletic schedules and that there has been a lot of illness among students and staff.
Sanford Spotlight: Mr. Nelson reviewed the latest issue of the Sanford Spotlight, which is online here.
Sanford Middle School: Principal Pam Lydon reported on happenings at SMS. Some of the events and activities she highlighted included the partnership with the Animal Welfare Society’s Mutt-i-grees program; letter writing to military veterans; learning various perspectives of colonization in social studies, with a debate on Columbus; taking soil samples at the Mousam River watershed in earth science; making thermometers and elastic catapults in physical science class; building bridges out of toothpicks; the library escape room; converting between decimals and fractions in math class; comparing rational and irrational numbers; making butter to teach perseverance; practicing throwing with accuracy in phys ed; the life skills program; making a gingerbread community; and JMG events. She said the school’s library has been breaking records each month for the number of books checked out.
Safety: Assistant Principal Steve Bussiere reported on the Safety Committee’s latest meeting. Accident reports show that staff injuries from interactions with students are trending downward due to better training and behavior coaches; however, student injuries due to slips, trips and falls have increased. Since the active shooter threat last month, a number of steps have been taken to improve communications. Door shades are being added to all classrooms that do not currently have them, as well as partitions to shield students from view in glass-walled classrooms at SHS. Staff at all schools will have training on barricading in January. An info night on the ALICE safety protocol for parents will be held January 19 at 6:00 pm in the Sanford Performing Arts Center.
There was no Old Business.
Contract: The School Committee approved extending the Superintendent’s contract through the 2025-26 school year.
Financials: Business Manager Cheryl Fournier presented the November financial report, which was approved. She said the District is “in a good spot” five months into the fiscal year. Her biggest concern is the number of out-of-district placements, partly due to short staffing in the BRIDGE program and partly due to new students moving into the District.
Staff Changes: Mr. Nelson read through the list of staff resignations, appointments, transfers and nominations. Nate McLellan and Joshua Allen were appointed Co-Assistant Athletic Directors for SHS. Bridget Conlon is a new Grade 6 ELA teacher at SMS.
There were no new Policies & Procedures and no Future Agenda Items.
Calendar: Regular School Committee meetings are scheduled for January 9 and 23, and February 6 and 27.
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