School Committee 4/26 Meeting Summary
Vice Chair Paula Cote led the meeting in the absence of Chair Don Jamison.
During public comments, Sanford High School sophomore John-Paul Alexandre spoke about scheduling at the school. He has been working with School Committee Student Representatives Isabella Farrington and Grace Davie on the issue. They gathered 250 signatures from students in support of a possible return to a five-block schedule, and have put together a survey to gather more feedback on the issue, but are still waiting for it to be approved. He advocated for the discussion to be started sooner rather than later.
Superintendent of Schools Matt Nelson replied he was concerned about the timing of the survey. He didn’t want students to get the impression that any changes would be made to scheduling in the next school year, because the Department has already committed to a new schedule with four regular blocks and a fifth “skinny block” twice a week. He said it would be hard to give feedback before that option has even been tried. “We want to make sure the feedback we get is helpful,” he said.
Mr. Nelson read an email he received from Sam Mercer, who graduated from SHS at age fifteen as Salutatorian of the Class of 2019. He has recently been named a 2021 Goldwater Scholar, one of 410 in the United States and one of three from Maine. This scholarship is recognized as “the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering in America.” Mr. Mercer is pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering at UNH. In his email, he thanked Mr. Nelson for the opportunities and support he received through the Sanford school system.
Mr. Nelson gave an update on construction issues at the schools. The Department is moving forward with getting other contractors to finish up work that was never completed at SHS/SRTC. He also reported on a lawsuit by a subcontractor who believes they should be paid for extra work. That case will be going to arbitration. At Margaret Chase Smith School, the grass that was originally scheduled to be seeded this spring has been put off due to the drought and the need to use the outdoor space for social distancing. At Pride Elementary, work is continuing. The final paving of the parking areas is scheduled for mid-May.
Ms. Cote reported on the latest news from the Sanford Performing Arts Center. The SHS Broadway revue, “The Show Must Go On,” will be happening May 6-8. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online at sanfordpac.org. The show will also be live streamed on WSSR-TV on May 8. She reported that the SPAC has a very busy schedule for the spring, with dance competitions, and all sorts of Senior Class events.
Student Representatives: Ms. Farrington reported that the SAT tests are happening this week and AP tests are next week. She said the Sanford Farmers’ Market is opening May 1 and encouraged people to attend. Ms. Davie urged everyone to keep up with Covid safety protocols. She also reported the National Honor Society induction is this week.
Mr. Nelson presented the News from Sanford Schools. View his presentation here.
An update on the return to more in-person learning was provided. Mr. Nelson said a challenge in going from two days a week to four has been stamina. He reminded the Committee of the Department’s goal to have all students back in school five days a week beginning in September. He is putting together an advisory committee which will start meeting weekly. He will have more information for the Committee on those plans, as well as plans for summer school, at its workshop on May 3.
SHS Principal Matt Petermann gave an update on Senior Prom and graduation. See separate story.
Mr. Petermann also updated the Committee on the work of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which includes both students and staff at SHS. He said they are looking at curriculum as well as professional development. Among the Committee’s goals are improving education on diversity and inclusion, celebrating multiple perspectives, creating unity, increasing compassion and empathy, and equipping teachers to engage in uncomfortable conversations. They plan to do a more detailed presentation at a future School Committee meeting.
Assistant Superintendent Steve Bussiere announced that the new immunization law, signed in 2019, will become effective September 1. This law eliminates philosophical and religious exemptions for school-required immunizations. The only allowable exemptions will be for medical reasons, and for qualifying students with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). He said the Maine Department of Education has clarified that students who are noncompliant with this law will not be allowed to do remote learning or participate in school activities. He said any questions could be directed to the nurses at each school.
Mr. Bussiere announced that the district will receive about $30,000 less in federal Title funds next year, due to the drop in free and reduced lunch registrations as well as the drop in student enrollment. The Department is reviewing and planning strategies for next year in light of this news.
Business Manager Cheryl Fournier presented the financial report. Committee member Jonathan Mapes questioned how much Covid relief funds are camouflaging actual expenses. Mr. Nelson said there will be a detailed presentation on how Covid funds have been spent at the next meeting.
Nichole Ivey of Sanford Community Adult Education presented information about the new Driver Education program SCAE will be launching in partnership with Flanagan’s Driving School. She said after the program is launched on June 1, she will be looking at ways to grow it, perhaps with a commercial driver’s license class, or defensive driving classes for those with driving offenses. Committee members had suggestions for additional language to add to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Flanagan’s. It will be revised and brought back to the Committee for approval at the next meeting.
Mr. Nelson had a lengthy list of staff resignations, appointments and transfers. Sheryl David, a fifth grade teacher at Sanford Middle School, is retiring at the end of the school year. SHS science teacher Molly Kizer is also leaving at the end of the year.
Because this meeting had been rescheduled due to the Patriot’s Day holiday, the May meetings have also been rescheduled, to May 10 and 24. SRTC Recognition Night will be held Thursday, May 27.
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