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School Committee 6/21 Meeting Summary

L to R: School Committee members Jonathan Mapes and Paula Cote.

The Sanford School Committee met Monday, June 21 at the High School, with staff members joining the meeting remotely. Vice Chair Paula Cote chaired the meeting in the absence of Don Jamison.

Superintendent of Schools Matt Nelson thanked 2021 SHS graduate Juliana Levesque on behalf of the central office for her service to the School Committee as a Student Representative over the past few years. Ms. Leveque thanked the Committee for the opportunity. She will be studying art, with a concentration in art and entrepreneurial studies on a Promise Scholarship at the University of Southern Maine in the fall.

There were no public comments and no communications.

Mr. Nelson gave the construction update. There are only some minor issues left to finish at Margaret Chase Smith School, including paving the fire loop. Principal Chuck Potter participated in a final walk-through of the building. At Pride Elementary, the electrical inspector wants the power line into the building raised, which is holding up the occupancy permit. Mr. Nelson will follow up with the Code Enforcement Office to see if the issue can be resolved in a timely manner. The current construction schedule has all work being completed by the second week of July.

Ms. Cote briefed the Committee on the latest from the Sanford Performing Arts Center. A full schedule of performances is planned, including comedy, Celtic music and Broadway. Moving lights are being installed in the theater to provide more options for the production crew.

Sarah Schnell of WSSR-TV said the end of the school year broadcasts went very well, and she is continuing to post new content on the YouTube channel, including the Band Camp concert and one on Sanford Middle School’s flower project.

Curriculum Director Beth Lambert updated the Committee on new programs and changes. Third graders will have an introduction to cursive writing this year through Handwriting Without Tears. Some grade 4 teachers will also pilot the program. Reveal is a new math curriculum for grades 6-12 that will be introduced this year. 6-12 science teachers will continue to use the Gizmo online lab platform which has been working well. For special education, the Department has purchased two new reading programs, System 44 and Read 180, and teachers will have training this summer.

In his Superintendent’s Report, Mr. Nelson went over the latest Covid guidelines and recommendations from the state regarding schools. The Governor has announced that all schools are expected to be full-time, in-person in the fall. Social distancing will be relaxed and face coverings will no longer be required as of July 1 when the state of emergency expires. All the current guidelines will become recommendations at that time. It is recommended that unvaccinated people continue to wear face coverings indoors. Schools and child care facilities may adopt their own requirements, as businesses are allowed to do. He said the plan as of now is not to require masks, but that may change if the pandemic worsens again.

Mr. Nelson said a positive case of Covid-19 will still require quarantining. The planned pool testing is on hold for now, but the Department may pivot to that if needed. Dividers will remain in place in the schools, and reduced class sizes are still being planned, but all the Middle School students will be able to remain in one building. The Department is not planning to use Willard or Lafayette Schools next year, but will hold onto both buildings in case things change.

On the hiring front, Mr. Nelson reported that there are six new hires at SHS, 13 at SMS, four at each elementary school and 13 district-wide positions. 37 of the new hires are being paid with Covid funds. There are still 17 yet to hire, including an assistant principal at the high school and a plumbing instructor for Sanford Regional Technical Center. He said he has been very impressed with the quality of candidates the Department has had to choose from.

Mr. Nelson reported that summer programming kicked off last week with Band Camp for grades 5-12, as well as an introductory program for middle schoolers and sending schools at SRTC, and credit recovery programs at SHS. The latter two will continue this week. The following week, the Jump Start program for incoming Kindergarteners, Title 1 programming, summer camp instruction and the lunch time read-alouds will begin. The second session at SHS will begin July 12, and there will be STEM camps and theater camp later this summer. He encouraged parents to go to the Department’s website to see the schedule of all the summer programming.

Assistant Superintendent Steve Bussiere provided an update on the ESEA Title funds which bring a considerable amount of funding to the district. Under Title I, the preliminary allocation for next year is $1.2 million which will be used to pay for teachers, literacy coaches, administrative and support staff for students in grades K-8 who need support in literacy and math. Title II funds are earmarked for professional development, including social/emotional learning, elementary grade level leaders, and restorative practices. The preliminary allocation is about $203,000.

Ms. Lambert came back to the meeting to share the results of the NWEA standardized tests that are given three times a year to monitor student progress in relation to national norms. With the exception of grade 8 in reading, all grades showed progress from fall to spring in both reading and math. However, all grades except K were behind the national 2020 norms. She pointed out that the national numbers were measured pre-pandemic. “These (data) are not taking into account what Covid did to the educational system,” she said. Committee member John Roux asked if there is any state data to compare to Sanford’s. Ms. Lambert said she wasn’t aware of any but would research it further.

The Committee voted to finalize the naming of the SRTC fire apparatus bay in memory of Stephen J. Cutter, a former Assistant Fire Chief who passed away last year. The Sanford Legacy Foundation approved the naming for a donation of $25,447, with the money to be used for the benefit of students and faculty of the Fire Science program. Committee members Jonathan Mapes voted against the measure, on the principle that he is opposed to lifetime naming rights in general.

The fire apparatus bay was previously named for Pratt and Whitney in exchange for donations from them. They have agreed to transfer their plaque to the Engineering and Robotics room.

The Committee unanimously approved awarding the photography contracts for 2021-2024 to Don Twombley Photography (sports) and Studio By The Pond (staff and faculty). Business Manager Cheryl Fournier said these two local companies had the lowest bids, but are also the current photographers who have provided excellent customer service in the past.

The Committee unanimously approved a new three-year contract for teachers, a new two-year contract for administrative assistants, and a new three-year contract for ed techs. The contracts were negotiated by the Collective Bargaining Committee with the involvement of Committee members Amy Sevigny and John Roux. The Committee heard all the details in executive session.

The Committee voted unanimously to move leftover money from the current year’s budget into three reserve funds that were created in 2017 to set aside money for future unanticipated expenses. Once money is in a reserve fund, it may only be expended by a vote of the Committee following a public hearing. $81,429 will be transferred to the Fuel Cost Stabilization Fund, $88,696 into the Capital Reserve Fund, and $187,864 into the Health Insurance Reserve Fund. Additionally, $21,372 will be refunded to district employees who paid into the health insurance system. Mr. Nelson explained that the health insurance costs were lower than expected last  year because fewer people were going to the doctor. Mr. Mapes said he anticipates the fuel fund to be used up quickly with the rise in prices.

The Committee discussed the potential makeup of the SHS Scheduling Subcommittee. There was consensus that Mr. Jamison and Ms. Cote would represent the School Committee, with Ms. Sevigny as an alternate; Mr. Nelson, Mr. Bussiere and Ms. Lambert from the School Department; the SHS principal and SRTC director; Beth Letourneau from the counseling office; some teacher representation; parents and students to represent different types of learners. Mr. Mapes felt this is too large a group and said they would need a strong facilitator to keep a group that size focused on the task. Ms. Cote said they would break down into smaller groups to work.

Mr. Nelson read through the list of staff resignations, appointments and nominations.

The second reading of an updated policy on changes to immunization requirements was unanimously approved. The update reflects the changes to Maine law removing philosophical and religious exemptions to required vaccinations, and additional requirements for students entering grades 7 and 12.

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