The Sanford School Committee met Monday, September 19, 2022. All members were present.
The minutes of the August 12, 2022 meetings were approved.
There were no public comments.
SHS Accreditation: Superintendent of Schools Matt Nelson reported on a letter from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges’ Commission on Public Schools. They accepted Sanford High School’s five-year progress report and have continued the school’s accreditation. Some of the things the Commission was pleased to learn about SHS were the formal policy on cell phone usage during academic time, the effective use of the two hours of professional development each week, the implementation of restorative circles and the Character Strong program, partnerships with maintenance and facilities to help with scheduled maintenance, and development of common assessments by grade level. The next accreditation cycle will begin in fall of 2025.
Nutrition Program: He also shared a communication from the Maine Department of Education. A representative from MDOE will conduct an administrative review and procurement review of the School Department’s nutrition program. They will be onsite in February of 2023, but are beginning now with the collection of information.
Scheduling: The SHS/SRTC Scheduling Advisory Committee is meeting this week, and getting down to “the nitty gritty” of pros and cons with regard to various scheduling options. Mr. Nelson said the plan is to have a workshop to share the Scheduling Committee’s findings and recommendations, which he anticipates happening in October. A meeting with stakeholders will also be set up. The ultimate goal is to have recommended changes approved by the School Committee in November, which would give time to implement the changes by the start of the 2023/24 school year.
Sanford Performing Arts Center: Mailings have gone out to all Sanford residents detailing this year’s schedule of performances, which include ballet, comedy, a hypnotist and more, as well as two SHS Drama Club shows, Shrek and Clue. See separate story.
Curriculum: Beth Lambert, Director of Curriculum reported on her meeting with Ms. Cote and School Committee Vice Chair Amy Sevigny. They went over last year’s goals and what was accomplished, and how those led into this year’s goals. The implementation of Reveal Math for grades K-12 and the professional development plan were discussed, as well as the social studies curriculum. She said social studies and math are now successfully aligned. Among the goals for this year are looking at the science and English curriculums, to make sure there is a seamless connection between what students learn at Sanford Middle School and SHS. Health and physical education will also be reviewed to remove any overlaps so that teaching time is used most efficiently, and teachers and counselors know who is responsible for what concepts.
Field Trips: Mr. Nelson reported that eight special education students had a short field trip that day to Ocean State Job Lots, learning about community involvement and career development.
Enrollment Update: Mr. Nelson went over the latest enrollment figures. As of Friday 9/16, there were 3,204 in Sanford schools, an increase of 58 students over last year at this time. That includes 44 students in the Pre-K expansion. Nearly all grades grew in enrollment, except Kindergarten, which is at 204 students, compared to 263 last year. 216 students have transferred in to the district, while 133 have transferred out. October 1st is the day enrollment is officially counted for the purpose of determining subsidies, so he will have another update at the next meeting. He encouraged everyone to fill out the school meal application form, which determines the amount of subsidy the district receives from federal funding.
Ms. Sevigny asked if people who own businesses in Sanford but live in other communities may enroll their kids in Sanford schools. Mr. Nelson replied that there has to be an agreement between the home district and Sanford to allow that to happen.
Communications: Mr. Nelson reported that Sam Bonsey, the district’s new Communications Coordinator, is working on developing a campaign on how people can sign up to receive school information through the Thrillshare app on their phones. The News from Sanford Schools that is featured at School Committee meetings will be compiled into a newsletter that will go out twice a month. Mr. Bonsey will be doing a presentation later this fall.
Carl J. Lamb School: Principal Sherri Baron gave a Powerpoint presentation which included a photo of all the CJL staff. She praised the hard work of everyone who helped get the building ready for the new school year. Many CJL staff attended professional development in August. Administrators have been very busy with hiring. Her nutrition program is fully staffed, but there are still two ed tech positions to be filled. Open house was very well attended with a long line of people waiting to get in. Families visited their new teachers and said hello to old ones. On opening day, students from SHS came to cheer on the kids as they entered the building. She welcomed the schools “littlest lambs” in the new Pre-K class, headed up by teacher Kendra Sherman. Music and art have been added to the school this year and there are a number of clubs and enrichment activities starting up, including A/V Club and Haiku Writing.
Margaret Chase Smith School: Principal Tracie Hallissey was excited to announce that MCS hit the 400 mark for student enrollment. She said the school year started with honoring their teachers, who have a combined 860 years of teaching experience. She and Assistant Principal Marc Bisson gave tours to 16 families of “our new coyotes,” students who transferred in to the district, and provided them with engagement and support. The school’s open house was also well attended and featured a scavenger hunt and book giveaway. SHS students also came to MCS opening day. At the first assembly of the year, kids who worked hard during the summer were recognized. The school’s motto is “Many dens, one pack,” and their mascot is Chase the Coyote, who comes to all events. Fourth grade den ambassadors help younger kids and do morning announcements. Some clubs will be held during the school day, in recognition that not all kids can stay after school. Among these are bowling club and ukulele club. Zen Dens are safe areas for kids to take a break when needed. The school will be doing a Spartan Coyote Day during homecoming week. Transportation is a challenge at the school, with every inch of the parking lot used as creatively as possible, she said.
Sanford Pride Elementary School: Principal Susan Inman reported that in addition to having two Pre-K classes this year, there are classes that “loop”: A Kindergarten and 1st grade class, and a 3rd and 4th, which have the same teacher for two years. They are now in the second year of the loop. This is being tested to see if there are any changes compared to classes that proceed with a new teacher each year. Two Kindergarten classes are piloting the K For Me curriculum, an interdisciplinary whole-child focus adopted from Boston Public Schools. She reports that open house was phenomenal, with near-perfect attendance. The school’s service dog program is growing and the foster grandparent program has returned for the first time since Covid. After-school clubs will be starting soon, including a drama club and a STEM option. The health teacher is making use of the school’s greenhouse to teach the importance of where our food comes from. She said the school is fortunate to be fully staffed, but is looking to add another kitchen person because Pre-K meals are very different than those for the other grades.
Committee member Jonathan Mapes praised all the presentations and the great programs at each school. He said he appreciates the emphasis that Sanford schools put on the early grades.
BRIDGE Program: Special Education Director Stacey Bissell talked about the BRIDGE expansion this year. She said the new staff members are working together very well. The high school program is almost full, but the new elementary/middle school program is short on ed techs, which limits the number of students that can be enrolled, although new intakes are ongoing. The staff is excited to be free of Covid restrictions this year, as so many of the school’s programs include being out in the community. They have a beautiful wood shop to use at Willard School this year. They have a bike repair program and take bike rides as a wellness activity as well as a reward for reaching goals. The program has four tuition students this year, two from Acton and two from Kennebunk. Older students can earn time to go into the elementary classrooms to help with activities and reading.
Safety: Assistant Superintendent Steve Bussiere reported on school safety procedures. He said they started with strengthening basic safety measures including making sure doors are locked and not propped open, all visitors are screened prior to entry, visitors and staff all wear badges. He said relationship building is a big part of safety, so that something that does not look right can be immediately recognized. School crisis teams have met and reviewed crisis response plans. The lockdown protocol has been expanded into the new ALICE framework, which includes counter and evacuations procedures. School Resource Officer Joe Jourdain trained all the teachers during their August workshops, and will continue by training the custodial staff and administrative assistants in October. The Alertus app will be rolled out soon. It includes lockdown notification but also enables communication during an incident. Staff and student injuries are down from this period last year.
Pre-K: Mr. Bussiere reported that the expanded Pre-K program was full, but two students have since withdrawn. One of those slots is being filled so there is currently one opening. The Pre-K kids at the three elementary schools are riding the same buses as the K-4 students. They wear seat belts which has slowed things down a little but transportation is going well overall. Rest time is new to the Pre-K program this year, and it only took a few days for most students to acclimate to it. Managing meal times is the biggest challenge right now, but staff is working through it. They are currently teaching the kids the routines and procedures of school, and will be getting into curriculum momentarily. MDOE will be visiting each class three times a year to assess and provide feedback. He said the goal is still to expand to two classes at each elementary school and at SRTC, and they are exploring that idea now. He said teachers and ed techs have done a tremendous job with the expansion, but bus drivers are still needed.
Professional Development: Ms. Lambert reported that approximately 200 staff members took part in professional development over the summer, which included safety training, book studies and math. There was a course on the 9th grade “make or break” year, as well as one on helping to understand students who have suffered trauma or come from economically disadvantaged circumstances. Promethean board training was offered along with K-5 writing and Reveal Math. Art teachers attended camps over the summer. Some health and phys ed teachers will be able to attend conferences this year, for the first time since Covid.
Student Representatives: The Committee approved the appointment of two new Student Representatives, Aidan Gendron and Emma Adawadkar, both juniors at SHS. Mr. Nelson said a large number of students expressed interest and the applications were reviewed by the School Committee in executive session to make the final selections.
Travel Abroad: The Committee approved a Travel Abroad program for the Class of 2024. Kelly Foley, who oversees the Travel Abroad program, said the location is being kept confidential until it is revealed to students later this week. Information will be sent out to parents next week. The Class of 2023 will be the first to take part in this program, when 70 students, parents and chaperones travel to Italy during February vacation. Committee member Jen Davie asked if students are finding cost to be a significant barrier, and how they are being assisted to have equitable access to the opportunity. Ms. Foley responded that there are various payment plans and an early enrollment discount, as well as fundraising opportunities. Students have created a webpage to accept donations. She said the Class of 2024 trip is being announced two months earlier to give them more time to save up. Her long-term goal includes doing fundraising to provide scholarship opportunities for the trip.
Crisis Plan: Mr. Bussiere gave a brief summary of his in-depth 124 page report on the School Department’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. The Plan includes four parts:
- Mitigation and Prevention – eliminating risk to decrease the need for a response
- Preparedness – planning for likely or worst-case scenarios
- Response – the steps the schools and community partners will take during an emergency
- Recovery – how the learning and teaching environment will be restored after an emergency
All aspects of the Plan were updated, including the new ALICE protocols, and a crisis phone tree. Mr. Bussiere said the schools have good coordination with Sanford Police and Fire and he feels they are in good shape.
Reserve Accounts: The School Committee approved transfers of unexpected budget funds into reserve accounts as follows:
- $10,502 into the Unexpected Special Education Costs Reserve Fund
- $1,046 into the Capital Reserve Fund
- $275,044 into the Health Insurance Reserve Fund
Legacy Naming Rights: The Committee voted to accept a donation from the Sanford Schools Legacy Foundation and approved their request to name the MCS gymnasium as the “Rich Wilkins Gymnasium” in memory of a long-time physical education teacher who passed away last year. There will be recognition of him at the homecoming football game, and a ceremony for his family and invited friends at MCS.
Staff Changes: Schedule C and D staff appointments were presented. The lengthy list included class advisors and other stipend positions including music and drama directors and advisors, club advisors, department chairs, mentors for probationary teachers and grade level leaders.
Policies and Procedures
Wellness: Mr. Bussiere presented an update to the wellness policy for students and staff, which is required to comply with USDA regulations. The updates include “smart snack” guidelines with regulate what can be sold during school. Under the physical activity section, recess can no longer be withheld as a disciplinary measure. Fundraising and celebrations should be supportive of healthy eating, and parties must have healthy food and beverage options. The Committee accepted the first reading of this policy change. Mr. Mapes questioned whether Aroma Joe’s coffee drinks should be promoted on school property.
Calendar: The next School Committee meetings will be held October 3 and 17.