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School Committee Highlights March 11, 2024

School Committee Meeting March 11, 2024

By Kendra Williams

Public Comment

General education social workers and principals from Sanford’s three elementary schools gave overviews of their roles, examples of their work and the difference it makes to students during the board’s March 11 meeting. They described student needs that would be unmet if those positions are cut from the budget. Sanford Schools’ Director of School Counseling Beth Letourneau spoke especially of the importance of the Sanford Middle School social worker.

Parent Stephanie Jopling addressed the need for continuation of the Alternative Education Program and said other options are not effective in keeping students in school. Student Elv Jopling spoke about the lack of context in some of last week’s comments related to school dropouts and the ability of some students to integrate into the regular classrooms.

Resident Zendelle Bouchard pointed out that students in the Alt School have been referred after all other options and interventions have been tried and said it’s our responsibility as taxpayers to give students what they need to be successful. She called cutting successful programs like the Alt School “penny wise and pound foolish.” She also pointed out the negative impact to the economy when we don’t provide students with what they need and that “it’s just the right thing to do.”

Lydia Lehoux, who has children at Carl J Lamb and Sanford Middle schools, pointed out that social workers provide students with the skills they need to thrive, which also benefits the whole class. She said, “our schools are currently struggling to meet appropriate test score levels, and taking away critical supports is not going to allow the improvements that are so desperately needed…” She added that without social workers, teachers will need to take away from their teaching responsibilities to help students deal with social and emotional issues, affecting all students.

Joanne Spring, a local clinical social work supervisor and mentor in our community, spoke of the benefit of social workers in the schools. She pointed out that surrounding districts have elementary school social workers and said she doesn’t believe the needs of our students in Sanford are any less.

Communications

Amy Sevigny acknowledged the School Committee has received many letters from people she named and expressed appreciation to all who came out to speak.

Student Representative Reports

Aiden Gendron spoke of the highlights from the sports awards banquet last week and said the spring sports season is about to begin. Elise Gendron reported the math team is heading into the state meet with Sanford still having a streak of the most points in the region – with the most points achieved by Aiden. The class of 2026 held its second fundraising dodgeball tournament. Emma announced that scholarship applications for seniors are due by April 8.

They then reviewed the Sanford School Department’s most recent Spotlight Newsletter. Stories about what’s happening in all of the schools can be viewed here. https://www.sanford.org/o/sanford-school-department/page/sanford-spotlight-newsletter

Superintendent’s Report

Matt Nelson announced that the School Committee approved a budget a few weeks ago to pass on to the City Council. The first City Council budget meeting was held last week with both the city and schools giving an overview. Feedback indicated the budget increase was too high and adjustments would be needed. The next budget meeting was scheduled for March 12. The City Council will approve the schools’ budget on April 6. There will be another opportunity for public comment on the budget at the council meeting on March 19. March is designated as Music in Our Schools month. Nelson highlighted all the music events that have begun to happen this month.

The SRTC Cafeteria is open most Wednesdays and Thursdays through May. Students prepare and serve the meals. Nelson offered a very favorable review of the menu options and appears to be one of their best customers. Payment at this time is cash only. Reservations are needed and can be made here: https://tableagent.com/portland-maine/srtc-cafe/

Assistant Superintendent Report

Steven Bussiere announced early kindergarten registration evenings are scheduled to begin this month at the three elementary schools. Children who will be 5 years of age on or before Oct. 15 are eligible. MCS registration will be held on March 27 from 3:30-6:30; Pride Elementary’s will be the same day from 3:30-7, and CJL will hold theirs on April 3 from 5-6:30. Current Pre-K students do not have to reregister. If parents are unable to attend, they may contact the School Department. The goal is to have kindergarten students registered by May 1.

The Sanford School Department has been randomly selected for an audit of implementation and compliance with the McKinny-Vento Act related to homeless students this year.

Immunization clinics for 6th and 11th graders will be offered on April 26. These are the immunizations required by the Maine Department of Education prior to entering grades 7 and 12.

An update on the Stronger Connections grant was provided. A behavior coach, Kristie Richards, has been hired and will begin this month.

New Business

The 2024/25 school calendar was presented and approved. Of note is that school will start after Labor Day.

Resignations, retirements, appointments and transfers were announced by the superintendent.

Policy and Procedures

Bussiere presented the first reading of three policies and procedures including: Return to Work and Reasonable Accommodations; Public Participation and Broadcasting and Taping of School Committee Meetings. All were approved.

The second reading of the Procedure for Reporting Dangerous Students was presented and approved.

After calendar announcements the meeting was adjourned at 7:37.

The full meeting may be viewed here.

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