School Committee Meeting Summary
The Sanford School Committee met January 24, 2022. All Committee members were present. The minutes of the previous meetings were approved.
There were no public comments.
Donation: Superintendent of Schools Matt Nelson thanked H. A. Mapes, Inc. for their donation of $2,000 from the company’s Spirit Pump Raiser fundraiser in October and November. Mr. Nelson said the funds will be used to help benefit students at Sanford High School and Sanford Regional Technical Center.
Construction: The decision in the arbitration case between the School Department and Warren Mechanical, a subcontractor on the SHS/SRTC project, has been received. The Department prevailed on the expansion loop issue, but lost on the control wiring issue. Warren was awarded its small retainage, but was not awarded attorney’s fees. Mr. Nelson said the expansion loop was the most expensive item, so prevailing on that was good news. Next steps are being planned to get the project finally finished. The ongoing HVAC issue at SHS is still under review.
Scheduling Advisory: The next meeting is February 2. A survey about the “skinny block” is being developed.
Performing Arts: Chair Paula Cote reported that the Maine Piano Festival had to be postponed due to community spread of the Omicron variant. SPAC Director Brett Williams is actively working to reschedule the performances. Broadway’s Next Hit Musical will hit the stage on February 12. Ms. Cote said it would be a great date night for Valentine’s weekend. The calendar is full of events through the winter and spring, including student performances, touring shows, and dance company rentals. Only three weekends between now and the end of June have nothing scheduled. She reported Mr. Williams has met with Theater Works USA, a national touring children’s theater company, which is interested in collaborating on livestreaming performances from SPAC to schools across the country. Details are still being worked out.
Student Representative: John Paul Alexandre reported on the Project Graduation finals survival kits. SHS began its second semester that day, with new classes. He said SHS Abroad is hosting an ice skating fundraiser at West Brook Skating Rink in Biddeford on January 29. The event will be open to the public, with admission $10 for students or adults, and $5 for kids under 5. Rentals are limited, so bring your own skates if you can. The funds raised will help send a group of students from the class of 2023 to Italy.
Field Trips: Mr. Nelson detailed the upcoming field trips, including an overnight by Key Club members on April 8. Skills USA students from SRTC have a few trips in February, including an overnight and two one-day events.
Safe Return to Schools: Mr. Nelson showed a spreadsheet on school attendance for the period from January 14-21. If 15% of the students and staff at a particular school are absent, and half of those are Covid-related, the school is declared an outbreak center. Sanford Middle School attendance was below 85% every day that week, while Margaret Chase Smith School and SRTC were above 85% every day. The other Sanford schools had at least one day during the period below 85%. Being in outbreak status does not mean a school has to go to remote instruction, but a particular class or grade might. Staffing levels are a big factor in that decision. York Hospital, which is the school district’s healthcare partner, has reported five straight days of decreases in the number of people coming into its locations.
Mr. Nelson said the district is recommitting to a masking campaign. At the most recent administration team meeting, consequences for repeatedly not wearing masks were discussed. “We don’t want to do the punitive approach, but where circumstances are, we need to get some people’s attention,” he said. “I think we need that tool to be able to help get compliance.” No decision on what the consequences will be has been made yet.
Vice Chair Amy Sevigny said that although Covid-positive students and staff are allowed to come back to school after five days if they have no symptoms, she asked parents to make use of at-home tests (if they have them) before sending kids back. One of her children tested positive on days six and seven after being first diagnosed, so she kept her home. “Be kind to your neighbors…you can still be contagious,” she said. [Ms. Sevigny is a pediatric nurse.]
Positive News: see separate story.
Pre-K Expansion: Assistant Superintendent Steve Bussiere said an advisory committee has been formed to guide and support the implementation of quality Pre-K programming, and has had its first meeting. One topic the committee discussed was enrollment. He said it is important that Pre-K classrooms mirror the demographics of the school district at large, so that if 20% of the students in Sanford schools are special education, 20% of the Pre-K students should be as well. If 50% are economically disadvantaged, then the Pre-K population should reflect that. As applications for Pre-K are received, those special demographic slots will be filled, and then any remaining applicants will be allowed to enroll. Recruitment was also discussed. The committee is planning now how to get the word out to the community. Whether Pre-K expansion will actually happen depends on whether the budget for it is approved. Mr. Nelson said there will be a special budget workshop devoted to the Pre-K expansion.
Access Testing: Mr. Bussiere reported that the annual testing for English Language Learner students is underway. The testing measures students’ English skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing. The assessment determines whether they need to continue for another year in the program and, if so, what level of services they will receive. All ELL students in the state participate.
Late Bus: The late bus for SMS and SHS will begin next week and run Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Stops and times will be announced.
NAEP Update: Curriculum Director Beth Lambert spoke about the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing, which is done every two years across the country. Randomly chosen students in grade 4 at MCS and Sanford Pride Elementary, and grade 8 at SMS will be tested in math and reading.
Maine Teacher of the Year: Ms. Lambert announced that nominations are open for the Maine Teacher of the Year award. Teachers can be nominated by a student, co-worker, administrator, school or district committee, friend or family member. Nominations will be taken through February 4 at 5:00 p.m. at this link.
2022-2023 School Calendar: A first reading was held on the proposed calendar for the next school year. Because Labor Day will be a little late this year, the School Department is proposing to have the week of August 20 for teacher orientation, in-services, and open houses, with the first student day of school on Monday, August 29. Friday, September 2 would be a day off to make a four-day Labor Day weekend, with students returning to class on Tuesday, September 6.
Financial Reports: Business Administrator Cheryl Fournier presented the financial reports for the month of December, which were approved.
Compensation for Additional Covid-19 Duties: The Committee unanimously approved an extension to the additional stipends paid to staff members who take on extra duties related to the pandemic. These include covering classes for teachers and ed techs who are out, and extra hours before and after school to assist with dropoffs and pickups. The money for the stipends comes from federal ESSER funds. Mr. Nelson said the additional duties have been a huge help to the challenge of getting substitute teachers.
Business Administrator’s Contract: The Committee unanimously approved extending Ms. Fournier’s contract through the 2024/25 school year.
Staffing Changes: Mr. Nelson thanked staff members who will be retiring, including MCS food service assistant Sandra Black, SHS chorus teacher Jane Kirton, CJL media specialist Karen Miliano, SPE ed tech Beth St. Cyr, varsity field hockey coach Diana Walker and CJL school psychologist Melody Wood. Other resignations included fall athletics coaches. In staff transfers, Steve Brown will be returning to his former position as head custodian at MCS. Jeanne Deschambault is a new English teacher at SHS. Committee member Jonathan Mapes noted that there has been a lot of turnover among school custodians. Mr. Nelson said the Department was conducting exit interviews to find out why.
Policies and Procedures: The second reading of updates to the attendance, truancy and home schooling policies was held. The updates reflect changes in Maine state laws. The updates were approved.
Future Agenda Items: Committee member Jen Davie asked for a report on what Noble High School is doing with its Virtual Learning Academy and whether Sanford might adopt a similar program.
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