Assistant principal’s position gets cut

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LIVERMORE FALLS – SAD 36 directors voted 8-1 with two abstentions Thursday to adopt a new administrative structure at the high school that eliminates a full-time assistant principal but creates another position along with a leadership council.

Director Amie Smith of Livermore Falls was opposed and newly appointed Livermore Falls directors Ann Souther and Lorie Morris abstained

The school district is looking for a new principal for the school and be on the leadership council with an assistant principal, who would already have a job in the district, and three high school teachers. All would receive stipends for their time.

The move is intended to save the district $35,000 a year and strengthen the leadership team, along with opening communication lines between staff and administrators and boosting morale. It will also put the district more in line with the state’s essential programs and service model that outlines how many staff members should be in a school system, Superintendent Terry Despres said.

The final details of the restructuring model are being worked out.

Prior to the vote, high school teachers and Assistant Principal Bill Schenck spoke about the proposed restructuring that some said they had just heard about.

Staff members submitted a letter stating the proposal caused great concern among them and they wanted to be able to give input before the decision is made.

Staff members will be involved in the design of what the leadership council will look like, Despres said, and an outside consultant will help them work through it.

Despres added that with the right administrator the restructuring will work. With Principal Rod Wright retiring in June, Despres said, it was an opportune time to look at change.

Schenck presented discipline-action statistics for more than a decade and explained what it took to get to a safe, educational environment when he and former Principal Scott Phair came in 1994. The school only had one administrator prior to that.

Disciplinary actions reached 613 in 1991-92 with 305 students, 744 in 1992-93 with 306 students, and then dropped to 189 in 1994-95 with 302 students. They have hovered at 335 and below since then except for 2000-01 when they rose to 503 with 315 students.

Schenck said he’s dealt with students’ use of drugs and alcohol, physical violence, harassment, students setting fire to the school and vandalizing buses.

“We pulled together and worked hard. We came out with one of the best high schools in the area,” Schenck said. “I think what people are saying is we don’t want to go back there. We don’t want to go through it again.”

His main concern, Schenck said is for the students.

Director Elaine Smith of Livermore Falls said her understanding was the school was not going back to a single administrator but to a leadership team similar to what a business would have.

Smith said, “I see this as a good change.”

Special needs teacher Diane Maurais said with 65 students, Schenck has made her job easier and handled them appropriately.

Teacher Amy Richards, also an alumna of the school, said she remembered teachers under one administrator and with two administrators, it seemed like a healthier environment.

There are concerns because teachers don’t know how the new approach will work.

“I rely on an assistant principal to do a certain job,” Richards said.

It’s a scary thought not having one, she said.

“We’re concerned about being left out,” teacher Anne Weatherbee said. “We have very ambitious goals we would like to see happen.”

Sally Boivin, a school secretary, said, “Our fear is if we don’t have a body in there to deal with discipline, it will fall to us. We want to know who is going to deal with it?”

Vice Chairman Fred Nadeau said the structure is still in flux, including the discipline aspect.

“I hear your concerns. They are my concerns. I think we can come up with something that would work,” Nadeau said

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