Lewiston School Committee meeting to be televised

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LEWISTON — The School Committee has taken a first step to get its meetings broadcast live on local cable channel Great Falls TV, voting unanimously Monday night to televise an upcoming meeting.

The March 11 meeting at City Hall will be televised as the board explores airing all meetings live. Meetings of the Auburn School Committee and city councils in Lewiston and Auburn already are broadcast live.

Superintendent Bill Webster is working on getting cost estimates to equip the Dingley Building’s meeting room for live broadcasting. Those costs will be compared with the “relatively low cost of doing it in City Council Chambers,” he said Tuesday. “We’ll see what the board wants to do.”

Committee member Linda Scott called broadcasting meetings “a fantastic idea.” It’s important for parents and the community to see what the School Committee is doing, “especially since we don’t get a lot of people” at meetings, she said.

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Parents could “literally see everything that’s going on,” Scott said.  “This is something we’ve talked about and said we should be doing more of this.”

Committee member Sonia Taylor agreed, saying televising meetings may “spark interest” in parents to attend meetings.

However, Auburn School Committee meetings, which have been televised for several years, attract few people. Often, the only ones attending are school department employees, occasionally a parent or two, and a newspaper reporter.

But many people watch the meetings at home, Great Falls TV station manager Phil Larlee said.

“The direct feedback we get from views is they love the service,” Larlee said. “They love being able to see what’s going on in city government.”

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

Handy elected to chair School Committee

LEWISTON — Jim Handy was elected chairman of the School Committee on Monday night by fellow members. It is a one-year term.

Handy is a former state legislator, a longtime School Committee member, and has served multiple times as chairman.

On Tuesday, Handy listed two priorities he has for the upcoming year. “First dealing with flat funding the governor has proposed in his budget” for state education dollars.

Flat funding may sound like the same budget as the year before, but in reality it’s less because expenses go up, Handy said. “We have to watch our pennies very carefully and do our best not to impact the quality of education in a negative way because of the governor’s proposal.”

Another priority is pushing for building improvements and procedures to make students safer, trying to avoid a tragedy like what happened at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary, where a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six teachers and administrators Dec. 14.

“We need to continue our vigilance, always looking at ways our schools are as secure as they can be,” he said. For example, classrooms should have the ability to lock down from the inside in case an intruder gains access, Handy said. Retrofitting all the classrooms would be quite a project, he said, “but it’s a high priority.”

Handy succeeds outgoing Chairman Tom Shannon, who was nominated but declined, Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster said. “He has a lot going on,” Webster said, including serving on the committee that negotiates labor contracts.

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