RSU 10 receives mental health grant, votes to hire kindergarten teacher

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RUMFORD — Regional School Unit 10 Superintendent Deb Alden told directors Monday night that the district is receiving federal money to deal with mental health issues faced by students, provide training for adults and services to families.

“They’re looking to include local and state systems coordination between education and health and human services, and community providers,” Alden said. “So, this has a lot to do with mental health, substance abuse and absenteeism.”

The Maine AWARE grant is from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and administered by the Maine Department of Education. The exact amount was not immediately available.

According to a letter from the department to RSU 10, the five-year grant is meant to increase awareness of mental health issues among school-aged youth, provide training for school personnel and other adults to detect and respond to mental health issues and connect youth who may have behavioral health issues and their families to needed services. It also seeks to promote the development of youth and prevent violence, while increasing academic achievement and reducing absenteeism.

The other two districts receiving money are the Calais School Department and Regional School Unit 40 in Union.

In other business, the board approved adding a kindergarten teacher at Meroby Elementary School in Mexico and moving some kindergarten students from Rumford Elementary school to Meroby.

Director Jennifer LeDuc voted against the proposal, saying she had “concerns about moving 5-year-olds who have already established relationships with their teachers … ”

Three kindergarten classes at Meroby Elementary Schools have 17, 19 and 20 students, LeDuc said, and Rumford Elementary’s three kindergarten classes have 17, 18 and 18.

The principals at both schools recommended adding a kindergarten teacher.

“My teachers right now are just managing children and not able to actually instruct to meet the needs of the children,” Meroby Principal Kim Fuller said.

Rumford Principal Jill Bartash said the classrooms have no extra space “to pull kids out” for individual instruction.

In other business, directors voted to prepare a proposal to obtain a resource officer for Buckfield Junior-Senior High School and Hartford-Sumner Elementary School in Sumner.

The district is proposing to partner with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office to hire an officer and has budgeted $45,000 for the two schools. It plans to hire a Rumford police officer for Rumford area schools.

According to directors, the Rumford Police Department has applied for a grant to supplement the resource officer position and the district plans to pay $5,000 toward the cost.

Director Greg Buccina of Rumford objected to pursuing a resource officer for the Buckfield and Sumner schools, saying the $50,000 in the school budget was meant for “security interests, which can range from cameras, door locks and I.D. cards. One resource officer, in my opinion, is not going to be a fail-safe.”

Director Michelle Casey of Buckfield and Director Charles Maddaus of Sumner pressed for an officer in their towns, saying one is needed.

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Regional School Unit 10 Director Greg Buccina of Rumford, left, makes a point at Monday night’s board meeting in Rumford. (Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times) 

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