SALEM — There were
questions at Thursday’s SAD 58 Board of Directors meeting regarding the purpose
of Mt. Abram High School’s Gear Up program and how it will be run next
year.
Kingfield resident Jack McKee asked what the program was and what it
did for students. Superintendent Quenten Clark responded that it was designed to
raise student aspirations.
“Its intent is to increase the number of students
going to college,” he pointed out. “They do things like college tours, help with
financial aid forms, and general advising of students.”
Clark added that
qualifying students receive $5,000 scholarships to go to college. Eligibility is
based on the income status of the middle school that the student
attended.
For its first six years of existence, said Clark, the Gear Up
program was much more active at Mt. Abram. He mentioned that more money is going
to overhead costs now, and that the school district’s allocation is
$34,500.
McKee noted there had been some concerns expressed to him about the
loss of a math teacher to run Gear Up. Mt. Abram math teacher Heather Moody
stated that the school’s teachers had been assured that a full-time teacher
wouldn’t be used to lead the program, and then discovered that a full-time
instructor was being used for Gear Up.
“We’re losing a position in the math
department that we had no discussion over,” she pointed out. “That’s upping the
course load that we’re all teaching.”
Clark stated that the teacher in
question would still teach some math classes. Board chairman Mike Pond then cut
off debate.
The board reviewed ED 279, a new state assessment for the
district reflecting the elimination of consolidation penalties for this year.
Originally, after SAD 58 towns voted not to join another school district, the
Maine Legislature had assessed about $125,000 in penalties.
Those have since
been postponed for this year, and Clark suggested giving the money back to the
SAD 58 communities to give towns more funds for municipal services. He pointed
out this was also a gesture of good will toward the towns for voting to approve
the school budget this year.
“Our finances are in pretty good shape,” Clark
observed. “It isn’t like we need for some great financial reason to hang on to
this money.”
The board unanimously approved giving back the funds.
The
Strong wood pellet boiler project has started, and pipes will go in at the
school next week. Clark noted the boilers will arrive late next winter or early
next spring.
There is no pellet contract in place for the SAD 58 boilers yet.
Clark recommended against a long-term deal with one supplier until the wood
pellet business stabilizes.
“It’s as much a function of where you can get the
deliveries from as anything else,” he observed.
SAD 58 is now referred to as
RSU 58 by the Maine Department of Education. While the Certificate of
Organization says RSU 58, Clark asked the board if the district should paint
signs or bus lettering as such.
The board voted against doing this to avoid
public confusion.
There was some discussion about the Mt. Abram student
handbook. Board representative Alan Morse challenged the school’s teachers and
administration to find a way to include more thoughtful language in them that
was more respectful of students and families.
“It reads like a ‘gotcha’
document,” he said.
However, he also complimented the staff for greatly
improving the handbooks in the years since he had been on the board. The
directors passed the handbook 7-1, with Morse opposing.
In other business,
the board passed the elementary school handbook. They also voted to rehire
Dennis Olsen as a part-time physical education instructor for the Phillips and
Kingfield schools. 


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