LEWISTON — The Lewiston School Committee voted unanimously Monday night to send a letter home to parents recommending they not give the state their children’s Social Security numbers.

The committee also unanimously approved a resolution that called for state legislators to get rid of a state law that forces schools to ask parents to give their children’s Social Security numbers to the Maine Department of Education.

The resolution, approved by other school systems including Bethel, and endorsed by the Maine Civil Liberties Union, says that the law “poses a threat to children because tracking individual student data in conjunction with Social Security numbers opens the possibility of security breaches” that could hurt students. A copy of the resolution will be sent to Lewiston parents.

As required by law, the Lewiston School Department will soon send a letter to parents explaining that a state law means they have to ask for the numbers, but parents do not have to provide them.

The Maine Department of Education requested the law in order to improve tracking students’ progress after they graduate from high school. That, state educators said, would help them see which programs work best, which would help them better shape educational policy.

But, so far, Maine school boards, including Auburn, don’t seem to agree and see too many risks for students.

Before the board voted Monday, member Paul St. Pierre said he was unhappy with the proposed letter to parents prepared by the school department.

Looking over the letter, St. Pierre at first said he couldn’t find a disclaimer near where parents would sign stating that Lewiston School Committee members “do not support this. We do not advise this action to parents. There’s been a lot of press on this issue. Many school departments already stepped forward to say they were not in support of this. …”

Instead, “all I see is a lot of gobbledygook that says that, but is not implicit, it is not clear, is not precisely to the point. I have a problem with that,” St. Pierre said.

With a long, dense letter full of bureaucratic and legal terms, St. Pierre said he’s concerned that busy parents would not read it, would look for the action box, and sign the letter giving away their children’s Social Security numbers.

After he raised his complaint, other members agreed and voted to amend the letter. It was changed to add a box: “I do not give my permission for the Lewiston School Department to report my son’s or daughter’s Social Security numbers for longitudinal data purposes. This is the recommendation from the Lewiston School Committee.”

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New and improved Longley ‘ready to go’

LEWISTON — Longley Elementary School Principal Linda St. Andre gave the Lewiston School Committee an update about progress on the new and improved Longley School. On Monday the staff had its first workshop. The energy in the room was uplifting, St. Andre said. “The excitement in the air will be contagious when students walk in the building.”

Last week the school improvement grant of $2 million from the federal government was officially approved. Ten schools in Maine with persistent low test scores were offered the grant, but with some catches. At Longley it meant a change in the principal and half of the teaching staff.

In addition to a host of new educational initiatives and programs to help students learn better, physical improvements on the school are beginning to show, St. Andre said. The front entrance has been repaved. “The drab cement on the outside has been whitewashed. We’ll be adding bright blue letters, a ‘Longley Elementary School’ sign so people driving by will actually be able to understand there’s a school there.”

Inside the school the lobby has been expanded and made more welcoming. New tile has been laid for a parent center. The school’s mascot is being updated from the mustangs to the Longley lions. Staff and parents are excited about the changes, she said. “We’re ready to go on the right path.”

An open house at Longley will be held from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, she said.

School committee member Walter Morrissette Hill said as a former Longley student, “it warms my heart to see that can-do attitude you have.”

St. Andre responded, “You can be assured I saw lots of that today. I’m very encouraged.”

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