SALEM TOWNSHIP — The Maine Emergency Management Agency has awarded SAD 58 a $17,000 grant to help upgrade Mt. Abram High School’s security.

Improvements include installing exterior security cameras and an interior “panic button,” similar to those used by banks to call for help during a robbery. Additionally, all exterior doors will be numbered for efficient identification by first responders and emergency management personnel.

“We have Tim Hardy to thank for making this happen,” Superintendent Brenda Stevens said at the school board’s Thursday evening meeting.

Hardy is the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency director. He, Stevens, SAD 58 staff and Franklin County Sheriff Scott Nichols Sr. have collaborated to plan for any emergencies the five district schools may encounter. Nichols also has requested a blueprint layout of the buildings so officers can be familiar with exits, classrooms and offices.

In other news, directors learned that the state Department of Education’s grade of D for Mt. Abram High School was based on inaccurate data. The grade will be corrected to C.

The LePage administration’s process of grading public schools with letters from A to F has received mixed reviews in the district. Strong, Phillips and Stratton elementary schools received A’s, while Kingfield Elementary School received a C. Those elementary schools were graded on the results of math and reading assessment tests and improvement in those scores year to year.

Mt. Abram High School was graded on a different formula, including math and reading tests, improvement or decline in those scores year to year, and student graduation rates. Corrections to data errors will give the high school a grade of C, Stevens said. Whether Gov. Paul LePage or Stephen Bowen, commissioner of the Department of Education, will acknowledge the error is another matter.

“That’s kind of irresponsible,” board member Marc Edwards noted. “Can we expect some sort of apology or press release?”

Stevens said that since the governor’s office requested and published the Maine Department of Education’s incorrect information, she could not provide that assurance to directors.

The Mt. Blue Regional School District, RSU 9, based in Farmington has proposed again this year combining the SAD 58 adult education program with its. Directors agreed unanimously to enter a partnership.

The $16,900 state subsidy for adult education will go to RSU 9 next year, rather than to SAD 58, but the district will save $17,500 in administrative costs and salaries. SAD 58 directors can revisit their decision to subcontract the Adult Education program next year. Rangeley’s school district also has pursued that choice, according to Stevens.

“My understanding is that it was cheaper for them to go with Mt. Blue,” she said.

At least one SAD 58 board member will collaborate with RSU 9 to conduct a needs assessment and determine what courses might be added, modified or eliminated.

Spanish language teacher Steve Parrett and students Emma Houston and Maggie Elliott reported on their trip to Costa Rica, where they stayed in local families’ homes. Health care, education and environmental protection were residents’ primary concerns and the country does not have a military force, Parrett explained. The culture is very different, as is the weather, food and language, they said.

“I had three kids on this trip who had never been on a plane or out of Maine,” Parrett said. “It’s a pleasure to share this with them.”

Students often come back transformed, Parrett said. Usually, two or three students decide they want to pursue further study in the language or international culture and environmental sustainability, he said. Students learned much about what they had in common with other cultures, but some things didn’t need to be translated.

“You learn that soccer doesn’t need a language,” Houston told the audience.

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