LEWISTON — A retired Lewiston High School teacher questioned the Lewiston School Committee’s decision of creating two new student deans from existing teachers to deal with discipline problems.

The deans are not necessary and the discipline problems at the high school are not out of line, insisted Crystal Ward, who retired from Lewiston High School as a government teacher in 2008. She is a former president of the Lewiston Education Association.

Ward requested the committee place the dean positions on hold “until superintendent and principal can come in here and provide this board with data that shows the urgent, necessary need to yank two highly qualified teachers out of the classroom in the middle of the school year,” Ward said.

Committee members listened but did not react. They did not take action on her suggestion.

“Crystal has made this a personal crusade not to have this go forward,” Superintendent Bill Webster said after the meeting Monday night. “Our goal is to improve student success.” When the proposal was presented Dec. 16, it was something the committee wanted to try, Webster said.

Last month, Lewiston High School Principal Linda MacKenzie told committee members that since school started in the fall, the total number of times students had been sent from a class to the principal’s office was 989.

“It’s a huge problem,” she said, saying when they’re sent out of the classroom students aren’t learning. There had been 200 student referrals to the principal’s office for skipping detention, 171 for unexcused tardiness, 53 for disrupting class, 46 for incorrectly using technology (cellphones), and 79 for acting defiantly.

MacKenzie said the assistant principals spend 60 to 75 percent of their time dealing with student behavior and don’t have time to work on the new teacher evaluation program.

She recommended promoting two teachers to deans of students. The goal is that the deans could work with teachers, giving them skills to deal with students and avoid sending some to the office.

Webster agreed, as did committee members which voted 7-2.

Ward said Monday that students need teachers, not more administrators. The school has one principal and three assistant principals for 1,300 students and that is plenty, she said.

The rate of behavioral issues is “also in the normal range as shown by the data presented you,” Ward said. “There is no huge behavioral problem at Lewiston High School. It’s all well within the normal range.”

The high school has teacher coaches, professional development and teachers are able to get other teachers for mentors and/or set up teams, Ward said. “That whole structure is there to help deal with all those types of situations.”

Webster said Monday night the deans would not be administrators but teachers.

Candidates for deans are being interviewed, Webster said. The goal is to have the deans on board this year, he said.

Crowded Martel Elementary ‘maxed out’

LEWISTON — To provide relief to overcrowded classrooms and keep pace with enrollment that’s growing by 100 students a year, there could be portable classrooms at Martel or Farwell elementary school in the next two years.

Giving Lewiston School Committee members a look at preliminary capital improvement projects Monday night, Superintendent Bill Webster said there would be no portable classrooms unless new teachers were hired in upcoming budgets.

At Martel Elementary, there are a couple of grade levels with 28 or 29 students per class. “The school is maxed out,” Webster said, adding portable classrooms are not ideal and that they would take up parking.

Another alternative could be expanding Farwell to have three grades per class level, with eight portable classrooms, and busing Martel students to Farwell.

The above proposals could stay the same or change depending on “more information from the state on if and when they’re going to finance a new elementary school,” Webster said. The sooner that happens, the less need there would be portable classrooms.

Lewiston is adding 100 students or more each year. “We need additional space,” Webster said.

In the last round of approved school construction projects, the state “funded the first six, Martel is number eight and Longley is number 20,” Webster said. “It’s coming,” he said, but added there’s no way to predict when.

Other building improvement recommendations that could become part of budgets included:

* Improved ventilation in the print shop at Lewiston High School and air conditioning in the offices. At times this summer, the temperature got to 100 degrees, Webster said.

* A new roof, bathroom renovations and asbestos tile abatement at Montello.

* A good look or a study to improve playgrounds city-wide.

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