SALEM TOWNSHIP — Nearly two dozen Mt. Abram High School students started their Tuesday morning outside the classroom.

They stood along Route 142 in front of the school, holding signs that asked passers-by to take notice that their school was in the midst of troubled times.

Brandon Haines, Dakota Bailey, Jasmin Hinkley and Brooklynn Brown acted as spokespeople for the rest of the members of the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes that participated in the peaceful picketing.

The students’ requests were very clear, Haines said. Students should be represented on the school board, and teachers who have worked without a contract for three years should receive the respect and compensation they have earned.

Several teachers and administrators have accepted positions outside the district, and students blamed the school board for the exodus. Several students suggested that the entire board should resign and communities should start over with new representatives for their towns.

“We want all the members on there now to be removed,” Haines said. “They haven’t worked for us so far, so why should we expect that they will work for us in the future?”

Many community members have supported the students’ concerns, Hinkley said, and would be willing to hold elections to replace the 14 directors.

Some students were worried they would be forced to disband when a Maine State Police cruiser drove into the parking lot.

“They can’t arrest us,” one student told others who were preparing to leave.

The students regrouped and continued to hold up their signs. Many travel to school from Eustis, Carrabassett Valley and several townships and plantations in the unorganized territories. Those students pay tuition but don’t have a vote in the board’s decisions. They still are affected by the decisions, and one student said she was discouraged by the recent news that experienced staff members would not return to the district in the fall.

“We might not be able to replace those teachers, and the kids will have to go to other schools,” said Rebecca Dow of Stratton.

She said students like herself, who have both honors and advanced placement classes, have such tight schedules that they have little time to meet with teachers for assistance. The school board does not seem to understand the problems students face with the low morale, staff resignations and schedule restrictions, she said.

Principal Marco Aliberti and Dean of Students James Black spoke with the group, noting that, as administrators, they were responsible for the safety of students. Aliberti said he would contact each person’s parents to confirm approval of their son’s or daughter’s participation in the demonstration. He also requested students return to the building because of safety concerns.

“You’re outside here unattended,” he told them. “You should be inside for safety reasons.”

Students listened respectfully but continued their demonstration as Aliberti and Black returned to the high school building.


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