FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 Director Craig Stickney of Chesterville challenged the board Tuesday, Dec. 11 regarding the accuracy of the Nov. 13 meeting minutes on an executive session.

Stickney did not attend the session, which was called to discuss the employment of officials, appointees or employees. No action was taken following the session.

“Obviously there was action,” Stickney said to Chairwoman Cherieann Harrison. “Who made the decision to have the board member you discussed to meet with you and vice chair, Irving Faunce?”

Harrison said she invited Stickney to meet with her. “As the chair, I can choose to meet with board members,” she said.

“For action to be taken, there has to be a vote by the board,” Director Scott Erb of Farmington said. “There was no vote. If the superintendent or chair talks about things they may do, that is not an action.”

A motion by Stickney to have the minutes show action was taken during executive session failed by a weighted vote of 124-762. Stickney and Jesse Sillanpaa of Industry voted for the motion; newly appointed director Ryan Morgan of Farmington abstained.

Sillanpaa then moved to dissolve the practice of voting on a consent agenda going forward. The consent agenda groups routine business, such as approving new hires and meeting minutes into one action.

“I’d like to have the chance to discuss each individual item, especially new hires. It should be standard procedure going forward so we don’t just rubber stamp it,” he stated.

“The consent agenda allows us to move quickly,” explained Harrison. “If there is something we want to address, we can remove things from the consent agenda to discuss individually. That is always an option.”

The motion failed by a weighted vote of 272-614. Stickney, Sillanpaa, Debbie Smith, Iris Silverstein, and Lisa Laflin voted in favor of the motion. Morgan abstained.

In other matters, directors learned the district faced a serious challenge with hiring and retaining employees to fill custodian and bus driver positions.

Director Jeff Harris of New Sharon, chairman of the Operations Committee, said, “We are struggling to fill the positions for custodians. Some days the transportation department is struggling with how to get kids to school.”

The three-year contract, which was negotiated over the summer, requires custodians to also be able to drive a bus, Superintendent Tina Meserve said.

“Custodial services positions are not being filled because applicants do not want to be bus drivers, so they apply elsewhere,” she added.

The wage scale is out of sync with neighboring districts, which adds to the challenge of filling positions, Harris said.

Newly hired RSU 9 bus drivers earn about $13 an hour and neighboring districts pay $17 an hour, Meserve said.

“If they can get better pay elsewhere, they are not going to apply here,” she said.

“Since the pay scale falls well below what bus drivers in other districts are getting, perhaps we should address this in the upcoming budget,” Harris said.

The first workshop for the 2019-20 budget is Jan. 29, Harrison said.

Harrison reviewed board terms which are expiring June 30, 2019. She urged those interested to check with their town office to review the nomination process. Seats held by Farmington directors Doug Dunlap, Morgan and Erb of Farmington; New Sharon director Harris; Wilton director Harrison; Temple director Betsey Hyde; Vienna director Lidie Robbins; and Chesterville director Stickney have terms expiring.

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