DIXFIELD — Superintendent Pam Doyen advised Regional School Unit 56 directors Tuesday night that a new state mandate requires hiring a teacher for English Language Learner services.

No longer will the district be able to contract a consultant or use educational technicians, according to a letter received Tuesday from the Maine Department of Education, she said.

“Moving forward the consultation model of services is not going to be considered sufficient for schools, nor will an ed tech to provide the services,” Doyen read from the notice.

“I think this is going to be really interesting because there are no ELL teachers” in the area, she said. “It’s going to be a great mandate that none of us can meet, which I don’t know how that’s going to play out,” she said.

The district has a few students at Dirigo Elementary School in Peru and Dirigo High School in Dixfield who qualify for ELL services. They are served by a contracted consultant who prepares testing and coursework plans, and educational technician in the classroom.

Doyen said she was prepared to make a request for an additional educational technician in her 2020-21 budget.

As directors got other information on the coming budget, elementary school Principal Charlie Swan requested continuing services from a behavioral health professional to support students in crisis and help connect families to potential support and services in the community.

The school provides 30 hours of mental health services per week paid with money left from the previous school year. Swan is asking for 12 to 18 hours of services per week in 2020-21.

He said the behavioral health professional has been a tremendous support. “She works with families who are in crisis, kids who are in crisis, she works with the homeless in our building trying to connect them with resources,” he said.

Jason Long, principal at T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School in Dixfield, said part of his plan for staffing next year is to replace an an English, language and arts teaching interventionist with an educational technician interventionist, which would cost less.

“This schedule configuration will allow greater flexibility for intervention services, however it does rely on staff teaching multiple content areas,” Long said.

Seniors from Dirigo High School in Dixfield stand next to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City last fall. From left are Emma Abbott, Autumn Sweatt, Hailey Ricci, Haylee Wing, Alysa St. Cyr, Dimitri Harvey and Cole Gordon. Submitted photo

In other news, Dirigo High School seniors Emma Abbott and Dimitri Harvey told directors about the trip they and five classmates took to New York City last fall to see the 9/11 Memorial Museum and the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

The two alternative education students began their study of the Holocaust with classmates Hailey Ricci, Autumn Sweatt, Cole Gordon, Alysa St. Cyr and Haylee Wing last year at Dirigo High School with teacher Rachel Buck. They read “Night,” a Holocaust memoir by Elie Wiesel, followed by several class discussions about the Holocaust and the experiences of those placed in numerous concentration camps during World War II.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and we as a class will forever be grateful for the experience,” Buck said.

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