FARMINGTON — The Regional School Unit 9 Board of Directors approved the proposed Administrator Professional Evaluation and Professional Growth (PEPG) system as well as updates to the district’s language acquisition program Tuesday, Nov. 24.

The new, biannual system uses the three current evaluation components but alters the weight of each one.

The weight of the superintendent’s evaluations of administrators will increase from 30% to 40%. Student achievement data will decrease from 50% to 20% of the weighted evaluation. The achievement of an administrator’s growth goals will increase from 20% to 40% of the evaluation.

Prior to the vote, board member Debbie Smith expressed concern about the weight of the student data component decreasing.

Mt. Blue Principal James Black who presented the evaluation system, said that student data consistently fluctuates based on changing standards released by the Maine Education Association. Black also said that it will be particularly difficult to measure student data this year due to the pandemic.

Black added that the PEPG component weights now match teacher evaluations.

“This also does align with the teacher data, it’s 20% of the teacher’s plan as well. So we tried to model it as closely to the teachers as well,” Black said. 

Board member Jesse Sillanpaa asked why a new evaluation system for administrators was developed.

Superintendent Tina Meserve said the PEPG took one to two years to design and was in response to the district’s lack of a solid evaluation plan.

“So we didn’t really have a system, we just had a set of materials with no timeline or how we were going to score things other than the 30-20-50,” Meserve said, in reference to previous component weights. “It didn’t say what achievement data would be used, it didn’t say when it would be done.”

Board member Doug Dunlap asked as to how Black became involved in the PEPG’s development.

Black said that he’s been working on an educational leadership mentorship under Meserve’s supervision for the past two years and that developing the PEPG was one of his agenda items.

Meserve also said that herself, and Coordinator of Coronavirus Relief Funds Sue Pratt worked on developing the evaluation system.

Curriculum Coordinator Laura Columbia presented to the board proposed updates to the district’s language acquisition program plan.

The updates include more current terms compared to the 2005 plan, changes as to how English language learners (ELL) are identified, how plans are developed and how a student can access academics and other programming.

“This is about the whole student. It’s not just about the classroom, so this is about extra-curriculars,” Columbia said. “We also go into detail as to how the tests are going to be administered, how we do monitoring and how a student exits the program. If a student has a higher than 4.5 on their test, they can exit the ELL program, but they’ll still be monitored.

Columbia said there are currently six students at the elementary school level that are identified as English language learners.

Following the board’s first agenda item, an executive session to discuss a personnel matter, public comment was held. More than 180 Zoom participants listened to parents, teachers, staff members and a former teacher voice on-going concerns related to Meserve’s leadership, teacher contract negotiations and COVID-19 safety.

Mt. Blue High School teacher Joanna Snell who serves on the district’s Health and Safety committee, said that the committee hasn’t met since August 18.

“If faculty input is no longer coming from that committee, where is it coming from?” she asked. “The questions we had about proper ventilation for every space in each school, including bathrooms which are particularly poorly ventilated, have still not been answered adequately, with specifics to different spaces, and we now know that aerosols contribute the most to the spread of the virus. It feels that there is a lack of transparency around safety.”

Parent and All-Sports Boosters President Mike Bolduc expressed appall at the fact that teachers are currently working without contracts.

“To see the morale the way it is right now and how our teachers are being treated is frankly embarrassing,” he said.

Parent Elizabeth Tracy announced to the board that a community petition showing no confidence in Meserve’s leadership now has about 400 signatures. Once the count of signatures is complete, the petition will be sent to board members.

Athletic Director Chad Brackett presented to the board an update to the Maine Principal’s Association (MPA) policies on winter sports.

The MPA has released sports guidance for schools that states masks must be worn at all times, no spectators are allowed at competitions, and indoor capacity is capped at 50 people and outdoor sport gatherings at 100 people. It has also advised against basketball and cheerleading tournaments. 

The following dates were suggested to begin winter sports:

Dec. 7:  skills and drills (individual exercises and physically distanced)

Dec. 14:  practices and competitions within teams 

Jan. 11:  competition among teams in geographic area 

Brackett said that geographic area is open to people’s interpretation. 

The board will vote on Tues., Dec. 8, as to whether they approve of the MPA’s winter sports guidelines and recommendations. The adoption of these guidelines is dependent upon COVID-19 cases decreasing and Franklin County reverting back to a low-risk green zone.

As long as Franklin County remains a yellow zone, all RSU 9 afterschool activities are suspended. If the board approves the MPA guidelines, their decision in September to halt competitive sports due to the coronavirus would be reversed.

In other business, the board approved an equipment trade proposal from the Foster Career and Technical Education Center (Foster CTE) so that updated equipment can be purchased for the forestry program.

A John Deere 4105 Tractor, a Fransgard winch, a Junkkari tractor chipper and a Wallenstein BXT4213 chipper will be traded in for $16,500. This money will be applied towards the $24,325 purchase of a Wallenstein log loader.

“This will be a great improvement to some of our equipment,” Foster CTE Director Melissa Williams said.

Meserve said that the remaining $7,825 of the log loader purchase will be  covered by the Perkins grant.

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