FARMINGTON — Following an executive session on Tuesday, Feb. 10, between the Regional School Unit 9 directors and the teacher’s bargaining unit, Mt. Blue Education Association (EA) President Doug Hodum announced that contract negotiations will transition to a collaborative approach.

“After discussions between negotiating teams, we have decided to move forward in a more solutions-based approach,” Hodum said. “The board of directors and local education association are committed to collaboratively solve remaining issues in the professional staff contract as one group. We appreciate the shared commitment to resolution on this issue. 

Hodum thanked the board and interim Superintendent Monique Poulin for committing to a more collaborative approach. The Mt. Blue EA has been involved with negotiations for more than a year and has previously contested the board’s information shared with the public regarding contract details.

After a presentation by Athletic Director Chad Brackett, the board approved the bylaws for developing a Mt. Blue High School sports hall of fame. The proposed structure includes an inductees and selection committee of up to 12 adult members with ties to district sports and one current student athlete. The committee will receive nominations throughout the year and candidates must receive at least 75% support to be inducted.

Wilton Board Member Cherieann Harrison asked where the funding would come from to install and maintain a sports hall of fame.

Both Brackett and Mt. Blue Middle School Principal James Black said they would seek sponsorship from local businesses and would not ask the board for funding from the district budget.

Farmington Board Member Doug Dunlap inquired about other efforts to recognize different types of achievement.

“I might look for something comparable for other domains of achievement of students in other areas as well as athletics, which I do support very much,” he said.

Brackett said that celebrating alumni from all different walks of life, skill sets and contributions were part of the hall of fame discussions and he hopes this will provide a model for other groups to follow suit.

Also at the board meeting, directors approved new policies regarding harassment and sexual harassment of school employees. They were developed by the Maine School Management Association and the district’s attorneys at Drummond Woodsum. 

Kurt Penney of ReVision Energy provided the board with an update on the 20-acre solar array project in Livermore Falls that will break ground Feb. 16. The district entered a 20-year power purchase agreement with ReVision that Penney said will result in an annual savings of $100,000.

“The original contract was negotiated and signed at the end of 2019 and the hope was that we would get some of the project in the ground by 2019 or early 2020,” Penney said. “And here we are celebrating the fact that we’re putting a shovel in the ground in 2021. So as good as the news may be, there certainly has been patience on the board and a challenging development period.”

Penney also informed the board that the Livermore Falls substation will not be affected by Central Maine Power Co.’s recent claims for multimillion-dollar upgrades in supporting infrastructure needed for solar projects across the state.

Business Manager Kris Pottle reported that the district is halfway through its fiscal year and has 56.4% of its overall budget remaining.

There are specific areas of concern such as out-of-district placements for special education which Pottle said will exceed the district’s budget.

“We generally budget about 90% of what we expect student’s attendance to be and this year having remote services in addition to in-person services, students’ attendance is really high for these students,” Pottle informed the board. “So we’re billed as they attend so that means budgeting for this year wasn’t successful.”

The speech therapy budget has 27.53% remaining due to the district having to contract private pathologists. At this point, Pottle said that hiring two speech therapists would be the most cost effective to meet student needs.

Pottle said she is looking into grant funding to cover remaining special education costs for the fiscal year.

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