School Administrative District 17 Superintendent Monica Henson speaks Monday at the board of directors meeting in Paris on issues she has tackled in her first 90 days with the eight-town district. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

PARIS — School Administrative District 17 Superintendent Monica Henson introduced two senior administrators to the board of directors Monday night, saying she is expanding their roles.

Heather Manchester is chief academic officer and Jan Neureuther is chief student services officer.

Henson said the titles represent the expanded authority she has given them as leaders of the executive team. Their realigned roles allows them to assume more strategic leadership and do less technical work that can be handled by others in their departments, she said.

Manchester is listed in the online staff directory as curriculum director and Neureuther as director of special services.

In her report to the board, Manchester talked about outdoor education at Roberts Farm Preserve in Norway. The district has hired teacher Sarah Kearsley, who will be based at the farm on Roberts Road.

Kearsley is reaching out to stakeholders, including school district principals, Western Foothills Land Trust, Healthy Oxford Hills, the University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond and Sarah Timm, an outdoor education coordinator at Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris.

She is developing new systems to maximize use of the farm, including establishing fifth grade education as the focus of farm visits and projects, although Manchester said all grades will be included.

Kearsley is also applying for three grants to support outdoor learning, one to study and test water quality, one for warm clothing for outdoor learning and one to support an outing club at Oxford Hills Middle School.

Manchester said there are plans for professional development, learning targets and initiatives on establishing math knowledge baselines and acquiring kits and texts to improve math performance.

Neureuther said a nurse has been hired to set up groups of students for COVID-19 testing pools and provide for home tests and reports. A new secretary in the nursing department will help with contact tracing.

Neureuther also updated the board on special education staffing and adjustments to the Guidance Department so counselors are more accessible in the smaller schools.

Reporting on her first 90 days as superintendent, Henson said she has contacted several town managers and select boards in the district, addressed local groups such as the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce and Oxford Hills Rotary Club, and established a traveling office to spend a day working at different schools.

The district includes Paris, Norway, Oxford, Otisfield, Harrison, Hebron, Waterford and West Paris.

One area of concern Henson pointed to is there is little written procedure for administrators and educators to follow. Departments such as human resources and finance have no policy manuals and there is no employee handbook. She told directors she is in creating them and will have legal counsel vet them before sharing them with the board for final approval. There will also be a top-to-bottom review of all job descriptions, she said.


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