BETHEL  — “I spoke to over 20 parents today who are concerned with the bullying that’s going on in our district… Kids are mean. Parents are mean. Politicians are mean. It turns into our kids not sure what to do with it. And so, in turn they end up picking on each other…  As a district we have to do better, ” said parent Destiny Hughes at the start of the District #44 School Board meeting at Telstar High School in Bethel.

Hughes referenced a segment aired earlier in the day on Fox 23 Maine with the headline: 80% of Maine districts, schools report zero bullying incidents.  Reporter Marissa Bodnar interviewed Megan Cummings, a Telstar parent who said her two children had been bullied. Telstar principal, Mark Kenney was also interviewed.

Dave Bartlett, of the school board, said he felt bullying should be immediately researched, talking to teachers and students about the seriousness of the issue. “I think bullying is the #1 enemy in our schools … we need to nip this in the bud immediately and look into this.”

“Before we continue searching for the next superintendent we need to find somebody who is transparent, who wants to talk about it even though its kind of uncomfortable,” said Hughes

David Murphy, superintendent of schools, thanked Hughes saying, “We have a very specific process. I think there is a lot of work that is done. Not to say we can’t do better.”

“Destiny said it well,” continued Murphy. “If you look at the world.  The world is a crazy place right now. Kids sometimes bring what they learn to school. We have to make sure we police it in the best way we can.”


Repeating something Kenney said in the TV segment, Murphy said, “If there were zero cases reported to the state that doesn’t mean that there weren’t a lot of case investigations that were done.”

In his superintendent’s report, Murphy noted Sheryl Morgan, board member, who was applauded when Murphy presented her an MSMA (Maine School Management Association) award requiring a minimum of 12 years on the school board. Morgan first served from 1977-1987. Then she returned and has been a member for the past 13 years. “She happened to be a member of the board back when I was hired in 1984,” said Murphy.

Other business

An air quality/air conditioning project at the Crescent Park School has increased in price since the original proposal. The project, the largest part of the ESSER 3, Covid-funded federal grant would provide air conditioning to 18 classrooms in the newer part of the building.

“The initial budget for the work was in the $800,000 to $900,000 range. The prices have just skyrocketed,” said Jim Lucey, of Honeywell, the group undertaking the project. “The new price is just under $1.15 million. The proposal includes construction management, design, and commissioning of said project. The general scope is to upgrade that existing heating and ventilation unit to add air conditioning … a nice system that allows room to room control for heating ventilation and cooling.” Fall of 2023 is the target date for the completion of the work.

Murphy said Mahoosuc Kids uses part of the space in the summer and the new system would allow for other groups to use more. “We have some school districts at the beginning of this school year, in state, that closed because of heat. We are experiencing warmer weather in June and September.” The board approved a short term loan of $220,000 at 5.25% to cover the difference.


The board approved two new positions: a kindergarten teacher at the Woodstock School and a music teacher who works at both Woodstock and Crescent Park School. Both women have received emergency certification from the state. A board member questioned if they had bachelor’s degrees. They do not. Murphy said, “this is what we’re running into across the state. The position has been posted since the summer… Both of those people have done an outstanding job (as long-term substitutes) … both come highly recommended by Miss Wilkey and Miss Arsenault. (Woodstock and Crescent Park principals).”

Effective January 1, 2023 are state increases to raise the minimum wage to $13.80. Passing the increase locally will affect substitute custodians, food service workers and secretaries. “I feel that we ought to have a minimum wage of $15 per hour for any substitute positions under this proposal. Where we’ve had such a good increase in pay for other teachers, I think people on the bottom should get more than what the minimum wage should be. I will vote this down,” said Board Member David Bartlett. Murphy suggested voting affirmatively now to get people up to the mandatory wage and later considering the higher rate. The board approved the motion, with two members opposed.

Special Education Director Jeanne Cordeiro said, “Since the development of our budget for this fiscal year, we’ve had 19 special education students that have moved into the district with current IEP’s (Individual Education Plans)”

“We’d like to add another case worker to the Telstar complex,” continued Murphy.  “I want to give kudos to Jeanne Cordeiro for doing everything in her power to shuffle around and rearrange,” Cordeiro said, “the state cap for our special education case managers is 35 (students). We are currently at 32. we’re looking at 34 in the next week in a half. We need another person to meet these students needs.” The board voted to approve advertising the position.





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