BETHEL — Community Concepts has embraced MSAD 44’s idea to restart the early learning center that closed on Feb. 24 in the Gem Theatre building. The objective, said Superintendent David Murphy at a school board meeting held March 13, is for SAD 44 to act as a facilitator.

Murphy said the Bingham Betterment Foundation has offered a $30,000 donation for the day care. Dana Bullen, president of Sunday River Ski Resort, has offered his support, too, and will give a $25,000 donation. Bullen would like to help with a match to that amount.

Murphy said there are grants they are hoping to get, as well. His hope going forward is that the district can help fund the things that Community Concepts can’t fund. He’d like the cost per day to be more affordable than it was. Murphy also thanked Sunday River. Their day care helped some of the families that were displaced.

The new early learning center at the Gem will not be up and running until the end of 2023, or beginning of 2024, said Murphy.


A motion that was, “a recommendation of the superintendent-elect that building principal positions be established for both Telstar Middle School and Telstar High School and that both positions be advertised first internally and then externally if necessary,” was amended after some discussion. In the final motion the board eliminated the words, “and then externally if necessary.”  The amended motion passed with two members opposed.


The board voted to establish separate principal positions for the high school and junior high school, as was the case before Mark Kenney, superintendent-elect, stepped into the dual role in 2018.

Regarding search wording in the motion, Margaret Davis, of Bethel, said,, “If we really are offensively looking for good candidates then it needs to be an external and internal posting, simultaneously…it feels really messy and really gray to me and I think we need to be very clear of what is the criteria what are the circumstances that are met when we decide to go from internal to external. What does that mean?”

Murphy said, choosing to develop a policy was within the purview of the school board, but, “the goal of the district was to develop a strong bench. Historically it had been more difficult to get someone from outside in, who stayed.

“Typically you would do your internal interviews and then make a determination that you wanted to go external … I don’t think this decision is being made because a decision has been made,” said Murphy.

“I don’t think that is transparent,” said Davis.

As an aside, Davis mentioned that “numbers-wise” support staff for Crescent Park seems more warranted since the numbers are higher there than at Telstar. CPS has 282 students, versus 165-175 at each the middle and high schools.


Davis said she couldn’t stand behind a policy and process that has no internal external definitions. School board member, Scott Cole agreed with Davis.

Murphy said they were up against the clock as they are hoping to get the positions filled by the end of the school.

Another member asked for job descriptions for both the dean and the principal positions.

“Eleven of 15 school board members had absolutely nothing to do with the selection of the incoming superintendent,” said Cole.

“You all voted on it,” said Murphy.

“We all voted but that was at the end of an unfortunate process. It has nothing to do with the individual. But it has everything to do with the process,” said Cole.


Another member asked if there could be an additional “special” board meeting to further the discussion. A policy change would take two meetings, said Murphy.

Stephanie Ericson made an amendment to the motion, to post two principal positions internally, then to later vote on an external search if necessary. The board (except for Davis and Cole) agreed to striking the language, “and then externally if necessary,” from the motion.

Other business

The school board finance committee spokesperson said energy, insurance and negotiated increases are all impacting the budget proposal for fiscal year 2024.  Ninety-two percent of the budget is fixed costs. They expect an increase to the budget, but will also receive state aid and an increase in tuition payments. They expect to have their review ready by the April 7 meeting.

Ms. Taylor presented a Region 9 report. She said the facilities committee started work on an outdoor culinary setting that is being paid for with a grant. They are interviewing candidates for the Adult Education director. Welding, culinary arts and building projects are their most popular programs. They have 11 staff members at Region 9.

Murphy said they are reposting the bid for the portable classroom beside the high school.  They lowered the minimum bid to $8,000.


The bus garage project estimate in 2019 was $1,000,884. The proposal this time came in as double, said Murphy. $3,000,694. is the new price tag.  The proposed garage is smaller than the existing bus garage.

Chayanna Millett-Cordwell of Jobs for Maine Grads (JMG) gave a presentation to the board. She said JMG services 8th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders in the program that started in 2019.  Two Telstar seniors, Violet Howe and Dakota Hart spoke about JMG. Hart credited Millett-Cordwell with helping him get back on track following COVID. He’ll be enrolled in CMCC next year. Howe completed her 40 hours in November working for Bethel Rescue.

The Telstar Freshman Academy staff delivered a comprehensive presentation on their “re-envisioned and revamped year.” TFA began in 2014. The learning is experiential, place based, integrated and project based. Each staffer presented individually, outlining their roles within the program.

Mark Kenney gave the board the school calendar that he had aligned with administrators at RSU 56, RSU 10, Andover, Region 9 and SAD 17. He said, there cannot be more than five days that are different between the six districts. School will start before Labor Day with a five day roll-out. SAD 44 has eight workshop days. Graduation in 2024 will be June 7; the last day of school will be June 6 if there are no snow days. The board approved the calendar.

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