Board of Directors Newsletter

February 2022

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RSU 29 School Board Meeting February 7, 2022

Many in our community are not able to attend school board meetings and this newsletter is an effort to briefly summarize RSU 29 school board meetings and happenings.

Chair Grant spoke of trying to increase communication to our communities, which is the intent of this newsletter. In addition, Fred spoke of looking to reach out to other school boards regionally and coordinating with them on resources and information.

Old Business

The board approved the second reading and adoption of five policies, which included updates to each. Those five polices are as follows:

Family and Medical Leave

Staff Conduct With Students


Student Code of Conduct

Workplace Bullying

New Business

The board approved two club sports: lacrosse and unified basketball. Northern Maine Lacrosse has functioned as a club sport for five years in our area with many children across several grades participating. Unified basketball is entirely new and this activity at RSU29 will be the first in Aroostook County. Unified basketball involves joining children with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. Both of these new sports come at no cost to RSU29. We are very pleased to have both join us at RSU 29.

Joe Fagnant (RSU29 Director of Operations) discussed the need for an Emergency Management Committee to update the district plan and asked for board members to be part of the effort. Scott White and Sue McLauglin volunteered.

Superintendent's Report

Superintendent Rick Lyons and Director of Health Services, Holly Hodgkins provided an update on COVID-19 in the district (included is a link to the slide set). In comparing all three schools (HES, HSS, HMHS) between December of 2021 and January of 2022 there are increases in positive cases in all schools and more positive pools. The Houlton Elementary School and Houlton Middle High Schools are now considered in outbreak status by the Maine Center for Disease Control (ME CDC) standards. Those guidelines indicate that a school must make their communities aware of an outbreak status when 15% or more of its population are absent per day due to illness, which includes any illness, not only COVID-19. There are other Aroostook County schools in outbreak status. Please visit the RSU 29 website for the COVID-19 dashboard, which provides the most up to date COVID-19 numbers by school.

Rick Lyons announced the retirements of five long time RSU 29 educators:

· Debbie Melvin (38 years)

· Linda Goodall (46 years)

· Sarah Howland (35 years)

· Andrea Tidd (39 years)

· Julie Dunn (43 years)

Public Participation

Three members of the public spoke in opposition to universal masking and pool testing at our schools. There were no motions made related to masking in the schools.

Financial Statements

Wendy Bradstreet (RSU29 Business Manager) provided a brief update on financial statements, which indicated the district is on track with financial projections for the current school year.

Executive Session

The board entered into executive session to discuss a personnel matter in the library. The board returned to the auditorium without further action and the meeting was adjourned at approximately 8:00 pm.

The next school board meeting is Monday, March 7th at 6pm in the HMHS auditorium. School board meetings are typically held the first Monday of each month, except for July and August unless needed.

School Board Corner

We are saddened by the announcement of the retirement of five long time and treasured staff in our district, but we wish them all the best in retirement.

We are thrilled to welcome the sports of both lacrosse and unified basketball to our district. The first games of the unified basketball will be played in the near future.

A recent conversation with a concerned parent highlighted that as a school board, we may not have been as clear as we could have been that our foremost goal for this school year is to keep as many kids in school as possible. The policies supported by the majority of the board are aimed at having children in school as much as possible under the current pandemic guidelines.

A school district in central Aroostook County, comparable in size to RSU29 has been specific in outlining how they feel their district can consider a change to their universal masking policy. Those changes include meeting all of the following benchmarks.

1. A significant reduction in COVID-19 cases in our schools for two or more weeks.

2. A significant reduction in COVID-19 cases in Aroostook County for two or more weeks.

3. The number of students and staff who are enrolled in pooled testing or are fully vaccinated reaches 85%. For reference currently RSU29 is at 65% participation in pool testing and vaccination rates for students and staff is at 52.8%.

At present if the universal masking mandate were removed, students and staff would be required to quarantine if not fully vaccinated and/or part of the pool testing. We have an approximately 65% of our students and staff are fully vaccinated and/or are enrolled in pool testing. If it were not for the masking, up 35% of our students and staff could be subjected to the five-day quarantine from school if considered a close contact.

Superintendent's Corner

A. Audit - The district audit has been completed for fiscal year 2021. Davis, Gates and Alward is the firm that audits RSU#29 financial documents. A representative from the firm will present an overview to the Board of Directors at our March 7th meeting.

This past Friday the 11th of February Business Manager Bradstreet and I met with the firm to receive an overview. I am extremely pleased to announce no material weaknesses were found, basically meaning our audit is very impressive.

B. Budget 2022-2023 - The administrative team is currently developing the first draft of fiscal year 2023 budget. I anticipate the first public presentation to be in late March - early April. I will provide an update in our March newsletter.

C. Emergency Management Plan - We currently are providing an annual update to the district's emergency management plan. This plan outlines our three schools' health and safety components. A steering committee, along with Mr. Fagnant, will review our three schools and provide updates to strengthen our health and safety plans. If any member of the public has a desire to be a member of this steering committee, please be in contact with me.

D. Student Testing - Recently, students in grades 4 and 8 participated in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This is a common measure of student achievement across the country. When the results are received, they will be shared in a future publication.

E. Calendar 2021-2022 - As of this writing we have missed three days due to inclement weather. As such, the last student day will be Wednesday, June 15, 2022.