Cape Elizabeth School Board: Grant policy doesn’t comply with law

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Only days after the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation criticized a proposed new School Board policy on receiving grants and gifts, the board said its existing policy is out of compliance with state law.

According to a statement on the School Department website, the board was notified of the situation by its attorney, Bruce Smith, of Portland-based Drummond Woodsum.

Smith on Wednesday said he is not allowed to discuss the issue “at this point.”

School Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Scifres wouldn’t say why or how the policy is out of compliance, and referred questions to Superintendent of Schools Meredith Nadeau.

Nadeau didn’t return several phone calls about the situation.

The chairwoman of the board’s policy committee, Barbara Powers, also wouldn’t say how the policy is out of compliance, but said the issue is minor.

“It’s not hugely out of compliance, but it impacts what we do going forward,” she said.

The policy committee was scheduled to meet Monday, June 6, to discuss the policy, but the meeting was postponed at the advice of Smith. It will be rescheduled in July when newly hired interim superintendent, Howard Colter, starts work.

Scifres said the issue should be easy to fix.

“I feel pretty confident that we’ll be able to rewrite it in a single meeting or two,” she said. “We plan to have legal counsel present to guide us.”

The policy is being revised by the policy committee, which prompted criticism last week from the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation. CEEF urged members to protest the changes, which foundation President James Britt said are a threat to the organization’s independent operation.

The existing policy, which has been in effect since December 2006, allows teachers or school staffers to apply for and accept grants after meeting with teacher-advisers on the CEEF board.

The revised policy would make grants from organizations like CEEF more difficult to acquire by requiring any grant of $5,000 or more to receive prior approval from the School Department business administrator and the superintendent of schools, followed by School Board review.

Additionally, grant proposals would have to disclose any costs to the School Department for facility maintenance and additional staff, and whether there would be impact on any school buildings.

Grants of less than $5,000 would require approval from the school principal.

According to the school district website, the policy is being revised as part of a complete policy manual audit, which has been taking place over the past five years. The first reading of the revised policy took place May 10, and still needs to go through one more reading before it can be approved.

“We recognize significant work remains to be done to reflect concerns from both the district and the granting organizations,” according to the website.

Britt couldn’t be reached for comment about the existing policy being out of state compliance.

Scifres said the board will keep CEEF and other factors in mind when the policy is brought into compliance.

“Our goal is to find a solution that complies with the law while satisfying the needs of the School Department and keeps a positive relationship with granting organizations,” she said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.