Police officer cut from SAD 51 budget gets reprieve for new school year

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CUMBERLAND — Although the position was not included in the school budget, School Administrative District 51 will retain the police officer assigned to the school system in the new school year.

The school resource officer, a position historically about 70 percent funded by the Cumberland-North Yarmouth school district, will stay under the same funding scheme this year.

Hoping to keep the budget as low as possible, SAD 51 initially decided to cut the position in hopes that Cumberland would secure federal stimulus funding for the job.

Police Chief Joe Charron reported to the Town Council Monday that the grant is still pending – it was not accepted for the first round of funds, but with future funds possible, it has also not been denied. But with school starting next Wednesday, Sept. 2, SAD 51 decided to retain the position and may use contingency funds to cover the cost.

Superintendent Robert Hasson said it’s also possible that when hirings are completed for the school year, there will be surplus in other personnel accounts that might go toward the officer’s $38,000 salary.

Two other positions cut from this year’s budget – the deans at the high and middle schools – will be replaced by teachers and administrators. Curriculum Director David Galin said both groups will be expected to maintain or increase “proactive support for students” previously provided by the deans. Additionally, he said principals and assistant principals at both levels will pick up administrative work done by the deans.

The former high school dean, Dan McKeone, was rehired as the high school assistant principal at the end of last year, leaving the leadership team at all schools largely the same.

New to the high school in the upcoming year is the International Baccalaureate program, a curriculum designed for juniors and seniors interested in taking global-minded courses or earning a diploma from the program. Galin said nearly a third of the incoming juniors will be involved with the program, with almost 40 students taking at least one IB course in addition to the 21 students enrolled in the full diploma program.

To earn the diploma, those students will complete a two-year classroom curriculum in addition to work outside the classroom in the arts, sports or community service and a final writing project.

Teachers spent the summer designing the curriculum, Galin said, and are looking forward to their first year of IB students.

Also new to this year are extra preparations in case of another outbreak of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu.

Galin said the district had representation at a statewide conference two weeks ago, and that the school is prepared with sanitizers.

“We’re conveying the message that you can do ongoing sanitization and stay in touch with health-care professionals if you feel you’re getting sick,” he said.

MEA results

Just weeks before school was set to begin, SAD 51 recently received Maine Educational Assessment results from last year. The test is given every year to children in grades 3 through 8.

Results in grades 3, 5, and 8 appear similar to last year, and Galin said he is “ecstatic, overjoyed, pleased, and proud that our students performed as well as they did.”

Last year’s third-graders showed a two-point decrease in their average scaled scores in both math and reading from the third-graders of 2007.

Last year’s fifth-graders had a two-point decrease in scaled math scores compared to the previous year’s fifth-graders, and a three-point increase in scaled reading scores.

Last year’s eighth-graders had a one-point increase in scaled math scores compared to the eighth-graders of 2007, and reading scores remained the same.

But Galin said the school puts more energy into tracking cohorts of students – comparing this year’s fifth-grade scores to how they did as fourth-graders last year, for example – than tracking what happens at each grade level each year.

Big improvements were made at the middle school and in grades 4 and 5, he said. He noted specifically that the kids in last year’s fifth-grade class have improved over the last three years, moving from 74 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards in third grade to 88 percent last year, and from 2 percent exceeding standards to 20 percent.

This year, students will take a new test in place of the MEAs. In October, students across the state will take the New England Common Assessment Program test, which is taken by students across the region, in math and reading. Students will continue to take the MEA science test in the spring.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or strent@theforecaster.net.