RSU 5 board approves leadership teams over teacher objections

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FREEPORT — Regional School Unit 5 trustees unanimously approved stipend leadership positions at each school in the district on Oct. 27, despite concerns from high school teachers and the teachers union president.

The vote was 10-0 with Freeport trustee Cori Holt absent.

Curriculum coordinator Sarah Simmonds said the teachers who are named leaders will help develop curriculum and assessment at the district level and help implement action plans to increase student reading levels and literacy scores.

She said this is the first step in a “continuous improvement process.”

Superintendent Shannon Welsh said the stipends for pre-kindergarten through grade 8 would be about $1,500 for a 100- to 150-hour position. Due to the additional content levels in grades 9 through 12, those teacher leaders will receive about $2,100 for 150 to 200 hours per year.

The high school will have 10 teacher leaders; Morse Street and Mast Landing will have five; Pownal Elementary will have three; Durham Elementary will have eight, and Freeport Middle School will have six.

Prior to last week’s meeting, teachers at the high school wrote a letter addressed to Welsh, the RSU 5 board and community members expressing their concern about the lack of leadership since the beginning of the school year.

Board member John Green of Pownal said he was surprised to receive such a letter at the last minute.

“It is surprising to me that this process has gotten this far and there are this many teachers that are unhappy with the process and that the (union) has also expressed displeasure,” he said. “I think clearly there does have to be a better process. … It is frustrating to me that this kind of thing happens.”

Nancy Drolet, president of the teacher’s union and adviser to the student council, said while leadership is needed and has the ability to empower teachers, the union and some of the teachers are unhappy with the process and procedure used to identify academic leadership positions.

She said the union and the administration need to “open the lines of communication” and collaborate with faculty more often.

High school Principal Bob Strong said while change can be difficult and the timing of the meetings over the summer made it difficult for everyone to participate in the process, the outcome is meant to benefit the students.

“I know there is an unknown, there is a fear, but there is a conscientious effort by the faculty that we need a leadership team to advise and support our teachers and our students,” he said.

“I accept change and know we are going to do things differently,” high school teacher Hank Ogilby said. “I am not opposed to change, but change for change sake, if we are getting rid of something that works well, I would have some concerns about.”

In other business, each school principal gave a strategic plan report that identifies how many students have been fallen below their grade level in reading and or writing. They outlined their plans to identify to meet the goal, and will return in March to report on whether the goals were met and if not, how to change the strategic plan.

The next RSU 5 meeting will be held at the Durham Elementary School at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 4.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net

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