MSAD 58 undergoing major changes for new middle school

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PHILLIPS — As the school year came to an end in MSAD 58, major changes are taking place in classrooms across the district to make way for the newly created middle school to be located in the Strong Elementary School building.

At their June 16 meeting, the MSAD 58 school board authorized the local referendum vote, which was approved by voters in a district-wide town hall style meeting in May totaling $10,144,846 for the fiscal year 2022-23.

Meanwhile, staff turnover continued with six letters of resignation; at least one, from Mt. Abram High School ELA teacher Karen Pease, was not technically a resignation as her position had been terminated and she was then nominated for a new position. Pease had already accepted a job in a neighboring district and did not accept the nomination. Other resignations included Judith Ponce Pelayo, an ed tech at Mt. Abram High School; Johanna Bartlett, a special education teacher at Kingfield Elementary; Stephen Mitman, an art teacher at Strong Elementary; Jessica Hughes, second grade at Kingfield; and Diana Thomas, art teacher at Mt. Abram High School.

Jillian Withee, a Pre-K teacher at Kingfield and Phillips whose position was eliminated in the restructure, was nominated as an elementary physical education teacher at Kingfield and Phillips. Withee holds a conditional certificate for the position.

Victoria Glidden was nominated as a special education ed tech in the district. She expressed flexibility in her job location and was willing to split a work week between different schools if needed.

Jessica Ellis was nominated for an occupational therapy assistant and ed tech position, district wide.

All three nominations were accepted by the school board.

Following the end of the school year, a significant number of teachers were packing and rearranging their classrooms. At Phillips, Principal Jeff Pillsbury said he believed only three teachers would remain in their current position due to the reconfiguration, so there was a lot of activity in the schools preparing for the change.

The new middle school will undergo the formal naming process outlined by the district. A preliminary survey was distributed to students, parents, staff, and community members with proposed names, mascots, and colors for the school. The survey was developed through conversations with the middle school staff when they met for two days earlier in the spring.

The two-name options provided on the survey, Day Mountain Middle School and Sandy River Middle School, were partly intended to recognize the Strong community, who would be losing a part of their identity in no longer having their local school. Day Mountain was the same theme as Mt. Abram and could play off the motto, “fear the mountain,” while maintaining a separate identity. Sandy River would acknowledge the meandering waterway that runs through the district’s towns of Strong, Phillips, and Avon.

While it has been discussed in the community as a name option, Mt. Abram Middle School was not included as a possible name on the survey as the team putting it together wanted to create a distinct identity for the middle school.

The survey had almost 300 responses, Maggie Adams said, including students that will be attending the middle school. Adams was hired as the principal of the middle school and will start in July.

A committee, involving school board members, community members, and a number of students, will be put together to work on the naming process. The survey was created only to gather information and no final decision has been made.

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