KINGFIELD – The MSAD 58 school board met Thursday night for their regular monthly business meeting.
Superintendent Todd Sanders shared an update on high rates of illness within the district, noting that almost 50% of students and staff at Kingfield Elementary School were out due to influenza-like illnesses on Dec. 12, with decreasing but still significant percentages of staff and students out in the other schools. The Maine Center for Disease Control considers an outbreak status when a school has a rate out 15% or more out due to illness.
During public comment, newly-elected State Representative Mike Soboleski addressed the board, requesting more than the typically allotted three minutes for an individual speaker for public comment. Soboleski asked if the district has any books with ‘graphic content’ such as Milk & Honey or Gender Queer.
Sanders noted that the district has not yet acquired Gender Queer but stated that he could not speak to other books without knowing the specific titles of concern.
Soboleski asked if the district has a content rating system. School board member Sue Pratt noted that the district does have a policy for challenging a book.
In addition, Soboleski noted concerns regarding the inclusion of a transgender athlete policy in the Middle School handbook, saying that he could not find any record of the board voting to adopt the policy over the last several months of board meeting minutes.
One handbook was developed for both the middle school and the high school, board chair Jessica Cain said.
The high school handbook includes policies recommended by the Maine Principals Association, but Soboleski said that the MPA has no jurisdiction in middle school athletics, and requested several times that the board remove the middle school policy from the handbook, the website, and any other places it may be posted, until the board could vote on the policy.
Cain and vice chair Julie Talmage stated at different points in the conversation that they heard Soboleski’s concerns and that the appropriate subcommittee would look into it.
When Soboleski pressed for an answer on whether or not the board would remove the policy, Cain said that the board does not vote during public comment, and that the issue would be referred to the policy committee for review.
Pratt said this would allow the policy committee to review the handbook and other policies, and then make a recommendation to the board.
The board discussed two other policies submitted for review by the policy committee; the AC policy, addressing discrimination, will be tabled to allow board members time to read and review the policy fully. The phrase ‘actual or perceived’ in relation to a person’s identity appeared to be the point of concern for some members of the board as they questioned whether that phrase was the most appropriate. As read, the policy Policy KDB, regarding the public’s right to know and freedom of information, had no substantial changes from the last time it was reviewed, as legal references had been added to reflect state law.
MSAD 58 policies are now available online at MSAD58.org
MSAD 58 will hold an unannounced lockdown drill with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office at some point after the winter break. Administrators will be notified in advance of the drill but staff and students will not.
In March, the district plans to hold a joint ALICE training with Rangeley. Stratton School has been invited to participate in the training. The training is held in three, two hour blocks for elementary school, middle school, and high school staff, so the district is looking to add other professional development opportunities to fill the day.
The Carrabassett Valley School Board would like to meet and discuss a long-term plan in February. The board chair and vice chair have been specifically invited but other board members and administrators are invited. Pratt noted that if the whole board attends the meeting, it has to be open to the public.