District loses funds, too big for rural schools grant

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PARIS — The SAD 17 Board of Directors were told at its Monday, Nov. 7 meeting that a funding source to pay for a new fifth grade teacher at Paris Elementary School had been withdrawn.

“We got a ‘Dear John’ letter,” Finance Committee Chairman Barry Patrie told his fellow directors.

Patrie said the federal grant they thought they had received under Title IV funds was taken back when it was determined that SAD 17 is ineligible for a Rural School Grant program grant because it has more than 20,000 population.

The board had unanimously approved funding the position that was created to reduce high class sizes at its meeting on Oct. 17 using the federal grant money.

On the recommendation of the Finance Committee, the board voted to change the funding source and use about $35,000 from the Contingency Fund. The action leaves the district with about $355,000 in the Contingency Fund.

Directors approved funding and also unanimously appointed Benjamin Torrey as the grade five teacher at Paris Elementary School.

Superintendent Rick Colpitts told directors he eventually hopes to find other money within the budget to fund the position but needed the quick access to funds to get the teacher in the classroom.

The issue of losing access to certain federal grants because the district has about 23,000 population – 3,000 more residents than allowed under Rural School Grant program designation – is an issue he said he hopes to address with the state’s Congressional delegation when he goes to Washington, D.C., from Monday, Nov. 14, through Saturday, Nov. 19, to represent Maine as Superintendent of the Year.

Colpitts will attend the American Association of School Administrators Superintendent of the Year Conference where he and education leaders from across the country will discuss the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that was signed by President Obama on Dec. 10, 2015. It essentially returns decision making for education back in the hands of local educators, parents and communities and other topics.

The Maine School Management Association announced last December that Colpitts was selected as Maine’s Superintendent of the Year by a vote of his colleagues. The award is an honor that recognizes his work in supporting teachers and administrators to help all students achieve, according to the MSMA release at that time.

Colpitts also announced Monday night that the State Board of Education would hold its Wednesday, Nov. 9 meeting at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School after accepting an invitation from the district.

Directors heard a report from members who attended the MSMA annual fall conference from Oct. 27-28, including Oxford Director Stacia Cordwell and Otisfield Director Diana Olsen, Assistant Superintendent Patrick Hartnett who participated primarily in legal workshops and Colpitts who sat in on topics such as school construction, late school start and how to prepare for a budget meeting.

Cordwell told directors she attended several workshops, including collective bargaining and the top 10 things a school board should know about special education. Olsen sat in a on the start school later workshop and one on special education. Both said the workshops were informative and thought provoking.

“There was a lot of information to digest,” said Olsen.

In other news, directors unanimously appointed:

  • Catherine Emery as district technology integrator/coach.
  • Deidre Cutter as literacy interventionist at Paris Elementary School.
  • Shellie Paradis as food service manager at Waterford Elementary School.

Directors also accepted a $2,000 donation for the Instrument Loaner program at Oxford Elementary School from a person who wished to remain anonymous, according to Principal Tiffany Karnes.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net