News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, November 21, 2012
Parents confused over BHCS policy process, notification
Ask board “to address, clarify and revisit” 2010 amendment

by Anne Berleant

A 2010 amendment to the field trip policy that leaves the sixth-grade class to raise $1,600 for its trip to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts became the focus of a November 14 school board meeting, when parent Shelly Latham asked the board “to address, clarify and revisit” the issue.

Parent comments made clear that a larger issue is how the board communicates its policy changes.

“This came as a super big surprise to me,” said Latham. “We’re talking about raising $1,500 to $1,600.”

The amendment states that the school will fund up to 50 percent of the cost for out-of-state field trips.

The school board allotted $1,000 in the 2012-13 budget for the trip. It’s estimated cost is $2,600.

Sixth-grade teacher Maryanne Lewandowski underestimated the cost in her request, partly because in 2010, she did not request funding for the trip in the 2011-12 budget.

“I felt it wasn’t supported,” Lewandowski said. Students did go to Boston, but traveled by car instead of bus, lowering the cost but increasing travel time.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for students studying Ancient Egypt to visit the museum and discuss what they know with the docent,” Lewandowski said. “It’s a resource that can’t be duplicated within the state of Maine.”

She and Latham asked whether the policy amendment was aimed at the Boston trip, which is the only field trip affected.

“Speaking for myself, no it wasn’t,” said chairman Jon Smallidge.

“It was to encourage people to see what was relatively easily reached,” said member Ben Wootten.

“Does the board want to stay with this policy?” asked Principal Della Martin. “The policy limits only one trip and it’s hugely valuable.”

“The policy is not the problem,” said Smallidge.

Latham asked the board to consider granting additional funding.

“I believe this is called a Hail Mary pass,” she said, adding that “personally, I wanted a clarification of the policy.”

The board declined the opportunity offered by member John Richardson to grant an additional $1,000 left over from an earlier field trip, but approved a motion to give $300, bringing the school-funded amount to 50 percent of the total cost.

How school policies are created was scrutinized during the second reading of a revised sports policy.

When asked whether input by parents was used in creating policy, Smallidge gave a succinct response.

“The board decides on policy,” he said. Input from the audience is “not necessarily” part of policy writing.

Board member Annie Rice suggested that more copies of policies be made available at board meetings before the approval process.

“Perhaps,” said Smallidge.

In other business, the board approved the use of security cameras, following the recommendations of a subcommittee formed to examine the issue.

Exterior cameras will operate continually, while inside, hallway cameras will be used outside of school hours.

“Crime takes no holiday,” said building and grounds supervisor Franklin Burke.

The board approved the following coaching appointments. Basketball: boys “A” team, Mike Astbury, $1,050 stipend; boys “B” team, Mark Baxter, $900 stipend; girls “A” and “B” teams, John McKechnie, $1,050 stipend; intramural “clinic” basketball, Mark Baxter, $650 stipend. Cheering, Sara Brown, $700 stipend.

December agenda items include installing filters on student laptops to block inappropriate material (“We really need to move on this,” said Wootten); how to configure a proposed pre-K program for 2013-14; and signing the YMCA after-school program contracts.

The board next meets on Wednesday, December 12, 5 p.m., at the school.