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Area legislators meet with RSU 10 board, administrators
DIXFIELD -- Three state legislators met with the RSU 10 superintendent, administrators, teachers and board members Thursday afternoon to discuss education and communications issues.
“State law and the Legislature affects our schools,” Superintendent Craig King said. “We want (legislative representatives and school leadership) to feel free to communicate with each other.”
Attending the meeting were state Rep. Terry Hayes, D-Buckfield, Rep. Matthew Peterson, D-Rumford, and Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford.
Among the topics district leaders posed were notification of when educational issues come before a legislative committee.
“We want to be apprised of issues and hearings,” said Richard Greene, director of the Pennacook Learning Center.
Meroby Elementary School Principal Melanie Chassie suggested that local legislators be invited into the schools more often.
Other school leaders want to know when the state will provide 55 percent funding for education, as promised several years ago.
Although Hayes said she agrees with more funding, she questioned whether Mainers would pay higher taxes likely required to fulfill the funding law.
On another issue, Mountain Valley High School Principal Matt Gilbert told Peterson that he had issues with this year's state grading system and the increase in graduation requirements for some students.
In May, the state Department of Education introduced the Maine School Performance Grading System so students, parents, taxpayers and others could easily understand how their schools are doing, according to the DOE website. The letter-grade system is based on several factors, including student achievement in reading and math, growth/progress in achievement, and, in particular, the performance and growth of the bottom 25 percent of students (for elementary schools) and the graduation rate for high schools.
Mountain Valley High School in Rumford received a ‘D’ because fewer than the state mandated percentage of students took the tests.
“Not enough students took the assessment tests,” Gilbert said, adding that to hold all students to the same standards might not be attainable. “I don’t object to the assessment, but to the assessment without support,” he said.
The group was told that another assessment or grading of the state’s schools may be in the future.
Other questions and concerns raised by school personnel included problems with teacher retirement and loss of Social Security benefits, the status of a state plan to develop a teacher evaluation tool and the impact of charter schools on public schools.
Vicky Amoroso, a special education teacher, said such schools are an issue because they take money away from public schools.
School personnel were pleased that the student restraining law was modified and that high school students may now take college courses for credit.
Peterson and Patrick said the upcoming legislative session is known as a short session because it begins in January and generally ends in April, and because fewer bills are submitted than the previous session.
Patrick said just over 400 bills have been submitted, plus those that were carried over from the first session. Those, he said, were generally the more controversial ones.
District officials were advised to contact their legislators with questions about what was coming up, and share any concerns.
Patrick said people can keep current on legislative matters by logging on to the Maine.gov website and clicking on the education committee.
King may hold another session with local state legislators in the spring after the short session is finished. He said he also plans to hold such meetings at least once a year.
“Our schools are extremely important,” he said. “I’ve been watching CNN every night (on the Congressional discussions). Working with you guys is a breath of fresh air.”
The information gathered at the two-hour session will be posted on the RSU10.org website.