2016-10-28 / Community

News Briefs

EXIT RAMP — RSU 21 Transportation Director Kathy Jean “Kitty” Roberts has resigned her position after less than three months on the job. Her departure was announced without fanfare at the Oct. 17 school board meeting. In an emailed reply to questions from the Post, Superintendent Katie Hawes said the separation, tendered Sept. 30 and effective immediately, was “a mutual agreement.”

Hired in July at an annual salary of $56,000, Roberts was formerly transportation director of MSAD 35 (South Berwick) and MSAD 60 (North Berwick).

Hawes said RSU 21 is currently advertising for a replacement. In the meantime, former transportation director Matt Kearns, Roberts’ immediate predecessor, who now works in Waterboro-based RSU 57, is “helping out two hours per day.”

“We aren’t paying Matt anything. [It’s] just RSU 57 being willing to send him over to help clean things up,” Hawes said.

Asked to follow-up on what Kearns needed to set right after so short a time away, Hawes wrote, “I really can’t comment further on personnel issues. Matt has focused on field trip scheduling, budgeting, billing for trips, sport scheduling, and state reports.”

YOU’RE INVITED — In celebration of its recent naming as a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School Award winner, Sea Road Elementary School in Kennebunk will host a “blue ribbon reception” on Friday, November

18. The event, set for 1:30 p.m. in the school gym, will feature a host of state and local dignitaries, including Sen. Susan Collins. The event is open to the public. At the Oct. 17 school board meeting, Sea Road Principal Stephen Marquis urged those who do attend to come decked out in the school colors of blue (any shade) and white.

Sea Road, which serves about 270 students in Grades 4 and 5, joins 329 schools nationwide as Blue Ribbon recipients, a distinction given based on overall performance, as well as progress on closing achievement gaps of targeted subgroups, such as special education students and those deemed to come from low-income homes.

Of 597 eligible schools in Maine, just four met all 12 nominating criteria this year, with Sea Road one of three to make the final federal cut.

In 2004 rules for the award were changed to prevent schools from nominating themselves. Since then, RSU 21 is the only school district in Maine to boast two National Blue Ribbon Award winners. Kennebunkport Consolidated School won the honor in 2010.

Marquis, classroom teacher Margaret Parkhurst, and Superintendent Dr. Katie Hawes will pick up the prize on behalf of all Sea Road students and staffers at a two-day awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. Nov. 7-8.

PRINCIPAL APPLAUDED — It’s not just Sea Road School that’s piling up accolades of late. Its principal, Stephen Marquis, has also been singled out for distinction. On Tuesday, October 18, John King Jr., secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, announced that Marquis is one of just eight administrators from this year’s crop of 329 Blue Ribbon Award of Merit schools to be receive the 2016 Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding School Leadership.

According to Adam Honeysett, managing director of intergovernmental affairs at the federal DOE, the award “recognizes outstanding school leaders and the vital role they play in guiding students and schools to excellence, frequently under challenging circumstances. The principals nominated for this award are committed to fostering successful teaching and learning at their schools and do ‘whatever it takes’ to help their students meet high standards. They are dedicated to education as both a powerful and liberating force in people’s lives.

“Award recipients have transformed their schools,” Honeysett said. “Their vision and collaborative leadership styles have produced outstanding results for all students, regardless of race, language proficiency, or socioeconomic status. They have shown that – with effective leadership and teaching and a firm conviction – all students can learn.”

Having been demoted in the second grade and sent packing back to grade 1, Marquis understands that as well as anyone. According to his Blue Ribbon program biography, it took Marquis three years to catch back up to his peers, and he eventually went on to become the first in his family to graduate college.

“But those feelings of confusion and sadness stuck with him and shaped the educator he is today,” the biography reads. “He sees it as his obligation to find innovative ways to inspire and challenge students and his responsibility to advocate for them and their families.”

Apart from being the first college graduate in his family, RSU 21 Superintendent Katie Hawes says Marquis is also the first school administrator in Maine to win the Terrel Bell Award.

SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION — According to RSU 21 Superintendent Katie Hawes, the school district has recently issued the final $10.5 million in bonds needed to rebuild Kennebunk High School (KHS), Kennebunkport Consolidated School (KCS), and the Mildred L. Day Elementary School (MLD) in Arundel. That brings total borrowing for the project to $55.5 million, $1 million less than authorized by voters in a June 2015 district-wide vote.

In her latest building update, circulated Oct. 18, Hawes said all bonding was done through private lenders — including Citibank for the first $45 million borrowed, and Raymond James Financial for the rest — at an interest rate of 2.05 percent. That saved local taxpayers $4.3 million over the 20- year life of the loan, compared to interest rates offered by the Maine Municipal Bond Bank, she said.

“Most schools and municipalities use the Maine Municipal Bond Bank for their construction loans, shifting much of the legwork and then accepting the set interest rate,” Hawes wrote, crediting the “outstanding financial ratings in our towns and schools and hard work on the part of our school board and administration,” for the RSU’s ability to utilize commercial banking for the bond sale.

Work at KCS is now largely complete with students slated to move into the new building sections during the week of October 31. Community tours of the new building will take place from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1. An official ribbon cutting ceremony is set for 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 2.

At MLD, work also in nearing the finish line, with PC Construction “applying finishing touches” last week, which also say furniture moved into the new wings. Hawes said a certificate of occupancy is expected from the Arundel code enforcement office by the end of October. Students and staff will begin using the new wings following the Veterans Day weekend, after which demolition will begin on the old wings. A ribbon cutting will be held in January.

Finally, at KHS, by far the largest of the three projects, workers poured the new gym floor last week, while the steep framework is now assembled for the new auditorium and cafeteria.

“The plan is to get this new portion of the building erected before the snow flies so that PC can turn to inside work on these areas,” Hawes said.

Compiled by Staff Writer Duke Harrington.

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