News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, January 10, 2013
School safety in the spotlight at Castine Shool Board meeting

by Anne Berleant

The Castine School Board met with a light agenda on January 2, as members focused on school safety, while looking ahead to discussions on the 2013-14 budget.

Trooper Greg Roy, head of the Tactical Unit for Troop J of the Maine State Police, has scheduled January 7 for an onsite security review at the Adams School.

“We’re going to seriously listen to his recommendations,” said Superintendent Mark Hurvitt.

In addition, Chief Deputy Dick Bishop of the Hancock County Sheriff Department will review the school’s emergency plan and provide feedback to the school. In turn, the school will revise its plan “with the feedback in mind,” said Hurvitt.

The issue of school safety is under a local and national spotlight after a school shooting late last year in Newtown, Conn.

The goal is to make the school more secure without “changing the tone of the school,” Hurvitt said

Temple Blackwood, chairman of the Facilities Committee, has sought funds since the beginning of the school year to repair and upgrade emergency lighting and external door locks, but a tight 2012-13 school budget has left little maneuvering room.

“Now the impetus is a little accelerated,” Hurvitt said.

In her principal’s report, Katie Frothingham updated the board on the school’s library program, or lack thereof, following a cut this year that eliminated an Adams School program at the Witherle Memorial Library. For decades past, Adams School classes visited the library outside of its public hours to check out books on student cards, with younger grades also having a story time while older grades became familiar with library and research skills.

However, during 2012-13 budget talks, the board decided to cut the $6,000-plus it paid the library for those services and work toward bringing a certified library instructor to the school. In the interim, classes may visit the library during regular hours at the discretion of teachers, with students checking out books on “regular” patron cards. However, some parents have requested that their children not participate without student library cards, which don’t assess overdue fines, because they don’t know what their children have checked out of the library or when the items are due.

“For some families, this is a concern,” said Frothingham.

Also, discussions on a new standards-based grading policy will begin at a Janaury 18 in-service day, Frothingham reported, following board approval last month on a temporary change to report cards.

“All other [Union 93] schools have moved to standards-based grading but Adams School,” Frothingham said, and “we can benefit” from their experience.

In other business, Frothingham’s contract was extended to June 30, 2015 by unanimous vote, with a 2013-14 salary of $69,345 for 210 days.

Theresa Biggie’s nomination as drama coach for 2012-13 was unanimously approved; her stipend is $650.

Hurvitt reported that a recent state curtailment of school funding will not affect Adams School, since he under budgeted the amount to begin with. Even with the curtailment, the school is “$9,000 up” from the $24,000 state funding included in the 2012-13 budget.

At its February meeting, the board will review a first draft of the 2013-14 budget and the safety and security reviews. The board meets on Wednesday, February 6, at 5 p.m. at the school.