SULLIVAN — At a Regional School Unit 24 (RSU 24) Board of Directors meeting via Zoom last Tuesday night, Superintendent Mike Eastman informing the board that Maine’s Earn Paid Leave Law went into effect on Jan. 1.
Employees in a workplace with 10 or more employees will earn one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours worked, Eastman recapped. Employees may earn up to 40 hours of paid leave in a designated year.
Eastman explained that the district’s substitute teachers, coaches and afterschool program staff will now “be able to collect paid leave.”
When current collective bargaining agreements expire, “we will have to work with the language of the law,” Eastman said. A procedural rough draft has been developed, he added.
Eastman said the winter sports season started last Monday, with coaches receiving the necessary COVID-19 training. The competitive sports season will likely begin Jan. 20, with the rollout for middle school sports still a few weeks away due to needing to fill vacant positions, such as athletic director and coaching positions.
Eastman reported that the Friends of Sumner’s Future Fundraising Campaign, which was organized to support the construction of the future Charles M. Sumner Learning Campus, has raised $41,106, with another $12,500 in pledged donations.
The board then saw a presentation from RSU 24 Adult Education Director Ander Thebaud, who discussed the district’s adult ed program and how it has adapted to distance learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.
While Thebaud described feeling fortunate to still have a space to meet with in-person adult learners, she added that, “Our teachers have worked really hard to also adapt what we’re doing so that we can serve students remotely.”
Education opportunities at RSU 24 Adult Ed include workforce training, high school completion, enrichment classes, college readiness and certification programs.
Thebaud noted that pivoting to online schooling can help adult learners overcome barriers to accessing education, such as transportation and child care.
The adult ed staff is using the online learning management system Schoology, which allows the staff to communicate with students and post course material.
Additionally, Thebaud said, “We think it’s really important that students have all the technology skills and are comfortable with their computers or devices so that when they start classes, they can do that smoothly and then be successful at that.”
She explained how staff help students learn how to navigate the online videoconferencing system, Zoom, and discuss online etiquette; skills that also transfer to the workplace.
“Our primary goal has really been maintaining communication and relationships with our students so that they know if they need to step out for a little while, it’s fine to come back in. They can either be an in-person learner or a remote learner and our classes are fluid so that they can switch back and forth without losing any content,” Thebaud said.
Thebaud noted that fewer enrichment classes have been offered due to some teachers feeling uncomfortable teaching online via Zoom, despite efforts by adult ed staff to demonstrate how to use the technology.
Thebaud said that all adult ed programs statewide are down about 25-30 percent in enrollment, estimating that the RSU 24 program was in that range. She discussed a partnership with the Digital Equity Center to offer online and onsite technology classes, adding, “We’ve already had good enrollment there.”
Other topics of discussion by the board included the acceptance of bids for purchases made with COVID-19 relief funding, including vehicles and storage sheds for personal protective equipment, displaced furniture and sanitation equipment.
Additionally, data for the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA) standardized test was shared. Board member Janet Wilpan reported that fall 2019 data showed that Sumner Memorial High School saw “a significant trend of increasing scores” in math testing.
“This was not true in many of the grammar schools, although there were some significant improvements seen in several upper grades in Cave Hill and a cohort of students at Peninsula,” Wilpan said.
For reading data, Cave Hill School saw increases in percentages, “including some [cohorts] with 100 percent,” Wilpan said.
The board also discussed the Gouldsboro Board of Selectmen’s interest in exploring the funding formula for the town’s share of RSU 24 costs.
The board then broke into executive session to discuss a personnel issue.