SAD 27 board to allow Wallagrass sixth graders to choose

28 May 2013

FORT KENT- The School Administrative District 27 Board of Directors have voted to allow sixth-graders in Wallagrass and other outlying elementary schools, to remain at their respective schools, if they choose.

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CHOICE IS GOOD - At a recent SAD 27 school board meeting, the district leaders voted to allow parents of sixth graders in Wallagrass to choose whether the students will take a bus to Valley Rivers Middle School or remain in a multi-grade classroom at the Wallagrass Elementary School. - Potila image

The board made the decision at a meeting on Thursday, May 23 in the Fort Kent Community High School library.

A few dozen community members attending the meeting greeted the decision with minor applause. Late last year, SAD 27 voted to move the sixth grade students from Wallagrass Elementary School to Valley Rivers Middle School as part of a series of budget and cost-saving decisions.

According to reports, parents have been meeting to consider ways to bring the sixth grade back to Wallagrass Elementary in the next school year.

Soon after the meeting began, Amy Ouellette, mother of a Wallagrass Elementary School fifth-grader, spoke before board and audience members about the need to vote in favor of allowing school choice for sixth-graders. Amy said, “Parents should be the ones who decide what is best for our children.”

WES mother Angela Beaulieu followed Ouellette with a presentation to board members of signed petitions in favor of allowing school choice for the sixth-graders of SAD 27.

According to Beaulieu, 87.5 percent of Wallagrass Elementary School parents representing students from grades pre-k through five, want their children to attend WES in the sixth grade.

Superintendent Timothy Doak explained that allowing for this sixth-grade choice would entail no additional cost to the school district since parents would have the option of having their children in combined fifth-sixth grade classrooms at the outlying schools.

Board member Kelly O'Leary agreed with Ouellette and Beaulieu about allowing the option for sixth graders to have a choice in schools.

“That's the beauty of choice. We don't dictate to these parents,” he said.

The board ultimately voted to allow school choice for sixth-graders by a relatively close margin of six in favor and four opposed. School officials will contact parents of current SAD 27 fifth-graders to determine which school they would like their children to attend.

In other highlights of the meeting:

Representatives from each school in the district discussed behavioral issues which remain consistently low in number and reveal an overall lack of severity when considered historically.

Two Fort Kent Community High School students, Rudy Martin and Samantha Dubay, provided a presentation of a recent trip to New York City that students took. Learning experiences of the students during the trip included visits to museums, Central Park, and the 9/11 Memorial site.

In an apparent moment of humor, Martin said, “We slept good, so there were no behavioral issues.”

After confirming that other sources would fund the $1,050 per student price, the board voted unanimously to approve a similar trip for next year, this time to Los Angeles, Calif.

Eagle Lake and Wallagrass Elementary Principal James Charette took time at the meeting to express appreciation for music teacher Philip Devaney's handling of the recent spring concert. Charette said, “This is one of the best concerts I've seen.”

In addition, Doak praised Tammy Bernier (guidance counseling) and Theresa Cyr (literacy) for successfully completing the requirements for their master's degrees.

The board passed the 2013/2014 budget unanimously, and, for the first time in SAD 27 history, the budget included funding for a gifted and talented program.

It will be unnecessary for the board to use money from local sources to fund the GT program, because District Librarian Jamie Pelletier successfully petitioned a grant of $72,000 to fund this initiative.

According to Doak , the implementation of a gifted and talented program in SAD 27 is a “long overdue thing.”

The meeting wrapped up with Doak and school board members deciding on dates and times for future meetings.