AUGUSTA COMPREHENSIVE PLAN COMMITTEE
Ninth Meeting – Education
Monday, May 20, 2019 at 6pm
Cony High School
Meeting called to order at 6:02pm.
In attendance: Heather Pouliot, Kevin Lind, Melanie Baillargeon, Kim Silsby, Matt Nazar, Jim Anastasio, Donna Madore, Pia Holmes, Mike Michaud, Les Wilkinson, Jan Rollins, Shelby Thibodeau, Jan Murphy, Ed Hastings, Kevin Lamoreau, Amanda Olsen, Gabe Levesque, Stewart Brittner, and other unidentified participants.
Welcome remarks and committee introductions:
Members of the public are welcome to share their ideas regarding the future of the city as it relates to schools and education in our community.
Overview of the 2007 comprehensive plan as it relates to schools and education in Augusta by Matt Nazar:
- Goal was mentioned for Augusta to become known for its educational excellence.
- The school department would publish an annual report on the state of the schools and share it with the city council.
- Expand pre-K.
- Address facility concerns with Hodgkins and Hussey.
- Recognize school achievements at council meetings.
Presentation by Jim Anastasio, Superintendent of the Augusta School Department and Ed Hastings, Chair of the School Board:
- Pre-K can service up to 96 children; must take Augusta students first; but can contract with surrounding schools.
- There is legislation pending that would expand schooling for 3 year olds; this would create an issue for spacing, money and transportation.
- Hussey is on the state list for capital improvement – listed at #9; just need more funding for the program at the state level.
- It is likely that Hussey’s current location will not be approved for the site of a new school.
- The school board and department does meet periodically with the city council – joint conference committee and usually around the budget process.
- CATC remains a diamond in the rough for Augusta; we could increase its utilization.
- Adult education provides many opportunities for residents and could expand its programming.
- English as a second language (ESL) has had a large impact in the schools – it has been a successful program for many.
- Interactions between the board and council has increased over the years.
- Technological needs are significant.
- Facilities, finances, programming, space are all issues.
- School resource officer is at the high school and rotates to the elementary schools.
Public opportunity to identify concerns/suggestions that they want addressed within the comprehensive plan:
Pia Holmes, school board and resident: question of safety for after school hours.
Les Wilkinson, resident, former chair of the 2007 comp plan: cornerstone of the plan was education; not going to be the group that wouldn’t implement the plan, but we didn’t set up an implementation committee; parts of the comp plan should still be done; without high expectations we won’t get there; need to empower the school board; feature and promote student achievements; create an environment where we would do whatever it takes for the kids; school board doesn’t have the power to raise money; kids come first; ratings on public schools need to be considered (zillow and other online sites); we are not meeting our level of excellence; education matters for prospective homeowners; going to have to address the opioid addicted babies; should look into the educare model in Waterville; support our faculty; compensation and comparable marketplace; curriculum should look different; cost of education has to go down and the productivity must go up.
Michael Michaud, resident and school board member: we have opportunities with Hussey and it is time for a community discussion to look at consolidating our schools; should have an elementary school on each side of the river; consolidate from 4 schools to 2 will save money; opioid crisis is impacting our schools and everyone in the community.
Jan Rollins, resident and Assistant Principal at Cony: not all challenging students are special education students; they are others with different needs; we need to listen more to the challenges for parents and why they don’t address the challenges; what can we do as a community to help raise that child – partnership – has to start early; CATC should be available to younger students to learn a trade and/or broaden their interest; what do they need to shine.
Shelby Thibodeau, Special education teacher: many families move here for special education opportunities; all students are participating in the SAT testing; this did not happen in the past; so it impacts the testing results; CATC is a gold mine for us to focus on expanding.
Jan Murphy, works in the school system: we need to sell the Augusta school system better; an example is the commercial for St. Michael school; we have a great system to market.
Kevin Lamoreau, resident and school board member: we should try to be positive in highlighting our school system; maybe consider a field trip to see CATC first hand.
Amanda Olsen, director of Augusta Housing Authority, candidate for school board: education is about the future of Augusta – her kids suggested helping kids with food, clothing and shelter; school security is an issue; don’t feel safe during lockdowns and drills; lack of substitutes; important that the city council back the school board; marketing; consolidation; technical education and entrepreneurship; need a construction workforce; educators need to feel supported; celebrating diversity in our schools.
Committee discussion on schools and education, and other related items.
Other committee matters:
Next meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 3, 2019 at 6pm in the Old Fort Western Learning Gallery at City Center. The focus will be on transportation, infrastructure and pedestrian safety.