HALLOWELL — As the new superintendent of Regional School Unit 2 settles in, his tour of the district is taking him beyond classrooms, staff meetings and school events.

Virgel Hammonds is also traveling to town halls and private homes to meet as many people as he can to try to improve communication in a fractious district where two towns are considering withdrawal.

When Hammonds started the job in July, after moving to central Maine from California, he started to spread the word he would meet with anyone who wanted to talk about what RSU 2 is doing right or wrong and the standards-based education model he champions.

On Friday, he said he’d had 13 of these informal meetings, ranging from three people to 40, in Farmingdale, Hallowell, Monmouth and Richmond. And a couple of people in the remaining RSU 2 town, Dresden, contacted him last week about arranging something.

He’ll also meet with Dresden officials and residents at a public meeting Monday and has made the rounds to other meetings, including the Richmond Board of Selectmen meeting last week.

“People just need the opportunity to speak with somebody,” Hammonds said Friday. “I don’t know if we do that enough in education, or in any public sector, to be honest with you. Sometimes we need to remember that we’re here to serve and do what’s right for the kids.”

Richmond is one of the towns where voters have voiced support for leaving RSU 2.

At last week’s meeting, Richmond Selectman Clarence Cummins told Hammonds some residents feel they’re losing ownership of their schools.

Hammonds said he is trying to address that feeling by allowing community use of the buildings, among other measures.

Cummins said afterward he was satisfied with the answer and that he’s heard “nothing but good things” about Hammonds in Richmond.

“They say he’s involved with the community, he’s engaged, he has an open door,” Cummins said. “He very much is out there being seen and being heard, and he’s also willing to hear.”

Monmouth Selectman Colleen Fournier said residents of her town also are responding well to Hammonds — particularly his efforts to be positive and communicative.

“They felt, prior to him coming, they weren’t getting that as a response when they’d make inquiries,” she said.

Fournier said it was smart of the RSU 2 board to bring in someone new, but that Hammonds will have a difficult task keeping Monmouth in the district.

“There are people who are for the RSU and there are people who are opposed to the RSU,” she said. “Some people, no matter what the RSU will do to try to meet them, it isn’t going to matter.”

One person whose concerns about the school district remain is Monmouth Selectman Doug Ludewig — a former teacher who believes the standards-based education model devised by the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition is not appropriate for Monmouth’s schools.

Hammonds has worked as a consultant for the coalition, known as RISC, and first visited RSU 2 in that capacity.

“Virgel is a charismatic, nice guy,” Ludewig said. “He comes across really well when he speaks to a group, and one on one.

“If anybody could turn around the opinion of the RSU, and maybe RISC too, he would be the guy that could do it, I think.”

Ludewig said the school board seems to be working together more smoothly and that parents seem happy with their communication from the schools, but more needs to be done.

“I still say they’re not communicating well with the community outside the schools,” he said. “That would be something that I was hoping to see.”

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]


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