WATERVILLE — Members of the Fairfield-based School Administrative District 49 school board are seeking more information on a proposal to add a gifted-and-talented program before authorizing the superintendent to apply for state funding for the program.

On Thursday the board voted 10-0 with one abstention, Jeffrey Neubauer, to table action on the gifted-and-talented program to the next meeting.

The meeting was held at the Mid-Maine Technical Center in Waterville after the board received a tour of the center and heard a presentation from Lawrence High School students taking classes there.

Board members said they wanted more information on what they would be committing to and if the district would be financially responsible for the program if they don’t receive the state funding.

By law, school districts are required to provide gifted-and-talented programs for students who have excelled or show the potential to excel, though the state also grants waivers to districts who have made a case that implementing such a program would cause an “undue burden,” such as financial hardship, on the district.

“I think it would be wonderful if we have gifted and talented,” board member Jenny Boyden said. “The reason (we don’t have one) is financial, so my concern is if we say we adopt this program, what if as we’re doing the budget we say we can’t fund this? What have we locked ourselves into by saying we will do this program and not submitting the waiver?”

Superintendent Reza Namin said it is not his intention to raise district funds for the program, but the state requires boards to approve a program before it will provide funding.

“I don’t plan to put this on the budget,” he said. ‘If any additional money is needed, I will come back to you.”

“It’s just double-checking so we understand if we vote on this what we are committing to fiscally, and if we adopt it, what are we committing to,” board member Kara Kugelmeyer said. “We’ve waited 15 years. I don’t know what the rush is.”

In other news Thursday, the board also voted 5-4 with two abstentions to approve three new hires. The vote came after a brief discussion over whether the board should move ahead with hiring a human resource specialist, which is a new position Namin created as part of administrative restructuring.

Some board members who opposed the hiring of Amber Lafrance for the job said it was their understanding the job would be added July 1 — and not sooner — though Namin said according to the language approved by the board, the job was to be created by July 1 or earlier if warranted.

Katrina Dumont, Katie Flood-Gerow, Jenny Boyden and Ron Liberty voted against the hire. Kara Kugelmeyer and Janice Chesley abstained.

Danielle Boutin and Caroline Lawrence were absent.

Before the vote, Kugelmeyer said she thought the district should consult with legal counsel about the restructuring plan approved in January and urged the board to go to Drummond Woodsum, the district’s longtime legal counsel, before Namin switched this year to Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry.

“I wasn’t there, but plenty of people are not feeling comfortable,” Kugelmeyer said. “It’s clearly dividing the board and I am very sad about that. It’s very unproductive and very unhealthy and in order for us to right that we need to follow a due process.”

The board also discussed Thursday a letter that was received by all members and the superintendent from some employees whose jobs have been affected by the restructuring plan.

Flood-Gerow said she thinks the board should discuss the letter and possibly hold a special meeting before the next regularly scheduled meeting, set for March 21, to discuss the letter, in which she said there was talk of suing the district.

Namin said he will ask legal counsel to look at the letter to see if there is merit to it and after that discuss the possibility of holding an executive session to discuss its contents.

“Some of the people impacted are questioning the actions taken,” he said. “They have the right to do that.”

 

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected] 

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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