SKOWHEGAN — The Maine School Administrative District 54 board of directors Thursday night named Mark Hatch the district’s assistant superintendent of schools.

Mark Hatch, Messalonskee Middle School principal, has been hired as assistant superintendent of Skowhegan-based Maine School Administrative District 54. Morning Sentinel file photo

“(Hatch) has a strong academic background and I believe he will work well with Jon (Moody),” outgoing Superintendent Brent Colbry told the board.

Colbry’s last day is scheduled to be June 30.

Hatch, who has served as principal of Messalonskee Middle School for the past 17 years, will assume his new role July 1.

Hatch is an active member of the Maine Principals’ Association and has served on a variety of committees, including its legislative committee. He now works in the MPA’s mentoring program, supporting the professional growth of school principals.

“Mark has been a leader outside his district, providing professional development for teachers and administrators,” said current Assistant Superintendent Jon Moody, who will become the superintendent in MSAD 54 upon Colbry’s retirement.

Hatch, who lives in Sidney, was named Maine’s secondary principal of the year in 2018.

“Welcome to the family,” board chairperson Lynda Quinn said. “It’s going to be a fun ride.”

In other matters, the board discussed the Skowhegan-based school district’s plans for distance learning.

DISTANCE LEARNING UPDATE

MSAD 54 is moving forward with levels 1 and 2 learning. Level 1 gives students the opportunity to learn through educational packets that are delivered along with school meals. Level 2 provides online learning opportunities “that look to reinforce students’ skills and build gradually to a new learning.”

Activities in level 2 include regular digital contact, face-to-face instruction and asynchronous instruction that can be accessed at any time, not only at set hours.

END OF YEAR CELEBRATIONS

As of now, the district is planning to reschedule prom to July 11, while the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 has been  “tentatively” set for the weekend of Aug. 15. The plan is to hold a traditional, in-person ceremony. A virtual ceremony is possible, however, if required by safety concerns.

“Please be aware that state guidelines continue to change rapidly,” a letter to families reads. “If we are able to honor an in-person graduation at an earlier date, we will do our best to accommodate this.”

Community members Thursday night questioned the rationale for these plans. Administrators said although the dates have been chosen and announced, school officials are still awaiting the state’s summer guidelines and those dates could change.

“While the state’s rules are in flux and may be less prohibitive, it’s irresponsible for school officials to suggest a tentative date for an event greater than 50 people when the current regulations have disallowed such a gathering,” Allison Dorko, of Skowhegan, said during the forum.

“I find it unlikely that we will be able to have a prom, but the SAHS team felt strongly that we should put something out there to give kids hope. Brent and I agree,” Moody said in an email after the meeting.

“We are awaiting guidance from the Department of Education on summer school and will use that guidance to make our decisions. We also recognize though, that everything is subject to change.”

Administrators said they will notify the MSAD 54 community when more information becomes available. Principal Bruce Mochamer of Skowhegan Area High School said he and other school officials plan to make and announce firm plans several weeks in advance of the events.

Although graduation-related events have been postponed, Mochamer said he is working with businesses and class advisers to determine ways to showcase the graduating class.

Mochamer said the school has acquired lawn signs that will be displayed next week, and it is considering other ideas for recognizing students.

GRADING

The district sent a letter to parents May 1 describing how grading will work and how the 2019-20 school year is expected to finish.

Grades will close Friday, May 15, for the academic year. No new assignments were given to students after school facilities closed March 13, with the exception of Advanced Placement and dual enrollment courses that earn college credits upon completion.

Students who receive grades of 60 or better will receive credit for the courses they are taking. MSAD 54 officials said they chose to change the passing grade from 70 to 60 because students have had significantly less instructional time and were not able to earn grades for the fourth quarter. They also missed out on about 20 intervention blocks, which occur twice a week and provide students and teachers opportunities to meet and discuss school work.

Grades as of May 15 will determine the class rankings for the 2020 graduates.

FALL REGISTRATION

On kindergarten registration, Moody said the district will contact families digitally, post information online and send certain information by U.S. mail. By filling out the necessary forms, families can reserve spots for children at the appropriate schools and the district will then mail registration packets.

Moody also said MSAD 54 is working with union officials to determine when the school year will end. He said the district is looking to end a few days earlier than scheduled to allow for professional development and collaborative work time as staff members plan for the 2020-21 school year.

Moody said June 5 is being considered for the final day of the 2019-20 school year.

SCHOOL BUDGET

Colbry provided updates on the budget process. Since the budget referendum is now scheduled for July, the district has more time to look at spending.

“We’re trying to come up with a draft,” Colbry said, “that shows the community that we’re sensitive to the local appropriation (and) sensitive to how much money we’re spending.”

The numbers that the district is looking at were given by the state a few months ago.

“Two to three months ago, we would have been looking at a slight increase of local appropriations,” Colbry said. “In this environment, I don’t know how to do that.”

The board ultimately makes that decision, but Colbry said that using his best judgement, the district should expect the numbers initially given by the state to be reduced due to the likelihood of shortfalls in state revenue, which Colbry says is projected to be about $800 million to $1.2 billion.

Colbry also suggested looking at vacancies and to try to take advantage of this when looking to cut costs on the budget. This can be done by not filling certain positions and shuffling people around.

“It’s definitely a wait-and-see situation,” Quinn said. “We just have to hold tight until we know what the money is going to be and if we can even have a public hearing or a vote.”

NEW SCHOOL UPDATE

Colbry said that while the new school process has been moving slowly due to the pandemic, the administration has been working with the Department of Education and construction to determine whether the property behind Skowhegan Area High School, which is owned by the district, would be a buildable space for North Elementary School, if it’s able to be replaced.

“(Doing this) doesn’t mean that anything is going to happen,” Colbry said. “We’ve just started doing environmental work, which will take three to four weeks to do.”

MASCOT

The mascot selection process will be on hold likely until students return to the classroom, Quinn said at the meeting, saying that the board wants students to be heavily involved in the process, and that is hard to do remotely as many students at home do not have access.

The next board meeting date has not been set, though there was mention of another meeting in two or three weeks.

 

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