Retiring Superintendent Brent Colbry is shown Tuesday with a can of ravioli and other mementos given to him at Skowhegan Area High School in Skowhegan, just before the start of his final Maine School Administrative District 54 board meeting. Colbry spent 46 years in education, including 17 in the district. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

SKOWHEGAN — The Maine School Administrative District 54 board of directors convened for only its second in-person meeting since the coronavirus pandemic closed school facilities in mid-March.

Tuesday’s meeting began with a brief celebration for board member Mark Bedard, who will step down after six years, and Superintendent Brent Colbry, whose retirement caps a 46-year career in education, including 17 in the district.

“I feel deeply honored and privileged to have worked with Brent,” Assistant Superintendent Jon Moody said. “Thank you, Mr. Colbry.”

Moody will take over as superintendent Wednesday, with former Messalonskee Middle School principal Mark Hatch stepping up as the district’s assistant superintendent.

“I am super excited to be coming on as superintendent,” Moody said, “although I didn’t envision the transition to be like this.”

“It’s unheard of in this business for someone to stay for 17 years,” Chairperson Lynda Quinn said to Colbry. “We were lucky enough to have you for that. You will be sorely missed.”

MSAD 54, which includes Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Skowhegan and Smithfield, has been hosting board meetings on the Zoom videoconferencing platform, but opted Tuesday to have board members meet at the Skowhegan Area High School gymnasium. Tables were spread out 6 feet apart with one board member on each end, allowing for proper social distancing.

Retiring Superintendent Brent Colbry speaks Tuesday during his final Maine School Administrative District 54 board meeting at Skowhegan Area High School in Skowhegan. Colbry has spent 46 years as an educator, including 17 in MSAD 54. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Moody gave an update on the upcoming school year. They are still waiting for guidance from the state, but hope to come back to the board July 16 with a first-round of data based on a survey seeking parent input on distance learning and their concerns and thoughts about returning to the classroom.

The district is looking at ways to mitigate the potential spread of the virus if in-person classes resume. If students return to school facilities in the fall, Moody said several different measures will be implemented, including a focus on sanitizing, minimizing transitions, improving hygiene, limiting interactions and getting students outside. He said more information would be provided at the next board meeting.

Skowhegan Area High School Principal Bruce Mochamer reported on the graduation ceremony held in-person on June 20. He noted students were able to graduate in groups of six, allowing for a series of smaller, more intimate ceremonies.

“Graduation was phenomenal,” Quinn said. “The day was flawless. The best part was that every student’s family got a front row seat. Nothing went wrong, staff was around sanitizing chairs and surfaces and it was a lovely day.”

Mochamer and Quinn both said parents have come to each of them suggesting similar graduations in the future. Each group got 15 minutes in the gymnasium with their family, time enough for two graduates to be on stage at a time, where their names were called, diplomas were received and tassels turned.

In other business, Colbry said that by the end of June, the district had delivered a total of 441,200 meals to students through the meal delivery program.

He also reminded people to vote on July 14 on the district’s proposed $36.6 million budget, which is down more than $100,000 from the previous fiscal year.

The next board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on July 16 in the Skowhegan Area High School gymnasium.


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