At the regular Gorham School Committee meeting, Chairman Darryl Wright thanked outgoing members Suzie Phillips (3 years), Sara Nelson (6 years) and Dennis Libby (12 years) for their years of service to the committee and district. Only Libby is seeking reelection in November.
Superintendent Heather Perry reported that the State is considering gradually moving Child Development Services (CDS) for 3 to 5 year olds to the public schools with a schedule yet to be determined. She announced that the State has approved the purchase of two new mini buses for the district.
The process for choosing an architectural firm for the high school renovation project is nearing completion and a special meeting is planned for presentation to the School Committee on October 25. There will be a parent forum on Proficiency Based Learning (PBL) on November 6 for grades 6-8 at Gorham Middle School and one on November 13 for parents of K-5 students at Village School.
Kathy Hamblen, Director of Special Education, presented a review of the program. There are currently 357 students served by a full and part-time staff of 52. Although these figures are similar to last year, Hamblen stressed the challenges of a changing landscape and growing population. There will be more students with severe autism entering grades 6-12 over the next few years, raising questions of how to help these students, and others with disabilities, meet PBL standards leading to graduation.
Hamblen also spoke about the increased medical needs of high school students and the strain it places on staff’s time. Thirty percent of students have had trauma experiences, she said, many related to drug abuse by themselves or family members. Her department is working on navigating PBL with a focus on student independence, learning the new state eligibility process, and preparing for when/if the district provides CDS for 3 to 5 year olds. The School Committee commended her on managing these increasingly complex issues and expanding services.
Sub-committees made brief reports. Progress of committees studying possible changes in the school day and K-5 reconfiguration can be found by going to the Gorham School District website here. The Reconfiguration sub-committee will report on various options at a November 29 workshop.
The committee voted in Kyren Bettencourt for a two-year term as student representative. She will join Josephine Smith who was appointed last year. They also voted to approve Schedule B and C positions, mainly in music instruction, club advising, and sports coaching.