July 18, 2018
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Ellsworth, Sullivan schools replace principals so RSU 24 can get federal funds

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

ELLSWORTH, Maine — With a few changes in the district’s administrative staff, RSU 24 has received more than $1.8 million that it plans to use at schools in Ellsworth and Sullivan over the next three years.

Renee Thompson, the assistant principal at Ellsworth High School, has been promoted to principal while William Connors, her predecessor, has been reassigned to the position of assistant principal at Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School.

Of the federal money coming to RSU 24, $1.5 million is going to Ellsworth High School and $337,000 is going to Mountain View School in Sullivan, which has students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

The Maine Department of Education announced last month that the schools were two of the four in Maine receiving federal money aimed at improving student performance. The other schools receiving money are East End School in Portland, which is receiving more than $2.7 million, and Fort Kent Community High School, which is receiving $846,000.

All four were among 10 schools in Maine that receive federal Title 1 money that goes to schools with high percentages of economically disadvantaged students and students that were determined to be under-performing by standards set by the federal No Child left Behind Act.

As a condition of receiving the federal funds, however, the schools have been required to replace their principals. In addition to the changes in Ellsworth, Principal Bill Dove of the K-8 Mountain View School in Sullivan resigned in June when the RSU 24 board was considering replacing him in order to qualify for the federal funds.

“We had to make a change,” Suzanne Lukas, the new superintendent for RSU 24, said Friday about the changes in principals. “This is a reality of adequate yearly progress and the No Child Left Behind legislation.”

RSU 24 Assistant Superintendent Katrina Kane said Tuesday that the RSU board was scheduled to consider and possibly select a new principal for Mountain View School at their meeting that night.

Lukas said the money earmarked for Ellsworth High School will be spread out over three years at $500,000 a year. It will allow the school to create and fill a new administrative position for instruction, the aim of which will be to create stronger programming innovations in the classroom, she said.

The money also will enable the school to hire academic coaches that will work with teachers on instruction methods, Lukas said, and will allow the school to create a leadership council for teachers. The council will allow teachers to become directly involved in seeking and administrating grants, she said.

The $337,000 designated for Mountain View School, though much less, will go toward the same type of academic coaching, teacher leadership and professional development programs, the superintendent said.

“This will be Year One” for the new federally funded programs in RSU 24, Lukas said of the academic year about to begin.

Bill Connors, contacted Monday at his home, said his new position at the elementary-middle school was created last year, before the decision was made to accept the federal funds and to change principals at the high school. With the recent consolidation of the city’s three elementary and middle schools, which now are owned and operated by RSU 24, the number of pupils in the building is approximately 800.

“There’s a lot of increased responsibility” for administrators at the elementary-middle school, Connors said. “I expect to be involved generally.”

Attempts this week to track down information about how many students were enrolled at Ellsworth Elementary Middle School during the 2010-2011 academic year were unsuccessful.

As for being replaced at the high school, Connors said it is “unfortunate” that such a move was required in order for the high school to receive the federal funds. He noted that RSU 24 had to deal with the same situation last year when Michael Eastman was removed as principal of Sumner Memorial High School in Sullivan so the district could accept federal money.

Eastman subsequently was appointed as principal at another RSU 24 school, the elementary Peninsula School in Gouldsboro.

Connors said the only indicator of whether the federal money is being put to good use at Ellsworth High School will be whether the students’ standardized test scores go up.

“It is what it is,” Connors said about being replaced. “Time’s going to tell whether they will [increase] or not. Hopefully, they will.”

Attempts this past week to reach Thompson, the new principal at Ellsworth High School, have been unsuccessful.

Dove, contacted Tuesday at his home, said he resigned as principal of Mountain View School because he wanted to pursue other interests. He said he currently is working in the antiques industry, but would like to continue working in education.

Dove declined to comment more specifically about the circumstances of his resignation.

“I just want to leave it at that,” he said.

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