EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine – School leaders opted to dismiss as premature Tuesday an offer from Millinocket to accept East Millinocket students for a total tuition of $1.5 million.
East Millinocket School Committee members accepted without a vote school Superintendent Quenten Clark’s recommendation to decide what to do with Schenck High School before they consider anything else.
“As long as the building is here and still usable I think we [should] take some time, think through our options — any options anybody can think of — research them, and make our choice,” Clark said.
Members of AOS 66, which includes the school boards of East Millinocket, Woodville and Medway, declined to discuss a letter Millinocket School Committee Chairman Chairman Kevin Gregory wrote protesting AOS board member Greg Stanley’s reposting on Facebook of a video of a fight among three girls at Stearns High School on Jan. 22.
AOS Committee Chairman Dawn York read a brief statement after saying that an item referring to an executive session to discuss “Duties of Officials” was removed from the board’s agenda. Board members have said the item was a reference to Gregory’s letter.
“We want to assure our community and our neighbors that we take seriously the responsibility that all school leaders and educators have to ensure the safety of the students entrusted to our care,” York read. “We are all committed to protecting and educating children wherever they go to school in whatever community they call their own. Each and every member of our board is committed to putting children first.”
“I would ask at the end of the day we set aside our personal agendas, the politics, and we need to remember why we were elected to this board,” York added.
She quoted the late U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith: “The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.”
After the meeting, York said the statement did not refer to Gregory’s letter but was an effort to focus her own board on business. Both the agenda item removal and statement came as part of the chairwoman’s meeting report, she said.
Gregory declined to comment Tuesday on the school boards’ actions.
In his letter, Gregory said Stanley reposting of the video was unethical. A middle school student suffered a broken nose and eye damage in the fight. Millinocket police issued two students summonses, one student was expelled and several students suspended.
AOS board members agreed with Clark that residents should consider offers from all neighboring school systems should they close Schenck.
Officials have said school roof repairs would cost about $1.8 million. Total renovations would cost as much as $7 million. Continuing declines in enrollment and state aid would leave town taxpayers with most of that burden, they said.
However, state education officials say Schenck will get about $636,000 in state aid for the roof job. Board members said they don’t need to do all $7 million in repairs.
Board members and residents said that the school was worth saving and that town residents should take pride in it and its teachers. Board members agreed to publish final cost estimates for repairing Schenck to dispel rumors and bad publicity.
Two residents spoke of Gregory’s letter. Saying that as an AOS board member Gregory represented the three towns, East Millinocket resident Linda Osborne expressed disappointment that Stanley did not apologize for his actions.
Another resident said board members should not criticize Stanley publicly for his actions. Stanley did not respond but has said that he was speaking as a private citizen with his postings.
School officials hope to finalize repair estimates soon. The decision on whether to repair Schenck is expected to be decided by a referendum.