Bullying problems addressed by Vassalboro school board

Vassalboro Community School (contributed photo)

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro School Board members heard a parent’s complaint about bullying at Vassalboro Community School (VCS) at the beginning of their Sept. 21 meeting. They reacted with sympathy and concern and said they, administrators and their policy committee will continue to address the problem.

Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer, who has had positive experience with anti-bullying programs earlier in his career in education in Maine, is looking at a broad approach. He reported that after “significant conversations” with Maine Department of Education (MDOE) officials, he has just signed up VCS for an MDOE pilot program called SEL (social emotional learning, which includes bullying, school safety and related issues).

Pfeiffer’s statement continued: “The MDOE Office of School and Student Supports and the Maine School Safety center are supporting this effort. More conversations will occur in the coming days and weeks to build a thoughtful sequential framework of steps for the next several years.

“This is an effort to support all students, families and staff through the effects, residual effects and ongoing effects of the pandemic over the past 18 months,” he concluded.

Most of the rest of the Sept. 21 meeting involved reports on the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.

Pfeiffer was upbeat. There have been scattered coronavirus cases, which have been handled promptly and appropriately, he said. But, he said, the good news is, “We’ve been in school all day every day for 14 days,” and he hopes to continue.

VCS offers a remote option for students unable or unwilling to attend in person. Curriculum Director Carol Kiesman said 11 students were learning remotely as of Sept. 21.

Kiesman praised new remote teacher Jennifer Bonnet as “a superstar.” Bonnet is certified to teach both regular and special education students, she said.

Nurse MaryAnn Fortin had conducted the first pool test for coronavirus the day before the meeting and was pleased with the cooperation from students and staff.

Dr. Steve Diaz, Chief Medical Officer at MaineGeneral Hospital, in Augusta, spoke from the audience about the Delta variant, which he said is affecting children more than previous versions of the virus did.

It is important for students to attend school in person, educationally, socially and emotionally, he said. Since children under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated, school authorities must use multiple other protective measures – he specified keeping sick children at home, observing social distancing and masking.

“You’re doing the right thing,” he assured VCS officials and the audience.

Principal Megan Allen said teachers are finding out what students missed during last year’s disruptions as they begin the current year. Assistant Principal Greg Hughes said intermural sports have started normally.

In the usual beginning of the year routine, school board members approved hiring Bonnet and more than a dozen other new staff members. Pfeiffer reported a continuing shortage of teacher aides, substitute teachers and bus drivers.

Previously-retired driver Ellie Lessard is still back at work, he said, and Maintenance and Grounds Director Shelley Phillips is finding time to fill in as a bus driver.

The next regular Vassalboro School Board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19.


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