VCS has new gadgets, costing almost nothing…for now

Vassalboro Community School (contributed photo)

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Community School (VCS) has lots of new technology for students and staff – and so far, the gadgets have cost town taxpayers almost nothing. But there may be big bills down the road, as things wear out and need repair and replacement.

That was the gist of the message Will Backman and David Trask gave Vassalboro School Board members at their Oct. 19 meeting.

Backman, Director of Technology for the former Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) £92 that served, and many of whose staff still serve, Vassalboro, Waterville and Winslow schools, and Trask, teacher and Technology Systems Administrator at VCS, summarized past, present and planned future technology at the school.

In the old days, VCS owned a few computers that were wheeled on carts from one classroom to another. Now, every student has a personal laptop – and headphones, Trask added, so students no longer need to bring their headphones from home.

There are five 3D printers, all but one purchased with grant money. Opportunities for online and remote learning have multiplied.

Asked if students spend all their time staring at screens, the men said no – computer use varies with grade level and with different subjects.

Typing is inherent in the curriculum, Trask assured board member Jessica Clark, from third grade on up. And, he added, many students become competent on a keyboard on their own.

Looking to the future, Trask and Backman advised:

  • “Funding to sustain upkeep and replacement of all this new technology.”
  • “Fixed and mobile makerspace(s)” for everyone to use, and more integration of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in all grades and subjects.
  • Professional development to expand teachers’ use of technology, and higher expectations for students’ technological literacy.
  • A full-time “instructional technology support and data management” staff person.

Trask said currently he, and VCS, are unusual: he is both a classroom teacher and the technology manager, while many other schools have a technology teacher and a separate technology support staff.

Another report to board members, from Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer, said that in-school construction is almost done, after delays due to supply bottlenecks; and the generator that is a major step toward making the school building an emergency shelter should arrive early in November.

Director of Finance Paula Pooler said the 2021-22 budget is on track so far. She received an unexpected $22,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the food program, which she hopes will continue to pay for itself.

She and Food Service Director John Hersey said as far as they know, the State of Maine will pick up the tab after the federal funds that allow free school meals expire next year.

On the Vassalboro school website,, an Oct. 21 letter from Pfeiffer reminds parents to fill out the Economic Status Form. These forms, originally applications for free or reduced-price meals, are still essential in determining how much federal money VCS receives for different programs, Pfeiffer explained.

Pfeiffer expressed appreciation to Pooler and the other staff members at the former AOS central office who have added federal programs to their usual workload over the last 20 months. Pooler said the amount of money flowing through her office has almost doubled, from around $40 million a year pre-pandemic to around $78 million now, with a more-then-corresponding increase in required documentation.

Pfeiffer also thanked Trask for his service as president of the Vassalboro Education Association and introduced his successor in the position, first-grade teacher Stacey Feyler.

Board members approved appointment of librarian/media specialist Melora Norman as director of the Gifted and Talented Program. Pfeiffer said it will be revived, after a pause caused by a lack of applications and by the impact of the pandemic.

Principal Megan Allen updated board members on VCS’s anti-bullying and social/ emotional health programs, the latter being run cooperatively with the Maine Department of Education.

Half a dozen parents of VCS students attended the meeting to again object to and ask questions about the school’s mask mandate. They also had questions about pool testing, which they said has become “cool” among students, and about quarantine requirements.

One parent, who identified herself as an employee at another school, said pool testing “really does work.”

Another letter from Pfeiffer on the opening page of, dated Oct. 12, provides information about pool testing.

The next Vassalboro School Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, Nov. 16.


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