Teacher Shortages, Sicknesses, and Reorganization Discussed at Mount Desert Island Regional School System Meeting
BAR HARBOR—At the Mount Desert Island Regional School System meeting on Monday, Superintendent Michael Zboray reported that Maine school superintendents met last week to discuss school lockdowns, shelter-in-place warnings and similar crisis events. Mount Desert Island High school locked down in November after a serious threat. Students were eventually bused to Mount Desert Elementary School in Northeast Harbor. A juvenile suspect was identified that same afternoon.
On November 15, there were shooting hoaxes at several Maine High Schools. Eventually parents and students at Sanford High School became distraught and the scene grew into chaos.
Zboray told the board, “Communication is extremely important.”
Many schools had messages out to the community about the hoaxes within 25 to 30 minutes. He added that with “social media the way that it is, you have to get it out in 10 minutes.”
Part of the issue with the Sanford response, he said was because information was going out everywhere. He has met with Bar Harbor’s Communications Coordinator, Maya Caines and will be using her position as support to get information out.
Social media is hugely important, Zboray said. “Right now we don’t have a Facebook presence,” Zboray said. “That’s an important and useful tool to have.”
For local media, he mentioned that Caines could liaison with the Mount Desert Islander and Chris Popper’s page. Popper works for WDEA and has multiple active Facebook pages for the dispersal of local news. News bloggers, television news, and the Bangor Daily News were not mentioned though some of them had only accurate, quick information during the November 1 event, and even provided that information to other sites.
If Zboray is out of the picture during a lockdown, there is now an organization of who would be in charge of information. He expects to create templates in the school’s messenger as soon as possible.
Multiple schools have had high levels of absences, Zboray said, including Conners-Emerson where “about a third of students and close to a third of staff were out.”
Once there is 15 percent of students or staff absent, the school has to alert the state and then the state epidemiologist contacts the school. To break the cycle of influenza, they close for three days. Bucksport closed on Friday. Conners Emerson did on Monday.
The high school had 12 staff absent on Monday and more than 20 students. Pemetic Elementary had 30 students and 10 staff absent the same day.
“It’s being able to figure if it’s safe enough that you can teach in the school regardless of the number the kids (that) are there,” Zboray said.
Julie Keblinsky also spoke about the AOS’ attempts to grow and recruit teachers, saying that the past strategy of having a nationwide search wasn’t helpful because all schools have that same strategy. Keblinksy is the 7-12 grade director of teaching and learning.
The question becomes how do they grow their own teachers, she said, adding, “Our parenting doesn’t support our profession. Our own teachers don’t encourage the profession.” She wants that to change and for teachers to be nurtured and for teaching to be encouraged.
“This is a beautiful profession,” Julie Keblensky said.
“One way we are working to support the teacher development in our own communities is to start our own Educators Rising chapter. In addition to growing our own teachers, this is also a powerful strategy to diversify our workforce. Our student population is more diverse than our current teaching workforce and inviting a diverse student body to this program will help us to grow a more diverse faculty. Check out the curriculum map here and think of students who would be a good fit for this program. We are currently working out the details on how this will work in our district next year. Slow and steady is the strategy,” Keblensky and Rhonda Fortin, director of teaching and learning for pre-K through sixth grade wrote in a memo.
The meeting briefly touched on a potential island-wide (or partially island-wide) school reorganization process. At its next meeting there should be op-eds in local newspapers about why that reorganization might be necessary.
“The thing is the relationship between reorganization and building projects,” Zboray said. For instance with the potential Conners Emerson project, there is a keen understanding of what possibilities might be and that rooms are designed for flexibility
The board renewed a one-year contact for Zboray starting July 1, 2023. It’s a three-year contract, but need to approve a salary yearly. That salary is for July 1 through June 30 and is for $152,500.
Zboray was appointed the principal of Pemetic Elementary in July 2021. He became the superintendent of the MDI regional school system in March of 2022 after being appointed interim in January 2022. He was an administrator at Conners Emerson and Trenton Elementary. He is a 1995 College of the Atlantic graduate and has a master’s from University of Maine at Orono (2005).
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