Total Reorganization? New Early Release Days?

The AOS School Board Had a Big Meeting Monday

BAR HARBOR—School Superintendent Michael Zboray led the joint regional school board through multiple options of how the island schools, Trenton, Frenchboro, Cranberry Isles and Swan’s Island could be organized. Any of the four models briefly detailed would require the state to repeal law created in the 1960s, which allowed for the creation of MDI High School.

If the reorganization occurs, there would be one budget for the entire school district, “no matter in which community you live.” Teachers would also be employed by the district.

The rationale for the change is that it would create “stronger, better-coordinated curriculum experiences across schools; more efficiently designed and delivered special education programming and services; greater access to extra- and co-curricular activities; and more opportunities for students to form successful peer groups and be grouped for teaching in a manner that best meets their needs.”

There was no action taken on the proposal Monday night.

For action to occur, the entire school board must first hold a workshop. Next, individual school committees and boards would have to sign a notice of intent. This would be declaring that they want to create a regional planning committee often called a RPC.

The composition of the RPC requires each town in the district to provide as a member:

1.     One board member

2.     One town officer

3.     One community member

Next, the RPC would create a plan. It would hold meetings open to the community and stakeholders. The final approval would go to each town to vote on via a referendum.

There are currently 1,418 students in the school system, Zboray said. He stressed that the outcome is about finding the best idea that makes the best sense for students and a realistic end date would likely be 2025.

If approved, the governing body would be between 8 to 16 members elected regionally, but with a town residency requirement.

The following slides are the models presented during Zboray’s presentation.


The joint board also discussed a potential district wide early release day on Wednesdays for all students except for those in the high school. The release would end the students’ time 90 minutes earlier on that day and allow all teachers and staff to have designated time to address individual students learning and behavioral and social needs, rather than teachers leaving the classroom during instruction time for those discussions. It is meant for all students, not only those enrolled in special education.

Since presenting the idea last month, Zboray has talked to each individual school board with the proposal and he said Monday that he feels the change is important and wanted all school board members to be able to think about it before taking action.

Gail Marshall of Mount Desert said that when Zboray first discussed the proposal, “I witnessed our board take off at 90 mph and become extremely reactive.” She said she was disappointed in how strident the conversations became.

Robin Sue Tapley, Lilea Simis, and Tyson Starling, all of the Bar Harbor School Committee asked multiple clarifying questions. In answer to those, Zboray said that the parent teacher conferences would remain, but some of the calendar half days might not. He said that it would reduce the amount of time teachers are pulled out of the classroom. Teachers of specials such as art or physical education would also be involved in the meetings, which are intended to be about the whole student and their experience in the school.

Tapley said that since Bar Harbor doesn’t have sports on Friday that day would work better for an earlier release. Another board member said that a three o’clock release is difficult already for many working parents.

“What are we supposed to do at 1:30 in the middle of the week,” he asked.

Bar Harbor School Board Vice Chair Marie Yarborough said she wasn’t surprised by the community’s reaction.

“These are really impactful decisions that we are making,” Yarborough said. She added that it’s important to get accurate information out to parents and the community early and often. “We have to put this out in front of people.”

She said she sees and understands the need for teachers to collaborate about each student’s individual needs, but wondered if there were any other options and wished that those could be presented as well.

At the beginning of the meeting, a parent that didn’t identify herself or her community said that Maine had one of the fewest number of school days in the United States and was one of the only states that didn’t mandate instructional hours. She added that she felt she couldn’t trust the school board.

State law mandates, “A school administrative unit shall make provision for the maintenance of all of its schools for at least 180 days a year. At least 175 days shall be used for instruction. In meeting the requirement of a 180-day school year, no more than 5 days may be used for in-service education of teachers, administrative meetings, parent-teacher conferences, records’ days and similar activities.”

MDI High School Losses

Zboray also briefly mentioned the loss of MDI High School student, Corie Butler last week. Principal Matthew Haney also discussed her lost during the High School Board meeting earlier Monday.

“We live in a wonderful community,” Zboray said. “A community that comes together when there is loss.”

On Tuesday, it was also announced that the high school lost Kara Beal, an English teacher. Both the deaths were unexpected and support was in place for staff and students on the following days as well as counselors from throughout the district. Several fundraisers were set up for Butler’s family.

Bar Harbor School Budget

Right before the meeting, the Bar Harbor School budget was approved. The revised budget for fiscal year 2023 to 2024 budget is $8,330,965, an increase of 5.50%. That comes to a 1.70% increase to the town’s total appropriation for the school.

The MDI High School budget was also passed with a 6.43% increase.

All slides are from Zboray’s Monday night presentation.


To watch the AOS 91 meeting, click here.

State law about mandated school days.

2018 chart of mandated instructional days per state.

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