Maine School Adminstrative District 75

Strategic Planning Action Team: Harpswell Schools Consolidation Study

Report of the Harpswell Action Team from its June 8, 2009 meeting

After eight meetings, the Harpswell Action Team concluded its study of the consolidation of the potential consolidation of the two Harpswell elementary Schools. The purpose of the Committee was to examine the factors that could lead to such a decision in a public, transparent format so that the pros and cons of such a decision could be determined.

It was originally proposed to have the committee members vote a recommendation for the full Board, but as the work proceeded it became clear that it would be better to provide a finding of fact for the Board, and let the Board make its decision from that.

The idea of studying the consolidation of the two schools was proposed by the Comprehensive Strategic Planning Committee and endorsed by the Board on March 12th of this year.  Given the difficult budget times and declining enrollments and the need to increase capacity for educational intervention and student success, the Committee had proposed three areas of study – the consolidation of the Harpswell elementary schools, the reconfiguration of the Topsham and Bowdoin/Bowdoinham schools to grades K-2 and Grades 3-5 schools and the adoption of a schedule at the high school that would make sharing with Brunswick feasible. The Harpswell study commenced at the beginning of April, 2009.

The following finding of fact is structured around a set of questions. Some of the information from which their understandings flowed is a follows:

Harpswell Islands School Population:            
2004 (Oct)                                  139
2005                                            127
2006                                            130
2007                                            125
2008                                            111
Current:                                      100
Projected:  2009 between 96 and 86

West Harpswell School Population:           
2004 (Oct)                                 80
2005                                           83
2006                                           82
2007                                           83
2008                                           73
Current:                           .        71
Projected:  2009                     74



We have estimated cost savings against the FY ’08 Budget at $184,721. We will need to use the most recent audited figures (FY ’09) available in September, so this number will change.

Current budget dollars behind students per school :

BCS                    BHM            HIS                     WHS                     WCS                      WES
$7,745                $7,532         $10,602             $9,502                  $7,610                  $7,582

District Travel Time:

Proposed new bus runs from Harpswell Neck to HIS have estimated rider times of approximately 50 minutes.

Rider times in the District range from 65 minutes at Bowdoin Central to 25 minutes at Woodside Elementary School. Currently there are only two runs in the District with rider times under 30 minutes. 22 runs are over 30 minutes.  8 are over 50 minutes.

Facilities Impact:

We have space at HIS to accommodate both populations. There are some ADA compliance measures that would have to be taken for a wheelchair-bound WHS student.


Harpswell Islands School has two parking lots available to it – one behind the school and the Austin Carey lot (not owned by the school) that is opened for public events. There is also unpaved parking at the bottom of the hill.

Class size:

The District strives for optimum class sizes, in our smaller schools through the combination of grades. This has been the case at WHS for years and is now occurring at HIS (K-1).  This year the Kindergarten at WHS has six students, and the fifth grade has seven students.  According to District policy “optimum” K class size is 16; Grades 1-3 is 18; and Grades 4-5 is 22. 

Minutes from Monday, June 1, 2009

Strategic Planning Action Team Members
Linda Hall, Community Representative
Ellie Multer, Selectman
Sarah Davies, Parent Representative from Harpswell Islands School alternate, HIS
Julie Gaudet, faculty representative West Harpswell School , WHS
Hannah Beattie, parent representative from WHS
Jen Nucci, principal HIS
Michael Estes, principal WHS
Debbie O'Neil, faculty representative from HIS

RSU 75 Board Comprehensive Strategic Planning Committee members:
Joanne Rogers, Dee Carrier, Joanne Reinhart, Kim Totten, Scott McKernan (absent Gwen Thomas)
Michael Wilhelm, RSU 75 Superintendent


The following remarks followed a review of the Agenda:

Outline of process and timeline for establishing savings through school closing

The explanation of the process through which the analysis to establish the savings of a school closing was outlined. The State uses the financial information from the most recent audited fiscal year. In our case, this would mean that the financial information from the 2008-09 school year would apply. The District furnishes information to the State in September. The State then certifies the cost savings. This information is sent to Harpswell for review; the town is given twenty days to question the Commissioner's analysis. Following the State certification of cost savings, the District sets the date and pays for the town's referendum. If necessary, it is believed that this process could be completed in the fall.

Ellie Multer's remarks on her vote:
Last Thursday at a meeting of the Harpswell Selectman she was asked about her vote. Her view is that her vote should not be mandated by any group.

June 10 th Hearing in Harpswell
It was announced that there will be a town meeting on June 10 th to solicit views on school consolidation. It was requested that this committee withhold taking a vote until after the 10th. This issue was to be addressed later in the agenda.


1. Funding Formula
Superintendent Wilhelm provided an overview of the State funding formula, how it impacts each of the four towns and the costs per elementary student by school and by town.
(See Funding Formula 6-1-09)

A rough outline of the steps include:

  • The state sets an amount that is the minimum to be spent to educate students in the system based on its Essential Program and Services model.
  • A calculation of the amount to be provided by each town is created by the State, based on the number of students in each town.
  • The State sets the mil rate that each town must generate in taxes towards this amount.
  • If towns must generate more than the set mil rate, the State provides the additional amount required as subsidy.
  • The subsidy generated from any town in the District becomes part of the general revenue.

The committee discussion followed the presentation. Class sizes and their impact on the cost per pupil were discussed. It was asked how many students would be needed to make the costs per pupil in Harpswell closer to the cost in other towns. Debt service, what it is, why it was not a comparable cost included in the cost per pupil averages and the debt service by towns and the District Orion Performing Arts Center were outlined. Forecasting how changes in enrollment might impact the funding formula was not possible. Every year the State begins with the amount it can provide to all systems in the State and sets its formula to distribute those funds. Each year two things change, both the State amount and the relative status of all systems in the State.

2. Transportation

Materials that the group used for discussion included:

  • The transportation materials presented at an earlier meeting were shared again with committee members; the information included maximum rider times for all elementary routes in the District (See Transportation 3-30-09)
  • A chart of the rider stops for the routes (See Funding Formula 6-1-09)
  • A chart providing the proposed bus rides for WHS and HIS students all being transported to HIS classified by those under and over 30 minutes (See Funding Formula 6-1-09)

Discussion included:

The group discussed whether 1 st on and last off or 1 st on and 1 st off was better. The geography on the area impacts the degree to which a 1 st on and 1 st off approach was preferable.

The impact of extended rider times for all elementary students has become an issue that will be studied by the Board.

Not all students attending WHS were included in the proposed route. If more students elect to ride the bus, how will the District address this?

3. Committee process for analyzing the data

At the beginning of the Committee's work in April, a grid outlining the data to be explored had been reviewed. A similar grid was distributed with the addition of columns for fact and conjecture notes for each type of information. (See Criteria 6-1-09)

The Committee was asked to use the grid to separate their notes for each item into what was known and what was forecast, conjecture, opinion or not known. The process for the next meeting will be to have members share their thinking using this grid as an organizing framework.

Instead of taking a vote, the Committee will use its time develop the facts for the Board to consider. This way, the fact finding from the group and the additional information gained from the public hearing on June 10 th can all be shared with the Board at their meeting on June 11th.

It was asked how the District classifies class sizes. The District guidelines from elementary class sizes was outlined. (See Class Size Guidelines 6-1-09)

A question regarding what the District will do if the consolidated Harpswell School needed more classrooms was asked. The response was that the District would address the need and figure it out.

Julie Gaudet asked to go on record as stating the optimum class size was 6.

Public Comment Included:
Questions regarding the additional students not included in the transportation overview and what would be done to address their needs; whether optimum class size was a fact or opinion; concerns regarding the impact of extended bus rides on students including personal experience as a bus chaperone and the short and long terms costs of consolidation; concerns about the long bus rides and the impact on students both at school and at home; the impact on a 5 th grader who will experience two transitions if WHS closes, transitions to new school in 5 th and to the middle school in 6 th; a parent shared her son's profile and the impact of the long bus ride on him; questions regarding specific qualifications for Title 1, the appropriateness of WHS Title 1 status being impacted by consolidation, the Board goal regarding increasing parent involvement and the conflict between consolidation and the Board goal and federal law; why rush the decision as all towns have not been involved; the effect on the community, whether families will choose to move to the area if the school closes; the change in bus times and concern regarding the drive in poor conditions; respect for the citizens by waiting to take action after the town hearing; experience with bigger schools in another state that did not allow for more choices, the long bus ride and suggestion for smaller buses making fewer stops; the impact on the middle school students' bus ride times in order to accommodate the bus trips for consolidation; a calculation of the number of students needed at WHS and HIS to decrease the cost per pupil to reach the average spent at other schools in the system.

Following public comment it was asked by a committee member whether the District had bus chaperones. The District has bus aides on some bus runs.

A question regarding whether the bus not allowed on Mountain Road Bridge was a law; it is not. It is a district policy that could be changed.

Minutes from Monday, May 18, 2009

Strategic Planning Action Team members
Linda Hall, Community Representative
Ellie Multer, Selectman
Malisa Blessington, Parent Representative from Harpswell Islands School, HIS
Julie Gaudet, faculty representative West Harpswell School, WHS
Hannah Beattie, parent representative from WHS
Jen Nucci, principal HIS
Michael Estes, principal WHS
Debbie O'Neil, faculty representative from HIS

RSU 75 Board Comprehensive Strategic Planning Committee members:
Joanne Rogers, Dee Carrier, Joanne Reinhart, Kim Totten, Scott McKernan
(absent Gwen Thomas)
Michael Wilhelm, RSU 75 Superintendent

The following remarks followed a review of the Agenda:
At this point it is unknown all that will be covered in next week's agenda.
A State formula sets the costs related to the school operation.
A request that the State funding formula and the District budget including stimulus funds will be addressed at an upcoming committee meeting.


1. Respond to Community Values Discussion from May 11

Community Values
As a follow up to the community values discussion, excerpts from the 2005 Harpswell Comprehensive Plan pages 45 and 46 were shared. The sections served to highlight three points that related to community values: Harpswell's concerns about enrollment; concerns about the State funding formula and Harpswell's contribution in SAD 75; and town policy that supports maintaining neighborhood schools.

It was noted that the Comprehensive Plan is for the town of Harpswell and does not directly apply to SAD 75, which represents four towns.

The order for the following two agenda items was changed after the meeting started. The Parent Survey conducted at the Harpswell Islands and West Harpswell Schools was discussed prior to the information on migration among the six elementary schools in the District.


2. Parent Survey Data

The results of the parent survey data were shared with the group. (See Parent Survey 5-18-09)
No notes were taken during this discussion.


3. Harpswell Out Migration

A report of the status of all students who are District residents not currently attending their “home school” in SAD 75 was presented; students not attending their home school is also referred to as “out migration.” In SAD 75 any family can elect for their child to attend any elementary school within the District given there is adequate room and the parent furnishes transportation. The report presented to the committee outlined the current number of out migration students present in each of the elementary schools. The report included both the school of origin and the reason given for the transfer.

The process through which parents request a school transfer begins with a meeting with a conversation between the parents and the home school building principal. The parents make their request. The District does not vet the data nor does it weigh in on the parent's decision. The reasons that parents give for their choices include socialization, academics, convenience, day care, sibling, special needs, and family. (See Elementary Migration 5-18-09)

4. Harpswell Islands Transformation

The discussion of reasons why parents had elected to transfer students led to the next topic which focused on the positive changes underway at Harpswell Islands School. This year, through the Response to Intervention approach, each teacher is sharing their student reading assessment data regularly as part of team meetings. An outline of the RTI framework and an explanation of the tiers of intervention were provided. Tier 1, Benchmark level, is the regular reading instruction for all students. Tier 2, Strategic level, provides extra support for some students who demonstrate need based on the school's assessments. Tier 3, Intensive level, provides additional focused support to those who demonstrate the greatest need.

This system involves instructional planning based on current student reading information and research-based instruction. Teachers meet regularly with their literacy teams to progress monitor each individual student receiving tier 2 or 3 services. Comparisons from fall to spring reading assessments data were shared with the committee members to demonstrate the effectiveness of this RTI approach and the positive impact on learning at Harpswell Islands School this year. (See K, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5 charts)

One indicator of the effectiveness of this approach has been that there are now some students who no longer qualify for special education services.

RTI is being implemented district-wide; it is a state and federal mandate. RTI is a preventative approach that impacts how the system views its resources. Each school needs the staff available to provide the interventions that are needed. As a District, all schools are moving from a site-based approach to resources and decision-making to a systems approach. Federal mandates require the system to adapt to meet the rising expectations for all students; the goal set by No Child Left Behind is that by 2014 all students will meet State standards for proficiency in reading and math. The District is seeking ways to make this happen and to provide greater accountability and greater transparency of student achievement data.

RTI is part of the impetus for the other strategies to be studied as part of the strategic planning process. At the other elementary schools in the District, there is going to be a study of school configurations in order to address this same need to provide the resources to the schools where they are needed.

In addition to the reading results, the Harpswell Island School staff shared additional evidence of the impact of changes implemented this year. Their Positive Behavior Support system was described to the committee. Prior to the start of the school year, programs were developed for students with identified behavior needs. As students entered in the fall they began with new programs in place. This proactive approach has resulted in a perceived change in the school culture. Staff members and parents have reported that they feel the building has changed; it is described as a “happy place to be.”

The transition for Harpswell Islands School will continue next year under the leadership of Michael Estes who will be leading each Harpswell school half time.

The next meeting was set for Monday, June 1 at Harpswell Islands School . The following Monday, June 8, the meeting will be held at West Harpswell School .

Public Comment Included:
request to include the committee's voting process as part of the next agenda; the issue of long bus rides, the issue of increased enrollment and the uncertainty about the future of student enrollments and the negative impact on potential enrollments if the school is closed, and request to delay the decision; the community's obligation to educate its students and the unintended consequences of closing the school and the belief that without the school the village will not survive.

Minutes from Monday, May 4, 2009

Strategic Planning Action Team members
Linda Hall, Community Representative
Ellie Multer, Selectman,
Malisa Blessington, Parent Representative from Harpswell Island Schools, HIS
Julie Gaudet, faculty representative West Harpswell School , WHS
Hannah Beattie, parent representative from WHS
Jen Nucci, principal HIS
Michael Estes, principal WHS
(absent Debbie O'Neil, faculty representative from HIS)

RSU 75 Board Comprehensive Strategic Planning Committee members
Joanne Rogers, Dee Carrier, Joanne Reinhart, Kim Totten
Michael Wilhelm, RSU 75 Superintendent
(absent Gwen Thomas and Scott McKernan)


Prior to addressing the Agenda Superintendent Wilhelm made the following remarks:

This is a fact finding rather than an advocacy group; it is a working subcommittee of the Board. Committee members should be supported to talk to one another. The public is not part of the working committee discussions. Given the degree of community interest, it is difficult to have one person serve roles of facilitating the meeting and representing the District.

Representation of this subcommittee was outlined. It was pointed out that many members are both representatives and residents. The expectation for parent representatives is that they represent all parents; they are not expected to “carry the water” for one perspective among their group. It was pointed out that one stakeholder group, the students, are not directly represented. It is incumbent on all members to keep their interests at the forefront.

Norms for the group were reviewed.

The meeting end time was set for 7:30 pm.

Through a discussion of the evening agenda and changes to it, it was noted that community members had attended in order to hear about Harpswell Island Out-Migration. That item was swapped from #4 to #3 in the hopes that it would be processed. A request to inform anyone identified as presenting an agenda item prior to that meeting was acknowledged and agreed to.


•  Respond to April 29 discussions

Discussion among committee members included an interest in understanding WHS program as a “model,” which led to how the District and the public views the MEA test, and how the District views the internal, ongoing assessment information. WHS students are perceived to be doing well by both the MEA and District views. Small cohorts' scores are considered more reflective of individual students; cohorts of 100 or more are more reflective of a program. The MEA data for HIS reflects student performance from last year and does not indicate the impact of changes in place this year.

Discussion related to funding and federal mandates included explaining why the District received less over most of the past five years. The downward trend was tied to the increase in District population; once over 20,000 citizens, a different method was used to calculate funding. The Title 1 program planning for the coming year was discussed. With the economic downturn, changes in the status of families may have an impact on the amount in allocations to schools. It was clarified that the data used to allocation Title 1 resources came from a State enrollment report.

The research provided regarding consolidation was referenced. The definitions for consolidation and unification were shared with the group.

•  Community Values

The group reviewed a chart that summarized many of the comments and ideas pertaining to community values. The chart was not intended to limit the discussion; it was prepared to provide a point of reference and prompt related ideas. The two general categories were “community value” and “community/transition.” No relative value was assigned to any of the data. (See Community Values 5-4-09)

This topic placed in context by the Superintendent. The community value topic will be one piece that the committee will consider. As a District committee, it will deliberate and vote representing a RSU 75 perspective. If the committee votes to close West Harpswell School and combine the two schools in Harpswell and then if the Board voted the same, it would then be a decision for the community of Harpswell. At that time, the topic of community values would be a larger piece of the decision.

Should this become a decision for the Harpswell community, the community then would vote whether or not to close the school. If the town decided to keep it open, it would assume the additional cost of maintaining the school (that cost is based on a formula set by the State). If the town decided to close the school, the District would offer the school to the town. The town could accept or refuse the school.

In order for the Harpswell community to consider possible alternative uses for the West Harpswell School , a town committee should conduct this study.

A large map of the town was displayed to frame the discussion. The unique geography of the town was reviewed to connect the community with community value. Harpswell's three fire departments are an example of their community; they work well together to serve the needs of the large geographically diverse town.

The community value related to attracting and keeping families with children in the community focused the group. Should the school be closed, it would likely be harder to support families to choose to locate in Harpswell.

A discussion of Harpswell's strong interest in providing affordable housing, included describing both plans in development and work underway. It was noted that West Harpswell Neck was the area in Harpswell with land available for building. Harpswell's Hamilton Place has plans for 15 affordable homes, one is built, another coming this month and plans for six more this summer. Paula Conley updated the committee on the work of the Harpswell Community Housing Trust. Future plans to attract families are being discussed as well, such as a possible town-wide ordinance to attract young families. The town is making efforts to grow and the impact of closing the school was a concern.

The issue was framed as a question regarding the extent to which the four towns are willing to support the value of maintaining two schools in Harpswell.

The relationship between the school and community was seen as a two-way responsibility; the community supports the schools and the school is part of the community.

Another thought connected to the list was the importance of thinking about any future combining of schools as resulting in a totally new school. The Harpswell Island parents wanted their representative to convey that they were welcoming and enthusiastic; they would go into this with a positive outlook.

Discussion of the location of Family Focus program at Harpswell Island clarified that in most recent plans it would remain in its present location and house the school music program during the school day. The computer lab location would not be changed.

If the school did belong to the town, it was pointed out that the town could retain ownership and it could be re-opened in the eventuality that enrollment grew in the area.

The District offered Bowdoin its old school when a new one was built. The town accepted ownership and then sold to a private company. It now has both a business and an active community center providing daycare, fitness center and community meeting space.

The discrepancy between reported live births and subsequent kindergarten enrollment numbers was discussed.

Another community value was parent involvement in extracurricular activities. A longer drive would present barriers to families who wanted to support participation.

It was acknowledged that the meeting time for the evening was almost up and that the third agenda item, Out-Migration at Harpswell Island School would not be covered during the meeting. It would become the second agenda item for the meeting next week, following the questions and issues related to what was covered at this meeting. The third agenda item will be the results of the parent survey data; the fourth item will be the Harpswell Transformation.

Prior to public comment, the committee was updated on the decision of the RSU 75 Board of Directors regarding the plans for the principal at HIS and WHS next year. Michael Estes will serve ½ time at each school. The future plans for the committee's meetings and agenda items were discussed. It was recognized that the outline of agendas shared at the previous meeting had changed and that the process resulted in “very flexible” plans going forward.

Comment from the public included: interest in learning about the community service policy being developed and possible actions to promote community service; the importance of the committee thinking long term about what is vital to the community; the current strong performance of WHS student and the advice to not tamper with success; concerns about the plans to ensure HIS is handicap accessible in a manner that does not treat any student differently; providing more time for the public to speak and recommending that the process take more time; clarifying how consolidation at the State level may negatively impact funding to consolidated systems; the existing number of housing permits currently granted in Harpswell and the potential rate of growth in the community.

Minutes from Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Strategic Planning Action Team members
Linda Hall, community representative
Ellie Multer, selectman
Malisa Blessington, parent representative from Harpswell Island Schools, HIS
Debbie O’Neil, faculty representative from HIS
Julie Gaudet, faculty representative West Harpswell School, WHS
Hannah Beattie, parent representative from WHS,
Jen Nucci, principal HIS
Michael Estes, principal WHS
RSU 75 Board Comprehensive Strategic Planning Committee members:
Joanne Rogers, Dee Carrier, Kim Totten, Scott McKernan (absent Gwen Thomas)
Michael Wilhelm, RSU 75 Superintendent

Prior to the agenda, the following was discussed:
An overview of agendas for upcoming meetings was shared with the group and reviewed. It was noted that this outline would be subject to change based on the need to adequately address each topic prior to the final decision making meeting. (This list has been removed from the website as of May 5th due to the need to update.)

The committee discussed a request to take community input at the beginning of the meeting; committee members were willing to listen at either the beginning or end of the meeting.
It was decided to continue with providing time for comment at the end.

It was clarified that though there has been no decision regarding consolidation, there is no plan to study placing all students at WHS.

1) Transportation answer
Addressing a question from the previous meeting, the cost of an additional bus run would range from $23,600 (using an existing bus and driver) to $50,000 (requiring an additional bus and driver). It was estimated that it would cost $250,000 to provide buses to mitigate all elementary bus runs currently with over 30 minute maximum rides throughout the district.

2) Hear report from Hannah           
3) Begin Community Value discussion
Copies of a resource titled EMPIRICAL RESEARCH Rural School District Consolidation by Joe Bard, Dr. Clark E. Gardener and Dr. Regi L. Wieland published in 2007 was shared with the group. Additional copies were disseminated among community members present as well. The committee listened as sections were read to the group. This paper, developed by the NREA Consolidation Task Force, provides a review of the literature on rural school consolidation, defines consolidation, addresses current research and issues related to consolidation with respect to school size, economies of scale, and student achievement, and concludes with proposed recommendations for the NREA Executive Board. The committee agreed to read and review the resource so that it could be more fully discussed at a following meeting. (See Rural School District Consolidation weblink 4-29)

The second resource was shared with the group, Rural School Consolidation Report for the National Rural Education Association Executive Board, 2005. Committee members agreed to review this resource as well prior to the next meeting.
(See Rural School Consolidation Report 4-29)

4) Begin discussion of educational mandates and initiatives
As part of establishing a shared understanding of the direction and work of the school system, three major initiatives were outlined for the committee and the public: 21st Century Learning; No Child Left Behind and Response to Intervention System Development. The presentation referenced the Maine Department of Education website, as information regarding these three topics is available to the public on that site. Included with the overview was a brief description of the funds, time and strategies available for addressing this work. (See Educational Initiatives and Mandates pwrpnt 4-29)

Public Comment Included: concern for civil discourse and how presentation on educational initiatives and mandates was handled; exploring validity of need for teachers to collaborate; concern that the time-line for decision making is not long enough and that the committee does not represent the community; concern for the future of town; comparison of two schools’ academic performance on MEA; WHS as a model of a high performing school and question how it can be shared with others; need for vision that unites the community.

Minutes from Monday, April 13, 2009
location: Harpswell Islands School

Strategic Planning Action Team members
Linda Hall, community representative
Ellie Multer, selectman
Malisa Blessington, parent representative from Harpswell Island Schools, HIS
Debbie O’Neil, faculty representative from HIS
Julie Gaudet, faculty representative West Harpswell School, WHS
Hannah Beattie, parent representative from WHS,
Jen Nucci, principal HIS
Michael Estes, principal WHS
RSU 75 Board Comprehensive Strategic Planning Committee members:
Joanne Rogers, Dee Carrier, Kim Totten, Scott McKernan (absent Gwen Thomas and Joanne Reinhart)
Michael Wilhelm, RSU 75 Superintendent

Prior to the agenda, Superintendent Wilhelm made the following remarks:

Clarification on Timeline for Decision          

  As was announced at the previous meeting, the work of the Action Team will not be complete in time for a recommendation to be acted on in the coming school year. The committee will continue to work this spring until they have a recommendation to give to the Board. The Board will take action when they receive the work of the committee.

Taking Public Comment                                   

There was a request from community members that comments are taken at the start of the meeting. This request was addressed by agreeing to keep the meetings short and provide time for comments.

Review of Minutes                                            

    One correction was noted; Joanne Reinhart was absent (the website notes and downloadable minutes have the correct information).


1.  Revisit information from April 6th meeting
The “cons” of consolidation on educational programming and staffing will be addressed at the next meeting; parents at West Harpswell School have discussed this and Hannah is prepared to share this information with the committee.

An understanding of the coming agendas was requested. At the end of the meeting it was agreed that this will be shared at the next meeting.

It was noted that a survey to staff and parents of both schools was being conducted. At the present seventeen have been returned. The information will be shared at the next meeting.

2. Special Education report on the current status and advantages/disadvantages of consolidation
Patrick Moore, Director of Special Services, explained that the District uses a continuum of services model, providing students with the services they need in their local schools. This approach is based on a “flex design” meaning the District flexibly assigns special education staff to schools based on student need.
The current number and classifications of students at WHS and HIS was reviewed. (See Spec. Ed. Census 4-13-09)
The current staffing at WHS and HIS was presented. (See Spec. Ed. Staff 4-13-09) One correction to the staffing information was noted; at WHS the correct amount of special education social worker time is .2 FTE, one full day per week not .1 FTE, one half day per week. At the present time there are no plans to reduce staffing for next year at either school. However, as staffing is dependent on need; the District regularly updates their assessment of student need at each school.

A view of the special education student population for the two schools combined (reflecting the projected population for the 2009-10 school year) presented the number of students by grade and by handicapping condition. (See Combined Spec. Ed. Census 4-13-09)
Discussion regarding potential savings from consolidation was contingent of student need in the consolidated school. It is not possible to create the expectation based on a school of comparable size. Noting a perception that there are more special education services available to students at Woodside Elementary School, Patrick took a few minutes to clarify the special education services at Woodside. With the exception of the district-wide programs for students with severe multiple disabilities, the ratio of staffing for the 96 “regular” special education students is consistent with the other schools in the system. Woodside’s size allows it to use that staff to more flexibly deliver services to students.

As he explained at the beginning of his presentation, the District’s approach to special education services is to educate students in the least restrictive environment. This means the District will continue to provide services so that students are supported in their community school. The District allows parents the choice to have their child attend any elementary school in the system, given there is space in the school and the parent can provide transportation.

The advantage of consolidation would be that, similar to the Woodside example, it will allow the school more flexibility to provide services. The disadvantage of maintaining the two schools was that, over time with declining enrollments, the ability to maintain the level of services to each school becomes more difficult. There were no disadvantages to consolidation noted with regards to special education programming.

3. Facility: Examining the Harpswell Island School’s capacity for technology, special education, library, playground and parking

The map presented at the April 6th meeting was referred to. (See Harpswell Island School Map)
In order to add a technology classroom next to the library (presently the computers at HIS are housed in an area of the library), the classroom next to the library would be accommodated by moving the classroom space presently assigned to the Family Focus program. Though this would necessitate a reshuffling of many of the classrooms, it would not impact the classroom that had handicap accessibility requirements for an identified student.

With the computers moved from the library, the library space was judged more than adequate to house the present WHS library resources.

The playground assessment is not complete. A brief description of the accessibility of the playground was reviewed. Before making plans to make any changes, the Parent Teacher Organization at WHS will be consulted regarding the WHS playground.

With regards to parking, it was noted that large community events held at HIS fill the parking; there is a lower lot that is used for some community events. Daily parking would not be an issue.

It was suggested that a tour of the building would be advised; people were invited to tour both schools prior to meetings being held there.
The work required to make the bathrooms at HIS handicap accessible was outlined and cost estimates for these changes were sited. In addition the estimates to make other areas of the building handicap accessible were described (ramp for side doors and extending blacktop to the playground).

It was noted that a number of improvement projects are scheduled for HIS this spring including repairs to the back of the stage surface, updating the grate in the gym, painting the hallways and some classrooms and replacing shades where needed.

4. Transportation: Transportation Director, Bill Donovan addressed questions

The committee asked questions based on the information presented at the March 30th meeting regarding bus routes. (See Transportation 3-30-09) The sections deleted from the routes were due to no students needing transportation. Bill explained that routes were based on past practice; the routes evolve to reflect current needs. Though there are no state guidelines for length of bus rides, he strives to schedule routes that have a 45 minute maximum.

Though no references were sited, research regarding the impact of bus routes longer than one half hour was noted. Concerns for students having to ride for a longer period than accustomed were raised. Both parent representatives urged the District to continue to examine the length of time that students ride the bus. A request was made to provide an additional bus to mitigate the impact on Harpswell students. Committee members discussed the ramifications of doing this throughout the system as some students in Bowdoin and Bowdoinham currently experience longer than one half hour bus rides as well. Interest in an after-school bus was noted. The feasibility of this is an issue as the secondary late bus provides only central location delivery and for elementary it would require an entire set of additional runs.

Equity of services for transportation was a discussion. It was felt that in some ways this issue is unique to the circumstances of the WHS families. Another perspective presented was that the District must be mindful of fairness to students in all four towns as the District represents the interests of all four towns.

Bill will verify the mileage of the proposed bus routes.

5. Enrollment

An enrollment study of M.S.A.D No. 75 by Planning Decisions was conducted recently. An introduction included a brief overview of the previous study and an outline of process through which the enrollment study was developed. It was noted that copies of the complete study are available for review at both schools.

Both the “Best Fit” analysis and an analysis that includes the impact of the closing of the Brunswick Naval Air Base were conducted. The study combines all students in the town; there was no study done that separated the enrollments of the two schools.

Three pages from the study were used of the discussion:

  • 08-09 “Best Fit Model” (Table V-7 – Historical and Projected Elementary School Enrollment, k-5, 1998-99 to 2018-19 –Town of Harpswell– No Military Dependent Students) See Best Fit 4-13-09.
  • 08-09 “BNAS Closing” Model (Table V-8 – Historical and Projected Elementary School Enrollment, k-5, 1998-99 to 2018-19 – Town of Harpswell –2008-09 BNAS Closing Model) See BNAS 4-13-09.
  • Figure V-4 Chart of Elementary School (k-5) Enrollment Trends 1998-2018, Town of Harpswell (See Chart 4-13-09)

Overall the accuracy of both models was seen to be an issue as the best fit model described the present school year with 200 students (we presently have 182) and the BNAS closing model coming in at 209 students. In general, the enrollment data presentation highlighted the trend of declining enrollments while noting the lack of certainty of enrollment projections. Conjecture regarding the likelihood that the District would someday close all elementary schools in Harpswell was addressed by the Superintendent. He stated that he didn’t think there would ever be contemplation of taking all schools out of Harpswell.

At the end of the committee work, a suggestion to consider moving the art program to the teacher/math instruction space was raised. Though no water is available in the teacher/math room, Michael Estes was open to exploring that option.

The next meeting work included: an opportunity to hear of the concerns on educational programs and staffing raised by the WHS parents; a presentation of the parent and staff survey data; the educational mandates and initiatives that govern the work of the District; a discussion of the HIS out-migration; draft of agendas for the rest of the meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 29th at the West Harpswell School. The notebooks containing the data that was used by the Comprehensive Strategic Planning Committee in their work throughout the fall will be provided to new Action Committee members. Request to provide information to the community observers was addressed by asking that the committee members receive the information first.

Comments after the agenda included: a request to be respectful of each person’s opinion; clarification on the plans for handicap accessibility and an interest in making all aspects of the building accessible; interest in the basics being provided to students; interest in how the committee vote is counted; interest in understanding all perspectives; fluctuations in enrollment at WHS; interest in discussing the value of the Kinderstart program at WHS; interest in looking at configuration options; whether the bus times at the middle and high school would be impacted; the impact on the West Harpswell Community if the school is closed; the impact on families moving to West Harpswell in the future if the school is closed.

Minutes from Monday, April 6, 2009
location: West Harpswell School

Strategic Planning Action Team members
Linda Hall, community representative
Ellie Multer, Selectman
Malisa Blessington, parent representative from Harpswell Islands School, HIS
Debbie O'Neil, faculty representative from HIS
Hannah Beattie, parent representative from West Harpswell School, WHS
Julie Gaudet, faculty representative , WHS
Jen Nucci, principal HIS
Michael Estes, principal WHS
RSU 75 Board Comprehensive Strategic Planning Committee members:
Joanne Rogers, Dee Carrier, Kim Totten, Scott McKernan
Michael Wilhelm, RSU 75 Superintendent
(absent Gwen Thomas, Joanne Reinhart)

Superintendent Wilhelm addressed the Committee and the community members with opening remarks.
The Action Team will not be expected to complete its study and make a recommendation to the Board in time to take action for the coming school year.
In order to prepare for the option should the RSU 75 Board vote to close the school, the Harpswell community will be asked to conduct their own study of what the community would do with the option of owning the West Harpswell School as a parallel study.
The meeting will function as a working subcommittee. It will engage in the work outlined in the agenda until approximately 8:00 and then public comment would be taken.
The agenda was reviewed.
A procedural question regarding the kind of vote was reintroduced, at the last meeting it had been decided that a simple majority would be used when voting. An interest in changing that to be a 2/3rds majority was raised. The request was noted and will be considered when the committee is faced with voting as the committee would not be voting in the near future and the agenda this evening was primarily focused on acquiring information regarding consolidation.

  1. Clarification of Role of subcommittee, relationship of Board and its subcommittees to State, District and Communities

The subcommittee serves as a RSU 75 Board of Directors subcommittee with responsibility to work for the entire District. As such, the subcommittee should align its focus with the roles and responsibilities outlined by State and federal mandates and the mission and goals of the District. (see State website for links to NCLB, 21st Century Learning and RTI at

  1. Clarification of Status of the study process
    • Generate issues to be considered (completed)
    • Work Plan
      • decisions regarding scope and breadth of study
      • relationship to SAD 75 Goals, Mission , initiatives
      • relationship to State/federal guidelines for schools and programs
      • Community input going forward
      • Comprehensive Strategic Planning Committee objectives
      • How to proceed with list of items to be evaluated
  1. Define what we mean by “feasible” and of “educational value”

A document outlining the elements that will be studied was shared. It will serve as a framework for committee members to use as they receive information throughout the study. For each aspect, each member will think about the educational value and feasibility of the item being considered. Once all the data has been reviewed the committee will work together to share their viewpoints. (see Elements 4-6)

  1. Begin study of data - this meeting – Educational programs/ staffing

A study of the educational considerations was handed out and reviewed by the committee. Jennifer Nucci, principal of Harpswell Islands School and Michael Estes, principal of West Harpswell School shared the current educational drawbacks with existing resources and the educational benefits with joint resources for guidance and social work, music, principal, staff, literacy, art, technology, nurse, and gifted and talented. (see Educational Programs and Staff 4-6)
A map of the Harpswell Islands School outlining the layout for the school that would include all students and staff was shared. (see Harpswell Islands School map 4-6)

A discussion of staffing ratios brought up questions of changes over time and how these things were handled across the District. (see Student,Teacher Ratios 4-6)

.....5. Next Steps
Subcommittee members were asked to prepare for the next meeting by reflecting on what was presented and coming with their questions. Members were encouraged to contact Jennifer Nucci or Michael Estes directly if other questions pertaining to educational programs and staffing arise that could be addressed at the next meeting. The next meeting was set for Monday, April 13th at the Harpswell Islands School at 6:00.  Facilities, transportation and enrollment will be addressed on the 13th.
Community input following the agenda included a request to address the current benefits and educational drawbacks from the present configurations, the budget information available to the public, effects on the consumers of services, whether special education was part of gifted and talented, and Lisbon’s positive experience with consolidation.

Minutes from Monday, March 30, 2009
location: Harpswell Town Offices and Harpswell Island School

Strategic Planning Action Team members
Linda Hall, community representative
Ellie Multer, Selectman
Malisa Blessington, parent representative from Harpswell Islands School, HIS
Debbie O'Neil, faculty representative from HIS
Hannah Beattie, parent representative from West Harpswell School, WHS
Julie Gaudet, faculty representative , WHS
Jen Nucci, principal HIS
Michael Estes, principal WHS

RSU 75 Board Comprehensive Strategic Planning Committee members:
Joanne Rogers, Dee Carrier, Kim Totten, Joanne Reinhart,
Michael Wilhelm, RSU 75 Superintendent
(absent Gwen Thomas and Scott McKernan)

Agenda for Harpswell Action Team

•  Define expectations of Action Team

•  Clarify role of Action Team in consolidation study process

The committee will conduct the study and provide it to the Comprehensive Strategic Planning Committee to be taken to the MSAD No. 75 Board. The Board will vote on the study. The committee's study will focus on evaluating the merits of consolidating Harpswell schools. They will consider both the feasibility and educational value of consolidation.

•  Identify timeline for work – this spring/ if not when

If this study recommends consideration of a school closing and is to be acted on in the coming school year, the timeline for this work must conclude at the end of April.

If there was a vote of the Board to close a Harpswell school, the next step would be for the town to vote on the closing of a school. (If the town voted to not close the school, it would assume the costs associated with keeping it open.)

If this study can not be completed during that time, the process can extend to accommodate the work and will not be undertaken for the coming school year.

•  Discuss norms – how do we work together, make decision, share information, involve others

Norms: being respectful of others' opinions, making decisions by simple majority vote, sharing all information

This committee's work is public and all information possible will be posted on the District website. It was also suggested that minutes be posted on the town website.

After each agenda item was discussed, those attending were given an opportunity to address the agenda item.

Some of the questions included: other Board CSPC members – listed as absent above; the type of Board vote – 2/3rds majority

•  Review of Data to be studied (from Forums and other)


An overview of the issues and information related to staffing at the combined school was presented. (See Staffing 3-30-09.) The information reflected the fall class sizes by school, combined and staff ratios compared with a Bowdoinham Community School .

Input/questions from those attending included: the timing for final determinations of staffing and class sizes; concern that less students would attend a consolidated school; the correlation between spring registrations and fall enrollments; suggestion to survey parents regarding their decisions for enrolling in advance; how the achievement results of the schools compare with a school the size of a combined school; the projected savings of a school closing; what is known about enrollment projections


An overview of Bus-Rider times all students in Harpswell attending one consolidated school at HIS were presented. The data included all elementary bus run maximum times for comparison. (See Transportation 3-30-09.)

Input/questions from those attending included : new maximum times for WHS students; current maximum time for HIS and WHS; the costs of the additional busing; looking at average bus times


The information regarding the capacity of HIS and the process through which a plan to locate classrooms was presented. (See School Site 3-30-09.) There was an explanation of how the District will address the need to ensure the building is handicap accessible.

The process through which Title 1 program funds are allocated to the school was outlined.

Input/questions from those attending included: handicap accessibility of HIS; facility plan status and process through which projects are addressed; must schools be on the same site to access Title 1; access to full facility report at the District Office; increasing capacity by moving 6 th graders back; could all students attend WHS; what would be done with the WHS school; expense of maintaining building if not in use; fair Market value of WHS; if committee should approach town about WHS as part of this study.


The information regarding the process through all stakeholders would be engaged in transitioning to one school was presented. In general, the WHS and HIS building principals would develop this plan. (See Transition 3-30-09.)

Input/questions from those attending included: artwork and playground at WHS; when community could learn of transition plans; impact on HIS of transition; long term vision and core values of Strategic Planning work; timeline for plan; considering other options for reorganization of system including sending both 6 th and 7 th graders back to elementary schools and using middle school differently; core values of community; if staff at WHS will lose their jobs; how combining will pool resources for students; when WHS has suffered due to limited resources


The estimates of the savings associated with closing the WHS were presented. (See Budget 3-30-09.)

•  Development of work-plan to gather information – assign tasks

Discussion of some of the work to be done included reviewing additional information to address issues raised and sharing of the preliminary site and transition plans to be developed by the two principals. The group agreed to further discuss how they could gather information through a survey of the school community. If possible, a “virtual tour” of the consolidated school could help stakeholders understand what was possible through consolidation. It was suggested that a survey of families who have chosen to leave HIS be conducted. Information regarding “in-migration” and “out-migration” of both schools could be presented.

•  Development of agenda of next meeting, work in between.

Monday, April 6 th will be the next meeting of the committee. The meeting will be held at the WHS at 6:00. All are welcome to attend.

Input/questions from those attending included: if the District had a plan for the system – presented 3/19 and available on District website, ; assessment of risk; WHS high performing school; concern of large numbers of students at a school; criteria for study; Title 1 program future; total budget of District; impact on community, families and volunteers



Documents from 6-08-09 Meeting
Report 6-8-09
Facts & Conjectures Report
Documents from 6-01-09 Meeting
Funding Formula (PwrPt)
Class Size Guidelines
Documents from 5-18-09 Meeting
Parent Survey
Elementary Migration 08-09
HIS Kindergarten Literacy data
HIS Grade 1 Literacy data
HIS Grade 2 Literacy data
HIS Grade 3 Literacy data
HIS Grade 4 Literacy data
HIS Grade 5 Literacy data
Documents from 5-4-09 Meeting
Community Values
Documents from 4-29-09 Meeting
Rural School District Consolidation weblink
Rural School Consolidation Report
Educational Initiatives and Mandates pwrpnt
...Documents from 4-13-09 Meeting
...Spec. Ed. Census
...Spec. Ed. Staff
....Combined Spec. Ed. Census
...Harpswell Islands School Map
...Transportation 3-30-09
...Best Fit 4-13-09
...BNAS 4-13-09
...Chart 4-13-09
...Printable minutes (PDF)
...Documents from 4-6-09 Meeting
...printable minutes (pdf)
...Elements (consolidation criteria)
...Educational Programs and Staffing
...Harpswell Islands School Map
...Student, Teacher Ratios
Documents from 3-30-09 Meeting
School Site




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