Directors grant graduate’s request to return to SDHSBoard debates merits of permitting fifth-year arrangement
Searsport — The Regional School Unit 20 Board of Directors granted a 2012 Searsport District High School graduate permission to return to his old high school this coming year as part of his effort to better prepare for his college experience.
The board made the decision after a fair amount of debate Tuesday night, Aug. 28, and the decision to grant the request from SDHS graduate Quin Fraser was not unanimous. While Directors Dean Anderson, Alan Wood, Dorothy Odell Tony Bagley, Deborah Riley, Valerie Mank, Percy King and Alexa Schweikert voted in favor of the motion to permit the student’s return to SDHS this year, Directors Gerry Reid, Eric Carter and Stephen Hopkins opposed the motion (Director Tony Swebelius abstained).
During the course of the debate, some directors expressed concern about allowing a graduate to attend courses alongside SDHS students, setting a precedent for allowing students to return for a fifth year without first having a policy in place to address those situations.
Superintendent Brian Carpenter explained Fraser’s request to the board, noting Fraser offered a written proposal to the district outlining the purpose for his request.
“He doesn’t feel ready for college,” said Carpenter.
Carpenter said Fraser is currently taking some courses at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center in Belfast, and he felt returning to SDHS for a few classes, including physics and problem solving, would help better prepare him for his post secondary education.
Carpenter noted that since Fraser has already graduated, the district would not be eligible to receive state subsidies for Fraser because he is no longer a student, but the district would not have to employ an additional teacher. Carpenter said SDHS Principal Brian Campbell supports Fraser’s proposal.
Reid said he felt allowing the youth to return to SDHS would send the message that the district has a fifth-year program in place at SDHS. Reid also reminded directors there is currently no policy in place to address such a situation.
“I think the emotion of this, which I love, is clouding our judgment,” said Reid.
When Anderson asked if there is a policy barring the board from allowing a graduate to return to his or her school for additional classes, Carpenter said there is currently no policy against it.
“I guess I’m emotional because I think it’s a great idea,” said Odell. “We have a satisfied customer, and I think that’s pretty good.”
Some directors also questioned whether the same classes Fraser hoped to take at SDHS this year are also offered through the district’s adult education program.
“I think this student is pretty aware that he could pursue these classes through adult ed,” said Assistant Superintendent John McDonald.
“He would have the support [at SDHS] that he wouldn’t have in adult ed or through an online course,” added Carpenter.
Bagley, who also sits on the Region 7 Cooperative Board for the Waldo County Technical Center, said requests like Fraser’s are quite common at WCTC.
“It’s actually a huge benefit to the other students to see an adult in that class,” Bagley said.
Odell referred to the strategic plan Carpenter proposed for the district at the previous meeting, a plan that included the possibility of a fifth-year program and college experience for high school students.
“How does this relate to the proposal we considered at the last meeting?” she asked Carpenter. “Is there a relationship?”
“There could have been,” said Carpenter.
McDonald said Fraser’s request is not specifically related because the request is for a stand-alone student.
“He would have gained the experience in a fifth-year program that he’s asking to gain now,” said Carpenter.
Schweikert said while she had reservations about approving Fraser’s request, she was interested in seeing an update from the superintendent about how the arrangement was going, perhaps six months into the school year.
Wood agreed with sentiments that the district should have a policy in place to address similar situations, but stated he felt he should make an exception in Fraser’s case.
“I think Gerry [Reid] is right,” said Hopkins. “We don’t have a policy and it would open a floodgate.”
Riley countered she’s been on the board for six years and she’s never seen a similar request.
“I think we really need to consider this,” she said.
“Something tells me kids aren’t lining up to come back after they graduate,” added Mank.