BELFAST — From bids to behavior, the Regional School Unit 71 Board of Directors covered a lot of ground during its Dec. 12 meeting at Belfast Area High School.

Two weeks removed from approving a district-wide gender equity policy, the RSU 71 board gave the nod to several other new policies regarding a student code of conduct, expulsion of students, and bidding and purchasing requirements.

Policy JIC will be the new student code of conduct moving forward. The policy will be applied to all RSU 71 student conduct while on school property, in attendance at school or any school-sponsored activity, or at any time or place that such conduct directly interferes with the operation, discipline or general welfare of the school.

Disciplinary actions as a result of violations will range from verbal warnings for minor misconduct up to and including expulsion for more serious offenses.

The new policy has specific sections that address expectations for student behavior, violence and threats, weapons, hazing, discrimination and harassment, bullying and cyberbullying, drugs, alcohol and tobacco. The policy also covers conduct on district buses, when using computers or the internet, and conduct at co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

Policies JKE and JKE-R cover the expulsion of students and the guidelines for expulsion. Expulsion of students in RSU 71 is an action that is reserved for the RSU 71 Board of Directors. The policy does give the district superintendent discretion to seek an alternative to expulsion on a case by case basis.

The accompanying policy outlines expulsion hearing guidelines and guidelines for reentry to the school district following an expulsion.

In other business the directors discussed a new K-8 English and Language Arts program that will be rolled out this spring throughout RSU 71.

EL Education is a curriculum designed to address three dimensions of student learning: mastery of knowledges and skills, character, and high-qualify student work. Superintendent Mary Alice McLean noted the EL curriculum is aligned with what is currently offered in RSU 71 but provides a more seamless and equitable framework for student learning.

“Our motto is engage and elevate student achievement,” McLean said, “in measurable, and less measurable, ways.”

Board member Ryan Harnden wondered if the addition of another program would slow the progress already made by the district.

“We seem to be making improvements across out entire spectrum of grades — we’ve seen growth at a time we really shouldn’t have,” Harnden said, referring to the pandemic. “I don’t know that changing the formula is needed if we’re seeing these steps.”

The research-based EL program is critically acclaimed for its phonics-based approach, considered by most educators as more effective than the guided reading approach used in many schools.

Curriculum Coordinator Laura Miller noted another benefit of EL programming.

“It integrates science and social studies,” Miller said. “In a tight day, as teachers we always go back to reading, writing and math. This program includes those. All of the good practices our teachers are currently using are embedded in this program.”

The board also heard a presentation by fourth grade students from Capt. Albert Stevens Elementary School and their teacher, Holly Merrow. The students conducted a research project on Frank Lloyd Wright’s aeronautical architectural designs — most of it on their own time, outside the classroom.

Fourth grade students from CASS present their research on Frank Lloyd Wright to the RSU 71 Board of Directors. Photo courtesy of RSU 71.

RSU 71 Transportation Director Jerry French addressed the board to recognize bus driver Deb Vennemen for organizing a food drive to benefit district students and their families.

In other business, the board approved a new policy on bid and purchasing requirements. McLean also advised the directors that old desks from the renovated math wing will be offered to other schools. The remaining desks will be offered to families.

The next meeting of the RSU 71 Board of Directors will be on Jan. 9, 2023, at Belfast Area High School.