Immediately after the adjournment of the special meeting at Great Salt Bay Community School on Thursday, March 15, the AOS 93 Board met to discuss how to further share the results from its survey about Lincoln Academy with the LA Board of Trustees and the public.
“The board needs to decide what to do with the information and how to move it forward,” AOS 93 interim Superintendent Jim Hodgkin said.
After a discussion, the AOS board agreed to post the data online and send information to LA board President Christine Wajer.
“How they distribute the information is up to them,” Hodgkin said.
Stephanie Nelson, Newcastle’s representative to the AOS 93 Board, said she believes it is important for the LA board to have access to all comments.
The information includes an 11-page memo from Garrett Martin, of Newcastle, a volunteer who crunched the survey numbers; 40 pages of survey data; and 89 pages of comments.
Christa Thorpe, Bremen’s representative to the AOS 93 Board, said the information totals 150 pages in three PDFs.
“Anyone who wants this information can have it. There are not going to be any roadblocks in sharing this info,” Thorpe said.
Joshua Hatch, chair of the AOS 93 Board, said that as long as the AOS redacts the comments to remove the names of school employees, he has no issue with the comments going on the district’s website.
“I don’t think we should try to restrict data on the chance someone would make a negative comment. I think the majority of people will assess it for what it is. It’s the data. For each person, it will be in the eye of the beholder in terms of reception,” Hatch said.
After determining what to do with the survey results, the AOS board discussed the merits of meeting with the LA board.
The AOS board indicated support for a meeting with the trustees.
Thorpe said she would like the opportunity to meet with the trustees, saying it would be an opportunity to build a relationship and conduct follow-up on the survey results.
Hatch suggested that a couple of AOS board members could meet with the trustees and Garrett Martin could give the same presentation he gave to the public to the academy’s board.
Hatch said a better relationship could also be a way to get information on how AOS students perform when they reach LA.
“The AOS tracks student achievement. To follow that progression to high school is the next logical step. If there are shortfalls from our students, we want to know that,” Hatch said.
David Kolodin, Bristol’s representative to the AOS board, agreed.
“I would like to hear feedback from Lincoln Academy on eighth-graders going up to Lincoln Academy, to see if our students are prepared,” Kolodin said.
Sara Mitchell, South Bristol’s representative to the AOS board, asked if there are any joint staff development days between the AOS and LA.
Hodgkin said a joint staff development planned for this year was canceled, but he hopes there will be one next year.
In a phone interview after the meeting, Hodgkin said a few members of the AOS 93 Board intend to meet privately with the LA Board of Trustees, though a date has not been set.
Hodgkin said both parties would need to agree to a meeting, as the AOS board does not have the authority to call a meeting with the trustees.
“The intent is to have Stephanie Nelson and Christa Thorpe, the two board members who were most involved with the survey; the board’s chair; and I meet with the interim head of school and the board of trustees,” Hodgkin said.
Maine law dictates that if a public board has a quorum, the public must be invited to attend the meeting.
As a seven-member board, the AOS board would need four members to attend for the meeting to be public under the law – and to be in violation of the law if it is not public.
Hodgkin said that although a meeting to discuss the survey results has not been set, representatives of the AOS board will meet with LA’s incoming interim head of school Nancy Starmer, Thursday, April 5. Starmer is scheduled to start in her new role July 1.
“We will meet on April 5 and talk about setting up a time to meet with the board of trustees,” Hodgkin said.
At the special board meeting, several members of the public and members of the LA board were in attendance.
LA Board of Trustees Secretary Dennis Prior said an AOS 93 representative is welcome to attend LA board of trustees meetings.
“Your seat at our table is still open. It’s a great opportunity to interact with the board,” Prior said.
Hatch said he previously attended the LA board meetings, but there were limited opportunities for interaction and discussion, and decision-making did not happen at the full board meetings.
“I came to meetings, but all the decisions were made in subcommittee. I hope going forward, when we do attend, it’s not just the completion of a checklist but real information-sharing,” Hatch said.
Hatch said the LA board has denied the AOS board’s requests for reports on its meetings.
“To ask for a report and not to get it was not great,” Hatch said.
Prior reiterated his invitation after Hatch’s remarks.
“The seat is always open and is still vacant,” Prior said.
Nelson extended a similar invitation to the trustees in attendance.
“I would like to extend the invitation the other way. We would love to have trustees participating in our meetings,” Nelson said.
Other public comments came from Bill Card, an LA alumnus.
Card, who asked questions during the survey presentation regarding the statistical significance of the data, expressed concern about the governance, financial status, and level of responsiveness from the LA board.
“I am a 1980 graduate of Lincoln Academy. I filled out the survey as a citizen of Bristol with the hope and expectation my views would be conveyed to Lincoln Academy. I paid particular attention to the slides in the presentation on governance, accountability, school finances, and operational transparency,” Card said.
“There is very little turnover on the board of trustees. They serve four-year terms and can serve 12 years,” Card said.
Card urged AOS members to inquire about these matters at any future meetings with the trustees.
Doug Straus, a member of the Great Salt Bay Community School PTO and Lincoln Academy Parent Association, suggested that the parent association could be a good conduit for further interaction.
“Invite your PTOs to come to LAPA. We’ll research anything, try to figure out who to talk to, and try to get some answers,” Straus said.
Straus said the next parent association meeting will be at 6 p.m., Thursday, March 29.
Closing the meeting, Hatch echoed statements made by Martin on self-reflection.
“The greatest companies, the greatest groups, they have to stand in front of the mirror and self-evaluate once in a while. Any entity that is successful will do that. Anyone can benefit. No one is right all the time. If you get in a bubble and tell yourself you’re right enough times, eventually you’ll believe it,” Hatch said.