The Wiscasset School Committee appointed Gina Stevens as interim principal for the remainder of the Wiscasset Middle High School during a meeting at the school library on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Stevens will replace WMHS Principal Charles Lomonte, who has taken a leave of absence due to personal health reasons. Lomonte is expected to resign at the conclusion of the current school year, the committee announced.
Stevens joined the district three years ago as the individualized education plan coordinator and served in that role until her recent appointment.
During the meeting Stevens gave a brief speech outlining the various positions she has held during her career, including principal, assistant principal, interim superintendent, secondary science teacher, and district testing coordinator.
Stevens expressed gratitude towards her colleagues for their vote of confidence and said she will strive to improve the education students are receiving at the school.
“Our recent scores reflect the need for intensive intervention,” Stevens said. “I will be focusing on the quality of instruction in the classrooms, removing, to the best of my ability, any impediment to student learning.”
Stevens was born into a military family. In 2016 Stevens and her partner bought a vacation home in Wiscasset and permanently moved here from Texas in 2020. Stevens said she will be applying for the full-time position.
After the meeting interim Superintendent Robert England Jr. said he reached out to more than a dozen people for the position. England said he considered previous experience, licensing, and sought feedback from colleagues before making his decision.
Later in the meeting England provided the board with a detailed outline of each step of his process for hiring a new permanent principal for the 2023-2024 school year. England hopes to convene an interview committee comprised of three district staff members, two students, two parents, and two administrators and said he expects to start interviews during the first week of April.
At the end of the meeting committee member Michelle Blagdon announced she plans to leave the committee when her term expires in June. Blagdon said she is not seeking reelection so she can enjoy her daughter’s final two years of high school. Blagdon will leave the committee after six years of service.
Earlier in the week the school committee watched a demonstration of a new telemedicine nursing service the school has recently implemented.
The presentation took place during a committee meeting at the Wiscasset Middle High School library on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
The service is provided by Avel eCare, a telemedicine company based out of Sioux Falls, S.D.
Using committee member Desiree Bailey as a mock student, WMHS school nurse Marilyn Sprague walked the committee through how a nurse is able to use technology to evaluate a student from half way across the country. Nurse Gale, a nurse with Avel, appeared on a video screen from South Dakota to help the committee visualize the service being provided.
The service uses a screen similar to a tablet or iPad, which is attached to a portable stand and connects to the internet. When a student feels ill any staff member with the school can log in and connect the student to a two-way video with a nurse.
Using a portable diagnostic tool that is smaller than a smartphone, a staff member can upload an image of the inside of a student’s ear, real time audio of the heart and lungs, and the student’s body temperature, to a nurse so he or she can determine if the student should be sent home.
“It is high, high quality what we are seeing,” Sprague said of the images the tool takes.
Sprague said the screen will show the staff member where they can put the diagnostic tool on a student’s body so the nurse can hear the student’s heart or lungs. Gale said high school students are allowed the use the device themselves if they do not feel comfortable having a staff member do it.
Connection issues with the diagnostic tool prevented a full demonstration of the service but Gale said any connectivity issues would be immediately addressed by a qualified representative during a real visit.
“They put a priority if it is impacting a student or patient,” Gale said.
According to England the service was implemented at WMHS within the last month. He said the service is offered from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. making it available for after school programs.
“Before this service our nurse would go home once school was out,” England said during a telephone interview on Friday, Feb. 17.
England said he reached out to the state about the program last December after struggling to find a replacement for Sprague, who plans to retire at the end of the school year. England helped School Union 76 become the first district to implement the program during the 2021-2022 school year. The district is based out of Deer Isle Maine.
According to England, the cost of implementing the program is being covered by the state for the first year.
“Next year we pick up the cost,” England said.
England said the total cost for the program is $35 per student each year. The district currently has approximately 450 students making the total annual cost to the district approximately $15,750.
The service is part of a partnership between the Maine Department of Education, Maine Department of Health and Human Services, and Avel to deliver telehealth nursing services to school districts through throughout the state, according mainedoenews.net. The partnership was announced in March 2022.
The program is funded by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention for COVID-19 emergency response and public health crisis response. Maine DHHS was awarded $8,861,778 from the U.S. CDC and must use 25% of the funds towards school base health programs including school nurses according to mainedownews.net.
Later during the meeting the committee approved moving a workshop day scheduled for the end of the school year to Wednesday, May 3. Students will not have school in the district for that day.
The next committee meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 14 in the Wiscasset Middle High School library.