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Principal transition underway at the Penquis Valley School

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MILO — The resignation of Penquis Valley High School/Middle School Principal Jeremy Bousquet was accepted and the nomination of new building principal Daniel Ross was accepted during a Sept. 6 meeting of the SAD 41 school board.

“I would like to thank Jeremy Bousquet,” Superintendent Michael Wright said, as Bousquet is pursuing a new career opportunity as the assistant principal/athletic director at Old Town High School where he is working with former Penquis Valley principal Scott Gordon who holds the same position in Old Town.

“I called him one afternoon about three and a half years ago when we didn’t have a principal,” Wright said, as at the time Bousquet took his first administrative job for the 2014-15 school year he had been teaching and coaching in the building for nearly a decade. Bousquet began on an interim basis and about six months in the school board approved him as the permanent principal.

“His experience then was he knew the people, he knew the students, he knew the parents and he knew the community and he had a ton of initiative,” Wright said. “I think he far exceeded the expectations of what I thought he would do.”

The superintendent said a search committee made up of five teachers, three school board members and several administrators looked at candidates “and (Daniel Ross) was the unanimous selection of that committee.”

Ross had most recently worked in RSU 50 in northern Penobscot County and southern Aroostook County. He had been serving as assistant principal and athletic director at both Katahdin Middle and High School in Stacyville and Southern Aroostook Middle and High School in Dyer Brook.

“I am excited about this opportunity,” Ross said. He said prior to working in RSU 50 he was at the University of Maine where he was involved in a teacher mentorship program, helping place students in internships that often led to employment. Ross said this same concept carries over to the work of an administrator overseeing and supporting school staff.

“I would recommend Dan at a two-year contract for $75,000,” Wright said, before the directors gave their formal approval to the nomination of the new Penquis Valley principal.

Bousquet said he continues to work with Ross and the school on the transition, and said he is not sure precisely when his last day will be.

In other business, Wright said the school board’s capital improvement committee will be meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 18 at the Marion C. Cook School in LaGrange. “One of the things we need to talk about is the QZAB funds we have been awarded,” he said.

SAD 41 has been awarded a $2.1 million quality zone academy bond (QZAB) from the U.S. Department of Education, which has a 0 percent interest rate with the principal to be paid back in 25 years. Ideas discussed at previous SAD 41 meetings include converting the heating system at Penquis Valley from steam to hot water and making other energy-efficiency upgrades.

“We need to decide by the end of this year what we want to do with those funds,” Wright said.

“We still have the revolving renovation funds approved at referendum and that work would start at the end of this year,” the superintendent said.

In June SAD 41 residents approved an approximate $474,000 loan from Maine’s school revolving renovation fund for sprinkler and elevator upgrades at the Penquis Valley School. Under the program the state covers 70 percent of the costs, meaning a little more than $142,000 would be paid back by the district over five years at zero percent interest for an approximate $28,000 annual cost over a half decade.

Wright said a five-member committee from the Maine Department of Education is scheduled to visit the school next month as part of the review process for an an even larger project to bring the elementary students over from Brownville and Milo Elementary to the Penquis Valley complex for SAD 41 students to all be housed on one campus. The district has applied to the Maine Department of Education’s major capital school construction project fund for a $7 million two-story elementary wing on the Sebec River side of the building.

“We will be visited on Oct. 10 by a group of people evaluating those applications,” Wright said. He said it is a positive sign a committee is coming to Milo but the status of the application will not be known for at least a year after.

The superintendent said the week before he was visited by officials from both SAD 46 in the Dexter and SAD 4 in Guilford to see if SAD 41 had interest in joining with the two school units in a bid to be awarded state funding to construct a comprehensive high school. Earlier in the summer the application by SAD 46 and 4 was announced as one of three finalists to move forward to complete part two of the application for an Integrated, Consolidated 9-16 Education Facility Pilot project. The other two finalists are based in and around Fort Kent and Madawaska as well as in Houlton and the surrounding school districts.

Wright said he was told the location of a future comprehensive high school is not yet known. “It’s one thing to send 30 kids to Dexter every other day, it’s another thing to send every kid to Dexter every day,” he said, as currently some Penquis Valley students take part in programs at the Tri-County Technical Center in Dexter along with their peers from across the region.

“There is excitement if the high school in your backyard, it it is not in your backyard you are not as as excited,” Wright said. “I told them I would bring it up to the board and they offered to talk to you at a future meeting.”

The school board then indicated they were willing to listen to a presentation on the proposal.

“Initially they did not reach out but they have been approved as one of three projects for the next phase,” Wright said. He said having another district may help the phase two application, as the two projects in Aroostook County both are comprised of more than two school districts.

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