Board meets with football coach about hazing incident

By Bill Pearson
Staff Writer

    DEXTER — The only decision SAD 46 administrators have made regarding reappointing two Dexter Regional High School football coaches is not to make one at this time. The school board met with Head Coach Kevin Armstrong on Feb. 6 in an executive session to discuss the Nov. 17 hazing incident which led to 12 students being suspended and three being charged in juvenile court with Class D misdemeanor assault charges.

    This was the second time Armstrong has met with SAD 46 officials since the district’s investigation into the incident was completed. Armstrong along with his assistant, John Hubbell, met with Superintendent Kevin Jordan and DRHS Principal Steve Bell two weeks ago.

     The football players have all completed their school-mandated suspensions and community service, but school administrators still have not decided whether the incident should preclude the two chaperones from being re-appointed to their coaching positions.

    Last fall, school administrators planned on making a decision earlier than usual on the football coaches’ fate, but after the two recent discussions, Jordan indicated to the school board that he wasn’t ready to make a recommendation.

    “At this point we don’t have a formal recommendation for the board,” Jordan said. “We expect to make that decision in either April or May when we appoint all of the fall sport coaches. All I can say is that we don’t feel comfortable making a decision at this time.”

    All district coaches are on one-year contracts and need to be reappointed each year. The school principal will make a recommendation to the superintendent who will make his choice known to the board this spring.

    The school board held another executive session to discuss the re-appointment of Ridge View Community School wrestling coach Brian Salsbury. The board held a 25-minute executive session requested by Garland board member Barbara Wakeland.

    When the executive session concluded, they voted 9-2 to reappoint Salsbury. Board members Wakeland and Kenneth Dorman, of Exeter, were the only ones to vote against the appointment.

    Salsbury is in his second year as the DRHS wrestling coach. In 2012, Salsbury guided his team to a Class C State runner-up finish. This year, Dexter finished as the regional runner-ups on Feb. 2 and the team will compete on Feb. 16 in the state championship meet. This will also be his second year as the middle school coach.

    In other action, the board voted unanimously to enter into a tuition contract with the town of Athens and Brighton Plantation to educate all of their grade 9-12 students. The two communities are planning to withdraw from SAD 59 in Madison. Before they can withdraw, Athens and Brighton Plantation must have  an arrangement with another high school to accept their students. The agreement with SAD 46  allows them to complete their withdrawal application to the state Board of Education.

    Athens has 60 high school students and Brighton Plantation has one. Jordan indicated that DRHS has the capability to handle all of the students without hiring additional staff. If the two communities are successful in their withdrawal efforts, they would have school choice for their high school students.

    “This doesn’t mean all of these students will attend DRHS. Some will continue to attend Madison and others may go to Skowhegan,” Jordan said. “I’m very excited about the prospects of more students at DRHS. I’m sure we’ll be getting some of these students regardless if Athens joins AOS 94.”

    SAD 46 and the Harmony School Committee are still negotiating with Athens about becoming the third member of AOS 94 (alternate organized structure). Once Harmony and Brighton Plantation withdraw from SAD 59, they plan to educate all of their K-grade eight students in Harmony and tuition their students to other high schools.

    Under the tuition agreement, SAD 46 would receive $7,959 per student for the 2014-15 school year.

    The board also heard a plea from two Garland selectmen about the burden the school budget places on local property owners. Selectmen George Corey and Bob Marquis indicated the town had reduced their budget and the district needed to do the same. The selectmen indicated over the past two years that residents are having trouble paying their taxes and foreclosures are increasing at an alarming rate.

    “We are not giving out raises to municipal employees and are cutting our budget wherever we can,” said Corey. “This is a crisis situation and we want to convey our feelings about the choices that need to be made during these tough economic times.”

    District officials reported that the factors which led to the dramatic increase Garland taxpayers saw last year wasn’t now in place. The town’s valuation decreased from $55,750,000 in 2011 to $55 million in 2012. The town’s tax burden increased at a higher rate last year than their neighbors’. In 2011, Garland’s  valuation rose by 5 percent while the district’s dropped by 0.78 percent.

    Jordan reported that property valuations in Garland’s dropped by 1.34 percent and by 1.2 percent in Ripley. Dexter’s rose by 0.225 percent and Exeter’s remained the same. The EPS formula is determined by a town’s property valuation and number of students in the district.

    The superintendent also indicated that the school budget  was heavily dependent on state subsidies. So whatever decision the legislature makes about school funding would have the biggest impact on local taxpayers.

    SAD 46 will next meet at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 6 in the Ridge View Community School cafeteria.

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