SAD 70 approves superintendent’s contract extension, winter sports plan

HODGDON, Maine — The SAD 70 school board unanimously approved a two-year contract extension for its superintendent Monday evening, while also giving the go-ahead for a winter sports season.

During the Dec. 14 meeting, the board agreed to extend the contract of Stephen Fitzpatrick through the 2022-23 school year. The board has not determined any salary adjustments or changes in benefits at this point, Fitzpatrick said Tuesday.

Also up for discussion is whether to continue with the current arrangement of Fitzpatrick serving as both the high school principal and superintendent.

The board unanimously approved the winter sports season, albeit under the stipulation that the Maine Principals Association adheres to the current plan of beginning Jan. 4 for team practices.

Hodgdon Middle-High School only offers basketball and cheerleading during the winter sports season as official school sports. Students may participate in other sports like skiing as individuals.

Tyler Putnam, vice principal at the middle-high school, informed the school board that the Aroostook County Athletic Directors have been meeting to come up with a plan for how basketball could work this winter.

“We have boys and girls teams with great numbers signed up, even with all the guidelines in place,” Putnam said. “That is fantastic and gives the kids some exercise and gets them excited about coming to school. Sometimes it takes sports to get them there.”

Starting Dec. 7, basketball players and cheerleaders were able to begin skill-building drills and conditioning regimens in smaller groups at the school, provided they are wearing face coverings, Putnam explained. No “pickup” games or scrimmages are allowed.

The County Athletic Directors have come up with a plan for 12 regional basketball games to be played starting Jan. 11. The format would be similar to the one used during the fall soccer season with large and small school divisions. Because the soccer playoffs were cut short, the athletic directors would not commit to a basketball playoff format, Putnam said.

Attendance at games will not be permitted as the maximum number of people allowed for a gathering is currently set at 50 by the state. Games will be live streamed and shared on the district’s Facebook page. 

To assist with potential live streaming, Graydon Drake constructed a new “Hawks’ Nest” located at halfcourt to provide a more improved viewing experience. In the past, games have been streamed from the stage located behind one of the backboards.

Games will also be held without any fanfare, Putnam said. Locker rooms will not be used and there will be no player introductions, while visiting teams will have to enter and exit through a specific location away from others.

“It will be a very organized event,” he said. “Games will be no frills. (Players) just come in, play and then leave. We will be following all MPA and CDC guidelines to make this happen.”

Board members asked no questions on winter sports and approved the measure unanimously.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, parent James Peters addressed the board on his concerns with remote learning and the importance of keeping students in school whenever possible. 

“Closing schools presents a serious risk of harm to children,” Peters said. “We need to take advantage of every opportunity for in-person instruction. There will be more cases coming, and snow days, but every possible chance we should have in-school instruction for our children.”

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