Flacke is back as RSU 29/SAD 70 special education director

3 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — Special education needs for students in SAD 70 will once again fall under the purview of Sandy Flacke thanks to an agreement with neighboring RSU 29.

Flacke had served as the special education director for both RSU 29 and SAD 70 for the prior school year and started the 2021-22 school year in that same capacity. She served 70 percent of the time at RSU 29 and 30 percent of the time with SAD 70.

During a Sept. 13 school board meeting, RSU 29 decided it wanted Flacke exclusively, ending the agreement between the two schools. At that meeting, Flacke was given an annual salary of $106,000, paid for by the Houlton district, with the understanding that she would work solely for RSU 29 starting Oct. 1.

But upon further review, that arrangement proved to be detrimental to the students of SAD 70 and the Houlton school administration has since changed its stance.

At an Oct. 5 board meeting, RSU 29 Chairman Fred Grant said the reason for the change of heart was simple.

“The request for this came because of the challenge of finding a suitable candidate to fill,” Grant said. “The best way to move forward and to serve our neighbors in SAD 70 is to modify the agreement.”

As part of the agreement, Flacke will continue serving students in both districts for the remainder of the current school year at a rate of 70 percent for RSU 29 and 30 percent for SAD 70. The cost of her salary will be divided between the districts in the same percentages.

The board also learned that the district was the recipient of a $64,000 McKenzie Grant for the district’s libraries. The funds will be used to purchase books and furniture for the school’s three libraries.

During the public speaking portion of the meeting, resident David Carpenter once again asked the school board to reconsider its mask mandate for students and staff. Unlike the past two board meetings, which were heavily attended, Monday night’s meeting was mostly staff members and Carpenter was the only person to speak.

“Last month, I asked you to kindly remove the masks for my children,” Carpenter said. “There was no vote last month, so I would like the board to reconsider and vote on this issue.” 

He added that SAD 70 in Hodgdon has an optional mask policy and has not had to close its school, whereas RSU 29 had to spend two weeks in a remote learning model due to a large number of COVID-19 cases.

“Your job is to make sure my children get a good education in a safe environment,” he said. “Making the masks optional does not put my children at risk.”

Carpenter added in his opinion masks do not work and were only used to make people feel safe.

Superintendent Richard Lyons said the administration had not changed its opinion on masking and felt no change was warranted at the present time.

Because the mask mandate was not an agenda item, a special motion was needed in order to continue discussing the matter. That motion did not garner support from the majority of the board, failing by a vote of 3-6, with board members Christopher Cain, Sara Deveau and Tammy Goetsch voting in favor, and board members Grant, Erica Peabody, Sue McLaughlin, Scott White, Rosa McNally and Tim Youngfellow opposed.