(Editor’s note: Looking Back is a weekly column including news items reported 10 years ago in The Current, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in September 2011.)

Issue of May 16, 2002

Driving a snowplow is serious business in the middle of a Maine winter when one storm can dump up to a foot or more of snow, but when spring hits, snowplow drivers all over the state cut loose as they compete against each other for the honor of being the best.

Shawn Mountain and Dan DiSimio of the Scarborough Public Works Department will go for the snowplow driving state title on June 6 in Skowhegan. This competition is known as the “Snowplow Roadeo” and is sponsored each year by the American Public Works Association.

The Scarborough Board of Education found out Wednesday that none of its school construction projects, totaling about $60 million, would get money from the state this year. But the board is moving forward with its plans for a $25 million high school expansion, which will come before voters in November.

The Scarborough School Department applied to the state Department of Education for $24.9 million for the high school, $9.6 million for the middle school expansion, $24.6 million for the new intermediate school and $4.8 million for elementary schools.

Over 40 residents turned out to give the Cape Town Council a piece of their minds this week about school funding cutbacks, blasting the group for approving expensive town buildings while cutting education funds. Two students were among the speakers.

Twenty-six of them spoke during public comments on the budget, including six School Board members and Superintendent Tom Forcella. All but two defended the original school budget request, an increase of 5.34 percent, or a total of $15,038,234.

Resident Frank Potenzo expressed concern that increasing taxes would drive senior citizens out of town. “I would think that the town would like to keep the retired people in their homes,” he said, arguing that seniors pay property taxes like everyone else, but don’t ask for many services.

Bonnie Steinroeder said disputes between town and school governing bodies were not helpful. “We are one community,” she said, adding that it is unproductive to set up budget disputes between “seniors in homes versus kids in schools.”

Gail Atkins spoke, criticizing recent town building projects to loud applause. “I think the money needs to go to the schools,” Atkins said.

School Board member Elaine Moloney said many of the town’s attractive features come at a price, including wetlands protection, little business, greenspace and new town buildings. “Is it to be at the expense of our schools?” Moloney asked.

Tyke MacColl, a student, complained that freshman athletics were being cut, and placed the $8,000 budget for them in contrast with the money for the “pile of rocks” outside the new police station. “Freshman sports are a lot more important,” MacColl said.

Student Grace McKenzie said she thought the police station was too big for a town that normally has two police officers on duty at any given time. “I don’t think we need that much,” she said.

Erin Grady Gallant said schools are why people move to Cape. “The schools are our most important resource besides our land and our children,” she said.

Bill Bruns, 63, died suddenly at his Scarborough home earlier this month, but the spirit and energy of the 30-year Cape teacher and USM professor live on in town and throughout the area.

“He was just a dear, sweet individual,” said his wife, Mary, who works for the Cape school district. “Losing him is like losing a part of myself.”

Peer mediators at Scarborough High School are on standby every day during the school year, week in and week out, to help fellow students resolve conflicts. No problem is too small for mediators to step in.

Although the peer mediation program has been in place for the last three years, members are concerned that students are still not familiar with the program and what it offers.

The peer mediation group at SHS was formed during the 1998-1999 school year partly in response to the number of conflicts between students at the school and partly in response to the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado on April 20, 1999.

“That year and the previous year there were a large number of fights and conflicts among students and (the high school staff) were mediating a lot of disputes. The principal and another social worker and I agreed that a functioning student organization would be at least as effective, if not more so,” said Bob Foster, a social worker at the high school who is the faculty advisor for the peer mediators.

The Cape Elizabeth Town Council commended Stephanie Reed and Daniel Gayer for their performance on the U.S. Physics Olympics exam, as two of 188 finalists nationwide.

Several Cape Elizabeth teachers, and one principal, will be taking short overseas trips over the summer or early next school year, to learn more about other cultures and educational systems. They expect it will benefit their students as well as their teaching.

High school world history and government teacher, Heather Sanborn, will depart first, leaving for China in early July for a 20-day trip through eight of that country’s major cities, including Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

The trip is run by the Five College Center for East Asian Studies, in Northampton, Mass., and Sanborn and 19 other New England teachers will have much of their way paid by the Freeman Foundation. The rest of her costs will be paid by the high school and other funds, including possibly the high school parents association, she said.

The trip is the culmination of several workshops Sanborn has attended, learning about Asian culture and politics. “I’ve actually done some stuff, but now I actually get to go and experience it,” she said.

Middle school Spanish teacher, Lydia Schildt, is taking a longer journey. She will attend the Spanish School at the Middlebury Language Schools in Vermont for six weeks this summer, and will spend the next academic year living and studying in Madrid, Spain.

Her experience with the language and cultures she teaches has so far been in Spanish-speaking South America, rather than Spain itself. So she now teaches Mexican songs, or Guatemalan rhymes, to her students.

She plans to return with a new library of cultural material to share with the middle school students.

She plans to live with a family for a part of her time in Spain, to learn more about the culture, and also is uncertain of the specifics of what she will learn. “When I get back, I’ll tell you,” Schildt said.

Middle School French teacher, Suzanne Janelle, and Pond Cove School Principal Tom Eismeier will be traveling to Japan on separate trips Janelle in October and Eismeier in November through the Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program.

Each trip will involve about 200 people, who will be broken up into groups of 20 to visit schools around the country, meet with government officials and learn about local schools.

Japan has a centrally administered national education system, Eismeier said, which is very different from the American system of local control.

After a week in Tokyo, they will head to different areas of the country and spend a couple of days with a family and visit schools, meeting with administrators and teachers.

“You get to know that school and that district for a while,” Eismeier said.

Two Scarborough seniors were recognized for citizenship and athletics Tuesday night, May 7, at the Western Maine Conference annual dinner in Portland.

G. Max Valverde and Maureen C. McHugh received the conference’s annual Citizenship Awards for Scarborough High School. Each year, the conference honors two students from each of the 20 schools in the conference who, in the eyes of the principal, exemplify citizenship through their academic performance and participation in co-and extra-curricular activities.

Valverde, 18, is the son of Beryl and Jason Wolfe of Scarborough, and Jorge and Maria Valverde of North Grafton, Mass. McHugh, 18, is the daughter of Gina and Pete McHugh of Scarborough.

Scarborough High School peer mediators Mike Vanston, Kristen Stewart, Becky Condon and Nate Kupel, along with faculty advisor Bob Foster, are shown in this file photo from the May 16, 2002 issue of The Current. (File photo)

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