My purpose in writing is to inquire into a troubling trend in communications with the RSU 21 School Board and central office. I have submitted two questions thus far this year. Neither has been answered adequately or in a timely manner.

This begs the question: Is this organization struggling with executive function, or intentionally withholding information?

The first inquiry was in the context of new policies being presented (ACAA and ACAA-R both related to student harassment). I asked for a breakdown of incidents (drug and alcohol, violent, criminal, bullying, racial, etc.) across the district. This question was initially submitted Aug. 10.

Six weeks later I received the following data, verbatim:
Bullying Incidents Reported: 2020 – 7, 2019 – 3, 2018 – 1, 2017 – 3.
Vandalism: 2020 – 0, 2019 – 5, 2018 – 1, 2017 – 0.
Alcohol/Drug Possession: 2020 – 2, 2019 – 7, 2018 – 12, 2017 – 10.

Dan King photo

Absent any detail or context, these data show that there are functionally zero incidents. There are roughly 2,000 students in the district and 180 school days. That means there are 360,000 “incident opportunities.” The district reports 51 episodes. Even if we only considered the high school student population of roughly 700, there would be 51 cases out of 126,000 incident opportunities.

These seem like pretty well-behaved kids to me. So, I followed up and asked for more detail: Do these numbers reflect only incidents at Kennebunk High School?
The entire district? Do incidents of race or gender harassment fall under one of these
categories? Is there any indication of what the corrective action was?

To date (Jan. 20), I’ve not received a response.

The second question was simpler still: I would like to understand what the current monthly run rate is for legal and consulting services. Specifically, what firms and/or private consultants have been engaged thus far in the 20/21 school year?

I have received the data on legal service expenditures, which indicate that in fiscal year 2020 the district was 23 percent over its legal budget of $235,980. I received no indication of the consulting spend.

So again, does the district currently use any private consultants? How much has been spent in the past 12 months? I know there was a lot of investment in MAEC (the Baltimore-based firm retained two years ago to assess the district’s equity issues) over the previous 24 months or thereabouts. Is that firm still on retainer? Are there other consultants with which the district is currently engaged?

All I have received is a list of seven law firms and an indication that MAEC was paid for professional development and curriculum supplies. This information is available and is not difficult to get.

In a period of relative tranquility, this lack of transparency would be somewhat concerning. But after years of turmoil in our district, partial answers that come only after significant badgering signals that this board may not be taking seriously the need to restore public trust in the district and, more specifically, its oversight and administration.

Norm Archer is a Kennebunk resident and former RSU 21 board member and chairman. He can be reached at [email protected]

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