WATERVILLE — The principal of George J. Mitchell School told the Board of Education this week that the isolation and social distancing brought on by the pandemic resulted in some kindergarten students who came to school last year struggling with basic social skills.

Principal Kim Taylor told the board Monday that some children didn’t know how to play or interact with others. The behavioral needs for some were high as they hadn’t had much social interaction.

She said some children had never been around other kids and it was difficult for them to be in a room with 20 other children.

Taylor was one of a handful of administrators who reported to the board on how the 2021-22 school year went, as well as how many staff vacancies the schools now have, and how summer school fared this year.

School Superintendent Eric Haley said some kindergarten teachers said they had never seen anything like it in their 25 to 30 years of teaching. Some children were so unregulated that they’d interrupt class, he said.

In response, Mitchell School has created a new position, and already hired someone, aimed at helping children with social and emotional needs. An educational technician is also needed for that purpose and the salary for that position would be paid using federal COVID-19 relief funds.


Taylor said she had to call out, or cancel, classes at different times during the 2021-22 year because there was no one to fill in when teachers were out sick.

“We pulled staff to cover, but you can only pull so many staff when you have 16 people out,” she said. “Most days, we had only one substitute in the building. If we were lucky, we had three.”

Haley said that in school year 2018-19 there were 1,208 teacher absences, and last school year there were 2,424, or double that of the previous year.

“Every school, about exactly double over that four-year period, of teacher absences,” he said.

Taylor said Mitchell School has openings for grade one and grade two teachers; educational technician I for noon duty (two positions); a licensed practical nurse or certified nurse assistant to support the school nurse; and special education openings.

Taylor also reported that 66 students attended summer school.


“It was very positive and I’m very grateful for the 11 staff members who organized this and helped make it a success,” she said, adding that the staff included a nurse, secretary and substitute.

Waterville Junior High School Principal Don Roux said the 22 students who attended summer school performed well.

Waterville Senior High School Principal Brian Laramee said summer school attendance was way down this year, but the students who attended “were the ones that really needed it and got a lot out of it.”

The high school, he said, has openings for an English teacher, physical education teacher, social studies teacher, combined business-computer science teacher, science teacher, social worker, and a person to cover as a driver education teacher.

Laramee said the highest number of staff absent in one day last school year was 15. Area schools needed substitutes as well so the pool was stretched, he said.

“The number of days we didn’t need to have substitutes in the building, I probably could count on one hand,” he said.


Jennifer Allen, the professional development and curriculum coordinator for Waterville schools, said Amy Murphy taught summer school for 15 students at Albert S. Hall School with an interdisciplinary approach to math that included music, theater and arts. Haley said he had heard accolades about the program and thanked Murphy for administering it.

Special Education Director Tabatha King said that among the openings at Mitchell School are a resource room teacher, education technician II (two positions), ed tech I (two positions), and speech and occupational therapists; at the junior high, a resource room teacher, an ed tech III, ed tech II (two positions) and one ed tech I; and at the high school, a social workers and ed techs.

She estimated that hundreds of special education teachers are needed statewide.

“We’re just not creating enough to meet the needs of every district,” King said.

The junior high also has openings for art, science and computer science teachers.

Assistant Superintendent Peter Hallen reported he reached out to fire Chief Shawn Esler and police Chief Joseph Massey for a safety consultation for schools. Updated building and grounds plans, as well as administrative rosters, will be given to the chiefs who will design school crisis response teams, according to Hallen. The district safety committee will be involved and plans communicated with parents, families and students, he said.

Hallen also reported that district civil rights teams are being resurrected in schools and a district coordinator, Cathy Lovendahl, has been hired. One or more advisors have been identified for each building, he said.

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