MADISON — During an hour-long meeting last Thursday at the Madison Elementary School, new SAU 13 Superintendent Meredith Nadeau collected the thoughts of those on hand about the future of local education.
It was the third of five scheduled Future Planning Community Forums taking place over four weeks.
“I work with the Freedom, Madison and Tamworth school boards,” Nadeau said in her opening remarks. “I have charted a course for them working with the community to really think about the future of the district.
“We’re going to be looking out to 2024, and think about what we would like to see happening for our children in our schools at that time,” said Nadeau, 49, who was hired in April to replace interim superintendent Kent Hemingway Jr., who was filling in when Lou Goscinski left to become superintendent in York, Maine.
Nadeau, formerly superintendent for Newmarket, started her two-year contract in July 1. She lives in Lee with her husband and two daughters.
Nadeau told the eight people attending the Oct. 24 Madison session that because the sending towns’ contract with Kennett Middle and High School is ending in 2026, “boards are going to be looking for some input for what you will be looking for in that contract.”
The three SAU 13 towns, along with SAU 9 towns Albany, Bartlett, Conway, Eaton and Jackson, agreed in 2003 to a $44 million bond to build a new Kennett High School. The 20-year agreement officially began in 2006, when the high school opened its doors. The agreement will expire in 2026, but if a town plans to stay in the agreement, it must give three years’ notice.
According to the tuition agreement, “each of the towns’ operating expenses of the high school, payable in each fiscal year, shall be a combination of 35 percent of the town’s equalized value as a percentage of the total equalized value and 65 percent of the town’s average daily membership in attendance of the total average daily membership in attendance at the high school.”
With a blue Sharpie in hand, Nadeau asked what people wanted education to look like in 2024. “No holds barred,” she said. “No idea is a bad one.”
“SAU 13 will be united at the middle school level,” was the first idea tossed out, with the citizen wanting to see Freedom, Madison and Tamworth middle-schoolers all under one roof.
Currently, the K.A. Brett School in Tamworth houses its seventh- and eighth-graders, while Freedom and Madison tuition theirs to Kennett Middle School.
“Offer more enrichment opportunities,” was another suggestion, followed by “Access to updated technology.”
Another wanted to see Madison have more input at the high school level if they were to renew a new contract to stay at Kennett.
Other suggestions included making sure technology in schools doesn’t overtake face-to-face learning; having a family liaison or a social worker on staff; having stronger interventions for children at risk; recognizing students’ non-academic strengths; having SAU 9 and SAU 13 collaborate more; having more emphasis on wellness and healthy kids; offering breakfast and lunch at school for each child (if parents want that to happen); exploring school uniforms or a dress code; and doing away with one-hour bus rides.
There was a light moment when one person suggested no more bullying. “I thought we nipped that in the bud,” said parent Nicole Nordlund. “I’m watching Season One of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ right now, and our kids are pretty mild compared to the 1800s. They were out there in the schoolyard every single day whipping each other’s butts.”
After coming up with a total of 44 items, Nadeau gave each person three purple dots to stick on whichever items were most important to them.
“Spend your dots wisely,” she said.
Madison School Board member Kate Shackford said she was pleased to see people participating.
Nadeau gave similar presentations to the joint boards, the administrative teams from each of the thee schools and faculty from Freedom Elementary. She plans to do similar exercises with K.A. Brett School and Madison Elementary faculty along with a holding a listening post with students to get their input.
Nadeau plans to hold another session Nov. 13, at 6 p.m. at the Freedom Community Club (meeting at the Freedom Town Hall).