BAR HARBOR — To increase efficiency and, perhaps, effectiveness, the Mount Desert Island Regional School System should hire a transportation and maintenance coordinator and a food services coordinator, two school board committees have recommended.
Board member Jim Sawyer was chairman of the committee that over the past several months assessed needs in the areas of transportation, maintenance and custodial services. Currently, those are all handled by the individual schools.
“Our recommendation is to consider establishing a district-wide operations coordinator who can support all of our schools,” Sawyer told the board June 10.
“We were looking at what is working well right now and what we can do better. We have outstanding staff, and our goal was never to reduce or change what our present staff is doing, only to enhance what they do.”
Sawyer said salaries and benefits for bus drivers and other employees should be carefully evaluated and compared to those at other schools in the area.
“Our present salary and benefits are really not conducive to attracting new staff, and that is going to be one of our major goals,” he said.
Noting that the schools often struggle to fill their regular bus driver positions, Sawyer said, “Spare drivers are also seriously lacking in most if not all of the schools.”
Superintendent Marc Gousse said the prospect of losing bus drivers makes him “really nervous.”
“We need a cheerleader, a champion, a recruiter, somebody who is able to find some innovative ways to bring people on board,” he said. “Right now, we have principals scrambling to do it.”
Professional development for drivers, custodians and other operational staff is another area of need, Sawyer told the school board.
The committee also found that some schools lack some types of equipment, while others have equipment that sits idle much of the time.
“Hopefully, we can find a way to coordinate sharing that equipment,” Sawyer said.
He said an operations coordinator for the school district could recruit and train new employees, provide professional development and oversee bus safety inspections. The person could also coordinate equipment purchasing, sharing and maintenance.
Most of the schools in the MDI system have their own buses and hire the drivers. But Conners Emerson School in Bar Harbor and Trenton Elementary contract with Cyr Bus Line for student transportation.
Sawyer said that even if those two schools don’t need a transportation coordinator, “[That person] would still have a great deal of value in terms of operations, maintenance.”
Food service coordinator
Another committee of the board met with the food service directors at the various schools.
“They aren’t looking for someone to tell them what to do, because they know what to do; they do a great job of it,” said committee chairman Todd Graham.
“They’re looking for support — support in free and reduced lunch reports, support in training their staffs, support in budgets, in bulk purchasing and maybe menu planning, and support in professional development. It’s difficult for them to get that all done.”
Graham said the committee found no “deficiencies” in the schools’ food services and wasn’t looking to take away their local authority.
“The food service staffs know their students, they know what they eat and they know what they need to do to provide nutrition to those students in that community,” he said. “A coordinator could support and enable that without making the [school system] all one menu or all one type of food service.”
Board member Amy Rich said a food service coordinator could relieve principals and other staff of some of the administrative work related to food services.