Maine Regional School Unit 21
January 26th, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Expanded Collaboration between Teachers Association and RSU 21 School Board
The RSU 21 School Board and the Kennebunk, Arundel, and Kennebunkport Educators Association (KAKEA) recently agreed to meet to negotiate extending a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and discuss a range of issues and concerns experienced by the faculty and staff while addressing COVID health and safety protections.
To address the stresses and better understand the ongoing and new challenges COVID is presenting this school year, Superintendent Dr. Terri Cooper and RSU 21 Board Chair Art Leblanc invited the entire leadership team of KAKEA to bring their respective full boards together for special negotiation team meetings on January 5th and a follow up meeting on January 19th.
KAKEA President Jenessa Cadorette agreed, “We appreciate the Superintendent and the Board creating a forum where we could be heard.”
“We wanted an opportunity to hear from teachers, nurses, instructional personnel and specialists directly about their experience and their recommendations to address ongoing and new challenges during this protracted global pandemic,” explained LeBlanc. We understood from both direct communications and from public comment and discussion that there were issues that the School Board needed to hear more about in a direct and open environment.”
“Members of both groups met to discuss the themes of communication, decision making, and morale,” said Cadorette.
The building representatives had surveyed their fellow teachers and nurses and brought forth specific feedback from each school.
“It was really validating,” said Emily Philips, a STEM teacher and building representative at Sea Road School. “Thank you for your time and efforts and for making us feel heard,” Philips added.
“I am really grateful our teachers and nurses spoke so openly and candidly about the ongoing and new challenges that have emerged this school year,” said Loreta McDonnell, Vice-Chair of the RSU 21 Board. “It’s clear how much each and every teacher and nurse cares about their students,” McDonnell added.
“Though it was an emotional conversation,” said Bethany MacLeod, a Grade 2 teacher and building representative from Kennebunk Elementary School, “it was positive, and I believe everyone felt heard.”
“This first listening session is a step in the right direction for actionable resolutions that will ultimately lead to a more positive culture and climate throughout the district,” said Cadorette.
“It felt like such an honest and real discussion”, said Ashley Baker-Koch, a kindergarten teacher at Kennebunk Elementary School. “I hope to have many more in the future as we work together to solve the problems”, she said.
In the follow-up meeting on January 19th, the two groups continued the conversation surrounding communications, decision-making, climate, curriculum, and staff support. Cadorette states that “Many positive changes have been a result of the collaboration between both parties, and the work continues. Both groups are committed to the process and feel that the two meetings, thus far, have created an open space for transparency and understanding.”
LeBlanc and Dr. Cooper agreed that the two groups aligned are bringing actionable steps forward. “Teamwork is essential to achievement. We are all bringing collaboration skills to these meetings to support the success of RSU 21.”, stated Cooper. A workshop meeting is being planned in March, while the “Board’s negotiation team is ready to meet on January 27th with KAKEA to create a Memorandum of Agreement to address COVID related concerns that are not covered in the current collective bargaining agreement,” said Dawn Therrien, the Board’s chief negotiator.