Thoughts on April 7 MSAD 15 board meeting | Sam Pfeifle

| Sam Pfeifle, Member, GNG School Board |

Eds. note: Sam Pfeifle is chair of the MSAD 15 school board and occasionally posts community updates on his Facebook page “Sam Pfeifle, Member, GNG School Board.” For links to upcoming meetings and more, go to  |

Happy Friday, everyone.

It was great to see so many people at the school board business meeting on Wednesday night. I believe the highest number I saw was 197 people watching, which is amazing.

Of course, we have no idea how many people used to watch on community television in the age before Zoom, but it really feels different to see everyone’s names and sometimes faces on our Zoom meetings and I hope that we’ll continue to have some version of this, even after we’re back to in-person meetings regularly. The New Gloucester Meeting House, especially, can be a little lonely when no attends!

Obviously, most people were there to hear from Chanda Turner, our curriculum director, about the status of the Return to School Plan. She gave a similar report in March, and she has regularly been the one to update us on how covid is affecting our ability to teach kids in-person in our buildings. (She also heads up all of our contact tracing, training on covid protocols, interactions with the CDC, etc. Not what she’s studying in her doctoral program, exactly. She deserves every accolade you’ve got.)

If you missed the presentation and following discussion, you can find it here:…/1el28bC00AmeMOH…/view

Grab some popcorn, as it goes on for about an hour and a half. I did my best to make sure everyone’s voice was heard from, whether a board member or a member of our administration asked to give us information on their experiences. We looked at data from our families and staff members. In the end, as you’ll see, we reached a consensus to stay the course with our current definition of the hybrid model.

I know there are some parents, particularly of younger children, who are disappointed. Thanks to those of you who have emailed me directly to let me know about your frustrations and to offer any number of ideas and thoughts. I know we have many problem solvers in our community, and I also hear all of your ideas in the spirit they’re made – I’m glad everyone is trying to help. As I’ve said many times, it takes all of us to make sure the kids have the experience they deserve in our schools.

Also, I have appreciated the level of discourse. I’m proud that our community has avoided some of the more distasteful rhetoric that has popped up in the discussions other communities are having. I think we all recognize that we don’t have a lot of great options in front of us and we’ll all just doing the best we can to make decisions that do the most good for the most kids.

And then we are doing our best to help out those kids who are really struggling by delivering some direct attention, even bringing 100 more kids into four-days-a-week learning over the past month.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the current situation is “working” for everyone. We know that acutely.

Anyone in my position who tells you they’re 100% certain they made the right decision is either not someone to be trusted or is simply lying to make you or themselves feel better. I am wracked every day with doubt. How does that district do what they’re doing? Have we tried everything? Which thing is the greater harm? What are the chances of that harm happening? How much good would this change or that change make?

There’s simply no way to know what might happen if we went in a number of directions. All we can do is make the best decisions we can when presented with data and information and be flexible enough to adjust when we think we can make a positive difference. We also have to trust that everyone is acting and making their recommendations in good faith. Our mission is to prepare these kids for their next step. Every day. Through a challenging academic environment, yes, but also in a way that is safe, caring, healthy, and … fun.

I also love how our teachers and staff have kept that last bit in focus. They have kept their spirits up, kept our kids thinking and creating and laughing, and made the most of what has been a taxing winter.

Now that it’s spring, it’s hard not to feel optimistic. The vaccines are jabbing into arms. The sun is shining. Back decks are being swept off and patio furniture wiped clean. But the case numbers are back to levels we haven’t seen since January. The virus is spreading through schools and sports leagues in ways we haven’t seen much at all. Younger and younger people are being hospitalized. We are not out of the woods yet and the winter of covid lingers.

Let’s put our heads down, get through this last bit before everyone can be vaccinated, and finish the school year with a determination to get everything out of it we can.

— Eds. note: from “Sam Pfeifle, Member, GNG School Board” March 28 on Facebook