April 08, 2020

Orono school committee approves exchange program

ORONO – The Orono School Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a request for 11 high school students to travel to the Bronx, N.Y., to participate in an exchange program with the Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy.

The visit is sponsored by Operation Breaking Stereotypes, a nonprofit organization created by former Orono teacher Connie Carter who wanted to bring young people from disparate environments together so they could learn about diversity and social justice, Shana Goodall, an Orono High School social studies teacher, told the committee.

While in New York, the Orono students will stay with host families, work at a local homeless shelter and engage in social and academic activities, said Goodall, the group’s adviser.

Last March the New York students visited Orono where they attended classes at the University of Maine, ate at Pat’s Pizza and discussed Robert Shetterly’s book, “Americans Who Tell The Truth,” Goodall said.

The program has benefited local students, she said. “It’s opened up their eyes, given them an understanding of an urban environment … and encouraged them to be involved in service to their community.”

Also on Tuesday, the school committee voted to take $5,000 from the budget to rent the University of Maine’s Hauck and Minsky auditoriums for Orono music students to perform concerts.

The funds had been eliminated from the budget a couple of years ago because of tight finances, Superintendent Kelly Clenchy said, noting that last year the university waived the fee. His goal is to put the money back into future budgets, he said.

The school committee held off approving a request to hold a senior class fundraiser at Orono High School.

Committee members James Bird, Fran Neubauer and Shane Stafford said they needed more information about a proposal by Project Graduation to hold a Bingo Evening at the high school. Project Graduation is a parents’ group that raises money for after-graduation festivities.

But committee member Stefani Berkey, who voted along with Chairman Robert Swindlehurst to approve the request, said parents were seeking only preliminary approval and may not even have all the information.

The school committee is “putting up obstacles before they’re even off first base,” she said.

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