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Resignation and safety concerns mark South Portland School Board meeting | #schoolsaftey


At the recent South Portland School Board meeting, members paid tribute to their dedicated colleague, Elyse Tipton, as she announced her resignation to seek a town council seat. Tipton contributed nearly seven years of service to the school board. Tipton’s departure was acknowledged against the backdrop of ongoing safety concerns within the school district, where incidents of potential threats have ignited a fervent discussion on security.

Jennifer Ryan, the chair of the school board, expressed her admiration for Tipton’s dedication, stating, “It really has been a pleasure working with you.” As a token of their appreciation, the board presented Tipton with a bouquet of flowers. Reflecting on her experience, Tipton admitted to feeling intimidated when she first joined the school board but encouraged others to “find your voice.” She extended her gratitude to the entire school community, emphasizing the significance of their collective efforts. “I just want to again express gratitude to our entire school community,” Tipton said.

Elyse Tipton is stepping down from the school board position. Jessica Oppermann

Tipton also took a moment to highlight the recent addition of a new middle school in District 5, the district she represents. She noted that teachers and staff have seen an increase in their compensation during her tenure. Tipton underscored the school community’s focus on embracing the diversity present among the student population, “I think our school community overall is more focused on the opportunities that a diverse student population creates for our students and these are opportunities for our students to learn now that the world is a place of all kinds of similarities and differences and diversity including economic diversity in South Portland, where we have 38 percent of our students identifying as non-white.”

South Portland Superintendent Tim Matheny provides a report on the school lockdown that occurred on September 29. Ben McCanna photo/Press Herald

South Portland Superintendent of Schools Timothy Matheney addressed concerns regarding safety and security at a recent school board meeting. The discussion revolved around two incidents this year involving potential threats of violence, prompting a significant review of safety measures within the district.

The primary incident of concern occurred on Sept. 29, when South Portland High School was placed under lockdown after a minor was detained on school premises with a replica airsoft gun. As a precaution, students were eventually sent home for the day. The other incident occurred in April and it involved a 17-year-old former student attempting to convince another person to help with a plan to harm members of the high school community. It was deemed that he incidents were not related.

Matheney expressed the unsettling nature of the Sept. 29 event and the need to learn from it. Noting that there have been 40 mass shootings in the United States since the start of the school year, he challenged the school community to address the broader issue of violence. “How can we distance ourselves from that reality?” said Matheney. He commended the high school staff, students, and parents for their response to the Sept. 29 threat. Matheney went on to provide a detailed account of the incident, revealing concerns about a possible accomplice inside the high school during the investigation.

The incidents raised questions about the school administration’s transparency in handling such situations. Staff members expressed frustration at the district’s perceived lack of communication regarding the pending criminal charges. “Transparency is important,” Matheney said in agreement. Matheney commended a staff member who reported the initial concern to the school resource officer, Caleb Gray.

During the incident, Gray encountered the individual in question and discovered what appeared to be a gun in the suspect’s backpack. The teen fled, but was swiftly apprehended by the police, and the “weapon” was determined to be an airsoft replica, a non-lethal item. Matheney explained that the school couldn’t declare the all-clear until they were confident that the premises were safe.

Student representatives on the school board, Gabe Domingas and Angela Kabisa, shared their experiences during the lockdown. They described the fear and anxiety they felt during the incident and expressed gratitude that the lockdown ended swiftly. Domingas said, “I don’t think I’ve felt that scared in a long time.”

Board members commended the students for their courage in sharing their stories.

Matheney suggested that they may bring forward a plan to improve security measures in the city’s elementary schools to the board and city council.

In other news, an open house at the South Portland Middle School is scheduled for Oct. 21, from 1 to 4 p.m., inviting the public to explore the new facility.

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