The phrase “race to the top” could be applied to several issues at the Maine School Administrative District 40 School Board meeting on May 6. They included the controversial federal education incentive program, a middle school Destination Imagination challenge and the awards presented to some of the district’s top math students.

The federal Race to the Top is a $4.35 billion program that seeks to provide incentives for certain education reforms. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the four specific areas are adopting standards and assessments for students; building data systems that measure student growth; recruiting, developing, rewarding and retaining effective teachers and principals; and turning around the lowest-achieving schools.

However, for Maine to be eligible for the program, certain state laws must be changed, including the ability to link student results to teacher pay and allowing charter schools.

The SAD 40 board voted 4-3 against having the superintendent sign an application for Race to the Top.

School board Chairman Bonnie Davis Micue said the program is the next step in wresting local control away from school districts. The school district’s application could have also been signed by the school board chairman.

“I absolutely do not want to sign,” Micue said. “I don’t want the board to go along … I think it’s a mistake.”

Voting with Micue against filing the application were Dennis Wooster, Danny Jackson and Francis Cross. Voting to authorize the superintendent to sign the application were Sherrie Clark, Theodore Brown and Dana Dow. Four board members abstained from the vote, and said there was too little information about the district’s responsibilities and the likeliness of the state becoming eligible for funding.

Board recognition

The school board and administrators honored Medomak Middle School’s Destination Imagination team. The team had to devise a creative solution for the Direct Deposit Challenge. The team had to get objects over a 6-foot barrier into targets that they could not see. They used a PVC pipe delivery system to move small felted animals. For their instant challenge, Seven Words in Pantomime, the team members had to act out a story using only seven words.

Middle school students were also honored for their success in the MathCounts competition and the New England Math League, where the team placed third in the region, just behind Falmouth and Brunswick middle schools.

The school board members received a couple of sample questions: “Bag A contains three white and two red balls. Bag B contains six white and three red balls. One of the two bags will be chosen at random, and then two balls will be drawn from that bag at random. What is the probability that the two balls drawn will be the same color? Express the answer as a common fraction.” That was one question out of 30 that the middle school students completed in 40 minutes.

Other business

Douglas Blasius is a student representative on the school board. He traveled to England during April vacation week on the class trip. The departure was delayed because of the volcanic ash cloud, but the students made it across the Atlantic and set off on a tour of London, Stonehenge, Swinden, Bath, Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford. They also traveled to Edinburgh and saw the Old Course at St. Andrews.

The board said farewell to Ann Donaldson, who resigned from the board because she is moving out of state. Micue thanked Donaldson for serving the school district and its students, teachers, staff and community.