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Town Of Cape Elizabeth
Cape Elizabeth News


School volunteer application now includes criminal background check

Cape Elizabeth schools have begun to incorporate criminal background checks in their program for volunteer services.

Gail Schmader, director of the program, explained the new procedure to the School Board at their meeting June 8, 2010 as part of her annual report.

Since Jan. 1, 2010, all new, non-parent community volunteers seeking to work with Cape Elizabeth students during the school day have been required to complete a criminal record check application in addition to the volunteer application. These requirements are in addition to the annual registration form and attendance at a volunteer-awareness training session.

Phase II of the criminal record check procedure begins Sept. 1, 2010, when parents who had not attended an awareness session would also be subject to a background check.

"The background checks are another step in making our schools as safe as possible and aligning ourselves with area school procedures," Schmader said. "Superintendent (Alan) Hawkins was the one who gave me the guidance and the stimulus to start the process, not because we had problems, but because we want to bring ourselves up to speed and make sure we have the safest possible situation for our students," she said.

The checks are performed online by school staff using the name and birth date of the applicant. "It's the same service we use for new staff as they come on board," Schmader said. There is no cost to the volunteer or the Town, and fingerprinting is not required.

Parents who have attended a volunteer awareness session prior to July 1, 2010 are exempt from the background check, as are volunteers who would be presenting or performing while a staff member is present with the students..

A letter from the superintendent explaining the new procedure will go out to parents in the fall, said Schmader. Required application forms will also be available in the fall on the School Department's website.

One volunteer for nearly every two students

This past school year, the 18th year Cape Elizabeth has organized volunteer services, more than 900 volunteers supported the school's approximately 1,800 students, Schmader said. "It's been a great year," she said. "It's almost a 2-for-1 ratio, I think we are just incredibly fortunate in this town to have the support that we have," she said.

New volunteer programs this year included the Pond Cove 'Copy Cats', a group of parent volunteers who assist teachers with photocopying; a 41-member group of trained literacy volunteers at the Middle School; and, the 45 parents, 22 community members and eight student nurses who contributed various skills to the H1N1 flu vaccine clinics last fall.

Continuing programs included the successful mentor program which matched 37 High School students to work one-on-one with students in younger grades. All students in the younger grades benefit from the social, emotional and academic behavior modeled by the older teens, Schmader said.

In all, volunteers have given the equivalent of almost $300,000 through approximately 22,000 hours of service, Schmader said, not including the after-school contributions of parent associations and booster groups. The community has also donated more $13,000 worth of materials, not including the many classroom supplies that have been donated on a weekly basis this year, she said.

"We're very fortunate to have so many volunteers, it's a delight to work with them," Schmader said. "I feel very honored every day I go in. They are one of the many strengths of the Cape Elizabeth School system. Their dedication, expertise and compassion helps students reach their potential," she said.