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Iowa farmer Battani ready to plant, nurture success for Lion athletes

Iowa farmer Battani ready to plant, nurture success for Lion athletes

Willing to get hands dirty, new BAHS athletic director/assistant principal has taught in four countries
By Mark Haskell | Jul 14, 2020
Photo by: Mark HaskellNew Belfast Area High School athletic director Matt Battani.
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BELFAST — The hopeful start to the 2020-2021 Belfast Area High School athletic seasons began on Monday, July 6, as student-athletes set early alarms for 7 a.m. workouts.

At the conclusion of the first day of the summer fitness program, the athletes formed a large circle — doing their best to maintain social distancing — as coaches shared positive reinforcement and instruction.

While many of those adult faces were familiar to the youngsters, one unfamiliar face got the chance to introduce himself to the assembled group of early-risers.

Newly-named Lion athletic director Matt Battani was not only on hand, but also worked through some of the conditioning, strength and agility drills with the students in compliance with Phase 1 of the Maine Principals’ Association’s four-step plan to allow high school sports to hopefully return in the fall.

The 39-year-old Camden resident, who has a bevy of teaching and coaching experience, said he was pleased with Monday’s turnout of roughly 40 student-athletes and anticipated higher numbers as the days moved forward.

“Prepping to open up the workouts has not been difficult,” he said. “Because the MPA gave us excellent guidelines to follow. And it’s just a matter of reading and implementing those guidelines. I’m excited so many kids showed up. It indicates to me that our coaching staff has good relationships with the kids, [and] they’re reaching out to kids and the kids are eager to get back.”

Battani, who has taken over for former athletic director Terry Kenniston, is a 1998 graduate of Ballard High School in Huxley, Iowa.

“Ballard is a lot like Belfast,” he said. “There were five small towns that came together to make a school district. It’s pretty similar in population about 100 to 120 per graduating class. A lot of rural communities come together to make a school district.”

Battani later went onto Iowa State University, where he majored in political science and history.

He has athletic backgrounds in football, wrestling, track and field and baseball as far back as middle school, but, being “a farm kid” in middle America, gave up track and baseball so he could focus more on the family business. Battani said his family farm spans back to 1846.

“There was working and pressures on the farm to get things done, which made the summers hard,” he said. “So my main sports going through were football and wrestling. Football was always a challenge because of the harvest, but I loved it, so I played football. Wrestling was easy because it was winter and come spring it was time to work.”

Battani may have loved football, but he thrived in wrestling as his prowess on the mats saw him walk onto the wrestling team at Iowa State (Iowa is a hot bed for football and wrestling). He placed fourth at states his senior year of high school in the 135-pound class, with he and the three wrestlers that finished ahead of him all going onto Division I wrestling programs.

“Three of them were undefeated and I came in right behind those guys,” he said. “It was a tough bracket that year. The guys that got first and second were All-Americans. I did the best I could do.”

Battani walked on at Iowa State University, which was led by legendary coach Bobby Douglas. He was able to roll on the mats with teammates such as Cael Sanderson — who went 159-0 with the Cyclones and went on to earn an Olympic gold — and Joe Heskett, who was an NCAA champion and four-time All-American.

Cole Sanderson, older brother of Cael, was one of Battani’s wrestling partners.

“He was obviously in the lineup, and I was a training partner,” he said. “I wasn’t cracking the lineup.”

Battani's nephew, Tate, also wrestles for the Cyclones.

“I get chills [thinking about it],” he said. “He’s training in the same room I trained in, wrestling in the same open tournaments. He’s competing against the same programs. It’s really exciting.”

Battani has been a teacher since 2002 and has taught for 15 years in four countries.

Battani completed his student-teaching at the American Overseas School of Rome and also taught in Germany and Missouri, in addition to serving as the athletic director at the Canadian International School of Hong Kong. In addition, he was a wrestling coach during his time in Missouri and coached track and cross country in Germany.

His journey turned to Maine recently when Battani’s partner, Stephanie, who works at Athena Health, “had a chance to transfer her position to Belfast and I thought moving to Maine was a great idea.”

“I got a fantastic job doing what I love to do in a great school right down the road from where she works. Things lined up really, really nicely. I’m very excited to be here. There’s a lot of strength in this athletic program. There’s a lot of stuff to build on. The work of Terry Kenniston coming before and a fantastic coaching staff that’s been building programs for years, I want to come in and get that up and running as soon as possible.”

Battani said the challenge going forward at BAHS and “as a community is to make changes based on the realities we’re facing in 2020.”

“Any time you change people’s behaviors and habits, it’s a learning process,” he said. “But I’ve lived in malaria-filled countries where you assume every mosquito has malaria, I’ve lived around cholera, I’ve lived around typhoid. What you do is you change your habits and change your behaviors to match the reality of where you are. Dealing with COVID is a challenge, but it’s not an insurmountable challenge. I believe we can do these workouts safely and without transmission if we follow CDC and MPA guidelines as well as the NFHS sports medicine committee.”

Battani also enjoys running, kayaking, writing, reading, cooking and gardening, with the latter entry on that list unsurprising given his background in the family business.

“I grew up on a farm,” he said. “If my hands are in the dirt, I don’t know, something feels right.”

Update on school re-opening

posted Aug 6, 2020, 10:23 AM by Dave Fournier

Greetings RSU # 71 Students, Families, Staff, School Board & Community,

At Monday night's school board meeting the board approved:
  1. Our 3-Tiered Green-Yellow-Red Plan to Safely Return Students to In-Person Instruction (see link below). If the trajectory of the coronavirus changes and there is an increase, or if there is a positive case of COVID-19 in our RSU # 71 community, we may quickly need to move from green/yellow to red.
  2. K-8 students will return to school full time (GREEN) on the usual schedule. Students in grades 9 - 12 will be on the YELLOW tier of the plan, back in person two days per week on the usual schedule, and learning remotely during the other three days per week. Parents may choose to have their children continue to learn remotely instead of sending them back to school in person. (There are some families whose members have underlying health conditions that put them at risk. Others are wary that until we have a vaccine that is accessible to everyone, there is no 100% guarantee of safety.)
  3. The first day back at school for K-12 has been pushed up to Wednesday, September 2 so that Open Houses for K-5 students and families and Orientations for 6th and 9th graders can take place. Among other things, we need to have everyone trained in the safety protocols required by the state of Maine.
I hope that you are all doing well and taking care. I am taking a couple of days for a silent and solitary retreat at the Transfiguration Hermitage in Windsor, Maine. It is a monastic community in a beautiful setting, and the Sisters are fabulous cooks!! It is a wonderful place for thinking and reflection and has elicited in me profound gratitude for our fabulous RSU # 71 community, which has truly come together to creatively collaborate and solve problems during a civil emergency of gargantuan proportions.

Sending you thoughts of faith in our capacity to beat the pandemic and love,   
Mary Alice

Plan to reopen schools and upcoming meetings

posted Jul 31, 2020, 11:33 AM by Dave Fournier

Greetings RSU # 71 Students, Families, Staff, School Board, and Task Force to Safely Reopen Schools for Classroom Instruction,

I'd like to call your attention to two meetings and two documents.
1) There is a school board meeting via ZOOM on Monday, August 3 at 5:30 pm for the purposes of voting on the district's DRAFT Plans for Returning to Classroom Instruction (click here). Directions for attending will be listed on the district website. The state of Maine has been designated as GREEN by the Maine CDC and DOE: https://www.maine.gov/doe/home. Also, click here to see answers to 21 Questions to ask before sending your kids to school.

2) There is another school board meeting via ZOOM on Tuesday, August 4 at 5:30. It is a public hearing on our RSU #71 proposed budget for FY '21. Directions will be listed on the district website (click here) if you would like to attend and provide public comment on the proposed budget, which may be found in full on the district website.

     -Mary Alice

Updated links to Aug 3&4 Board meeting and public hearing

posted Jul 31, 2020, 5:13 AM by Dave Fournier

Due to the inappropriate sharing of content at the May 27, 2020 BOD meeting, the Zoom meetings are now being held as webinars. Members of the public are still allowed to join in the meeting, and can interact with the board of directors via the hand-raising feature, but are only able to watch and listen to the meeting unless specifically granted the right to talk or be allowed in via video.

We thank you for your patience as we implement this new procedure. Below are the new links to use when registering for the meetings.


Monday, Aug 3, 2020 05:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

You are invited to a Zoom webinar*

When: Aug 3, 2020 05:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada) 

Topic: Special BOD Meeting

Register in advance for this webinar:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Public Hearing: August 4, 2020

Click here to view the Public Hearing Guide

When: Aug 4, 2020 05:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada) 

You are invited to a Zoom webinar. 

When: Aug 4, 2020 05:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada) 

Topic: Public Hearing for budget

Register in advance for this webinar:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

RSU 71 Task Force to Safely Re-Open Schools

posted Jul 17, 2020, 6:08 AM by Dave Fournier   [ updated Jul 17, 2020, 6:09 AM ]

These are the survey results from Families (701) and Staff (114) regarding reopening schools to in-person classroom instruction in 2020-2021.
Click here to read the 6/29/2020 press release.

7-7-2020 Press Release

posted Jul 7, 2020, 12:25 PM by Dave Fournier   [ updated Jul 8, 2020, 10:22 AM ]

Click here to see the press release with the memo from Drummond Woodsum on why the change in budget process was needed.

From: Mary Alice McLean, Superintendent of Schools, RSU 71

To: RSU 71 Community

Date: Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Re: Press Release regarding Budget Referendum for FY 21

Press Release:

For Immediate Release- July 7, 2020

It came to the attention of our attorneys at Drummond Woodsum that the referendum documents that the firm had prepared for approving our 2020-2021 School Budget for RSU # 71 contained a very serious error.

Therefore, we held an Emergency RSU # 71 School Board Meeting on Tuesday, July 7, 2020, at 1:00 pm via ZOOM at which time the School Board voted to rescind the Budget Referendum that had been scheduled for July 14 and to schedule a new Budget Referendum for Tuesday, August 18. The School Board also voted to hold a new Budget Hearing for Tuesday, August 4, 2020, at 5:30 pm via ZOOM in order to provide another opportunity for members of the public to share feedback and make public comments about the FY 2021 Proposed School Budget. 

The mail-in ballots that have been received by the City of Belfast and the Towns of Swanville, Belmont, Morrill, and Searsmont will, with regard to the RSU # 71 referendum, be null and void. All the state and local votes ballots will remain valid. Citizens will have an opportunity to vote on the proposed school budget -- which has not changed -- by absentee ballot or in-person on Tuesday, August 18.

6-29-2020 Press Release

posted Jun 29, 2020, 8:58 AM by Betty Lu Davis   [ updated Jun 29, 2020, 10:48 AM ]

From: Mary Alice McLean, Superintendent of Schools, RSU 71

To: RSU 71 Community

Date: June 29, 2020

Re: Press Release from RSU # 71

Press Release:

For Immediate Release- June 29th

RSU 71 Task Force to Safely Re-Open Schools

The RSU # 71 Task Force to Safely Reopen Schools to Classroom Instruction has been hard at work on a three-tiered plan for the 2020-21 school year.

The “Red Light” Tier envisions a fortified and strengthened Remote Learning Plan to use in the event that it is deemed unsafe to return to in-person instruction.

The “Green Light” Tier envisions a full return to classroom instruction for all students, though one that would follow CDC recommendations around sanitization, PPE (personal protective equipment), and no large group congregation.

The “Yellow Light” Tier envisions a hybrid model in which students and staff are kept at a safe social distance from one another. This plan would necessitate split sessions, with a portion of our students being present for in-class instruction for some days (6 - 12) or portions of the day (K - 5).  

We are at a point that we need to hear from families about their intentions for their children in the coming school year including whether or not they feel comfortable sending their children to school for in-class instruction and whether or not the children will be taking the bus to and from school. Please fill in the attached survey by Thursday, July 2 to let us know your thoughts and preferences. 


Our next press release will be sent by Friday, July 10th, and will include the DRAFT Plan to Safely Reopen Schools to Classroom Instruction, with an opportunity for RSU # 71 Families and community members to share feedback. We will then incorporate what feedback we can and await further direction from the Maine Department of Education, which is also hard at work in the planning process.  

In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to me, Mary Alice McLean, RSU # 71 Superintendent of Schools by calling 207-930-9726 or via email at mamclean@rsu71.org.

Summer Programs at Waterfall Arts!

posted Jun 19, 2020, 3:02 AM by Christine Guerette


256 High Street

Belfast, ME 







Children aged 8 to 12, maximum of 8 campers enrolled per week 

Hours: 9 AM - 3 PM Weeks Offered: July 6-10 & July 13-17 (two separate 1-week long programs) 

Cost: $225 (10% discount offered for siblings or Waterfall Arts members) 

Financial aid offered? Yes Waterfall Arts is a community arts center located in Belfast, Maine. 

Our 2020 summer camps offer a wide range of fun artmaking experiences. In July, we will be offering two back-to-back outdoor camps for kids aged 8-12. In week one of "Nature Studio," campers will become plein air artists using every medium - all inspired by leaves, trees, flowers, and the summer sun! In week two of "Artists Out and About," campers will set up mini "studios" on our lawn, sketch and chalk by the waterfront, and create temporary outdoor art installations. 

Also happening for kids and families throughout the summer at Waterfall Arts: Art at City Park, in Belfast: Free. Wednesdays, 10am-12pm, rotating activities with sanitized supplies provided. Art Time with Bridget: Free. Fridays, 12:30pm, guided art-making sessions held over Facebook Live. Art Together Mornings: $15 or pay what you can. Every other Saturday, 10am-12pm, held over Zoom with art kits available for advance pick-up. ...and more on the way! Visit our website for many more opportunities to participate in classes, workshops and art-making events for people of all ages

Public Participation concerning Title Services

posted Jun 8, 2020, 2:11 PM by Dave Fournier

Federal funding is allotted to school districts throughout Maine through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Application (ESEA).  Our district completes the application process, requesting funding for the following:

Title I -- Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged 

Title II -- Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High Quality Teachers and Principals

Title IV -- Provides funding to improve students’ academic achievement by increasing school district capacity

Title V -- Rural Education Initiative

You are invited to attend the July 13th RSU #71 School Board Meeting via zoom at 5:30. You will be provided information about the tentative projects identified in the RSU #71 ESEA application and have the opportunity to share your ideas and feedback on the use of the federal funds provided to our district. 

If you are unable to attend and would like to share feedback, please feel free to contact me through e-mail. (lmiller@rsu71.org) or call at 930-9725.

RSU #71 Summer Food Program Survey

posted Jun 8, 2020, 2:08 PM by Dave Fournier

The remote school year food program will end Friday, June 19, 2020.    

We are eager to resume our FREE Summer Food Program for families between July 7 - July 30th (Tuesday - Thursday).  Families that are interested in participating would be responsible for picking up the breakfast/lunch grab and go bags at a designated school between 8:00 - 9:30am.

To help us prepare for this program, please click here to complete this survey if you are interested in participating. Please take the survey no later than Monday, June 8, 2020.

Troy Howard eighth graders receive ovation at drive-through promotion

posted Jun 8, 2020, 1:12 PM by Christine Guerette

By Kendra Caruso | Jun 08, 2020
Photo by: Kendra CarusoTroy Howard Middle School Vice Principal Alta Seekins, right, hands an eighth grader a certificate of promotion June 4.

BELFAST — The coronavirus may have taken away the traditional promotion to high school for Troy Howard Middle School’s eighth graders, but that did not stop faculty from sending them off with a drive-through promotion on the second-to-last day of the school year.

Faculty and Waldo County YMCA staff helped plan the event that brought lines of decorated cars around the school building in parade-like fashion while teachers and staff cheered students on. They stopped at the front of the school, where Principal Bruce Bailey and Vice Principal Alta Seekins handed students their certificates.

Eighth grade social studies teacher Guy Hamlin said many of his students miss school and struggle with being socially isolated. He said it’s been difficult for them to learn from home, but he thinks meaningful learning still happened.

“I’ve been teaching school for 30 years and it’s seldom heard that students say ‘I really miss school,’” he said.

Nearly all the school’s 120 eighth graders showed up to receive their certificates. Those who did not receive their certificates at the event will get them with yearbooks the school is sending out to all eighth graders.

Seekins said some people think the event is “the way of the future.” She said it is always important to recognize accomplishments and this class is the first to finish the school year with remote learning.

“They are an awesome group, they hung in there through a crazy spring,” Bailey said. “We’re so glad we could do something to see them off.”

Troy Howard Middle School students ride in a van around the school to receive eighth grade promotion certificates June 4. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
THMS Assistant Principal Alta Seekings, right, hands an eighth grade student a promotion certificate May 4 at the school's drive-through celebration. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
A Troy Howard Middle School student holds her eighth grade promotion certificate June 4 at the school's drive-through celebration. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
Students and faculty line up at Troy Howard Middle School June 4 for a drive-through eighth grade promotion celebration. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
An eighth grade Troy Howard Middle School student holds a sign that says 'BAHS or bust' June 4 during the school's drive-through eighth grade promotion celebration. (Photo by: Kendra Caruso)
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