Message September 19, 2016

Upcoming informational sessions that are open to the public to learn more about the Performing Arts Center project are as follows:

Monday, September 26 @ 6:30 pm: Public Presentation (NYMS gymnasium)
Thursday, October 6 @ 6:30 pm: Public Presentation (Cumberland Town Office)
Monday, October 17 @ 7pm; Public Hearing, Board meeting (GHS library)

Below is an architectural rendering of the proposed Performing Arts Center addition at GHS.  For more information on the PAC, please click here.

Greely Girls Volleyball team won the Bruce Churchill Classic for ALS tournament, congrats girls & Coach Don Legere.

The district office received a first draft and presentation of the long-term enrollment projections report that we commissioned through Planning Decisions.  We had additional questions and areas for further study that we have asked Planning Decisions to continue researching.  After we receive more information, a representative from Planning Decisions will present the enrollment study to the Board in a workshop later this fall.

Congrats 2017 GHS National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists: Samuel Bonnevie, Sarah Johnson, Patrick Lyden, Maggie Nolan & John Saffian.

66% of our juniors and seniors are currently taking at least one IB or AP course this year. About one-third of our juniors and seniors are taking 3 or more IB or AP courses.

This Friday, we are holding a K-12 campus-wide event where everyone will "Drop Everything and Read".  All students and staff will stop what they are doing at the same time for 30 minutes and read to themselves, to a buddy, with their class, with other classes, etc.  The district is trying to promote more campus-wide connections now that everyone is on the same parcel of land.

The new Bring Your Own Learning Device is moving along.  Our technology dept. is working to solidify plans for the 70 or so GHS students who are using school-issued laptops.  These plans will include a permanent sign out to these students for the year.

We have two full-time students involved in our regional STRIVE program.  This program is shared by 6 districts as part of our Instructional Support offerings.  Students may attend STRIVE post-graduate until age 20.  Last year, the first year, we had a student attend half-time.  The goal is to grow this program for students who qualify and could benefit.

Passed in 2012, Maine law now requires school districts to adjust systems of instruction, assessment, and reporting to reflect the knowledge and skills that students have learned, learning standards. Our plan to transition to a proficiency based system (learning standards) was approved by the state; our first class to graduate with a proficiency based diploma is in 2021 (current 8th grade class). We have been working on this transition for the past two years and this year we will be piloting proficiency based grading practices (in addition to our traditional grades).

Starting this fall, teachers in grades 6-12 will be assessing student progress by assessing the learning standards in each course. Teachers will share feedback on the learning standards and habits of work directly with students through conferencing. Parents and students will have continued access to the traditional grade reporting through the Powerschool portal.

The proficiency-based approach is relatively new to all Maine schools and districts. MSAD #51 will continue to maintain our current systems as we study and refine practices to align with a proficiency-based system.

Click here for more information about our district's move towards proficiency.

Message September 8, 2016

Welcome Back!

The first two weeks of school have been smooth.  Students and staff are adjusting well to the new K-12 schedule that provides a later start time for the school day in order to help students be more rested and ready to learn.  We are also hopeful that the later times reduce student tardiness.

On September 8, the MSAD #51 Board of Directors approved the wording to be placed on the ballot for a Performing Arts Center (PAC) for the November 2016 election.  The Board must still vote later to call the referendum for this project, but this was an important step.

The PAC project is tied to the district's Strategic Plan and 10-Year Facilities Plan. Please visit the PAC Info page that is linked to our district's home page.  Here you will find site plans, an architectural rendering of the proposed facility, PAC building committee minutes and agendas, and other information regarding this project.

Click this link for more information:  PAC Info Page

Beginning of year student enrollment is as follows:

Actual 2015-16
Projected 2016-17
Actual 9/8/16
GMS 4-5
GMS 6-8

As a side note regarding our enrollment, Planning Decisions has completed the long-range enrollment report that we requested.  This report will be shared with the Board and public after we have received all of the data.  This report will be used to help determine future space and facility needs and would replace the last long-term studies done in 2009.

The annual 7th grade overnight experience on Cow Island as part of the Rippleffect program began last week.  This popular trip provides bonding and teamwork activities along with adventure-based programming such as zip-lining, wall climbing, and kayaking.

Technology Update:
With the policy change made by the Board in July for Policy JFCK (Student Use of Cellular Telephones and Other Electronic Devices), the high school was able to move ahead with BYOD (Bring Your Own Learning Device). Approx. 50 students currently are checking out chromebooks from the GHS library daily. This is half of the number of students we anticipated needing a school-issued laptop. Nearing 80% of the devices coming from home are Apple laptops and fit our suggested specs.  Grades 6-8 is 100% deployment.  We are currently setting up purchased devices for 1:1 in grades 2-5.  Kindergarten and grade 1 students will be mostly 1:1 with a mixture of iPads and chromebooks.

GHS Weighted Grades Update:
Effective this fall, all GHS student Grade Point Average (GPA) will be weighted based on the following criteria: Each Honors level class final grade will receive an additional 2 points when calculating the GPA. Each International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) class final grade will receive an additional 3 points when calculating the GPA. The GPA will be calculated at the end of the freshmen year, and each subsequent semester. For sophomores, juniors and seniors, this weighting will be retroactive through their freshman year. This weighted GPA will appear on the student transcript. Many thanks to data manager Joe Bickard and the GHS student government for their work on creating a weighted grades system for the high school.

Our fall athletic programs have opened with several wins to date.  Congrats to the golf, field hockey,  boys & girls soccer, boys and girls x-country, and girls volleyball teams for their early season victories.

We are continuing to expand our Restorative Practices approach to student discipline at our schools. All Greely Middle School 4-5 staff were trained by a facilitator from Restorative Practices Collaborative of Maine.  The central premise behind successful resolution of conflict at school are the relationships formed that foster learning, growth, and a healthy climate.  Circles are the primary tool for resolving conflict through shared understanding and empathy. Many thanks to GMS 6-8 asst. principal Ken Marks, who has been a leader in the district on this topic.

Mark Your Calendars!  The district's 50th Anniversary celebration will be held the weekend of October 14-15.  Start off with a Rangers alumni football game on the 14th, followed by food, games, music, and events on Saturday morning. Here's to another 50!

Message August 26, 2016

We are excited about the approaching school year.  Students begin classes in grades 1-12 on Wednesday, August 31.  Kindergarten's first day is Tuesday, September 6.

A reminder that school start times have changed:

2016-17 School Day
2016-17 Wed. Early Release
Greely High School
8:00 AM-2:30 PM
8:00 AM-1:30 PM
Greely Middle School 6-8
8:00 AM-2:33 PM
8:00 AM-1:33 PM
Greely Middle School 4-5
8:45 AM-3:15 PM
8:45 AM-12:30 PM
Mabel I. Wilson School
8:45 AM-3:15 PM
8:45 AM-12:30 PM

First up on our list is school buses.  They carry our community's most precious commodity - our children!  Please slow down, be patient and allow the bus drivers the space and time they need to successfully transport our students from home to school and back. Remember, too, that passing a stopped school bus is a criminal act, and it is also extremely dangerous.  If you have new or inexperienced drivers in your home please take a moment to speak with them about the dangers of passing a stopped school bus.

Secondly, we need to be concerned about crosswalks.  They are important all the time, but especially during the school year and near our school campus.  Students may dart out between cars and they may not be as tall as the vehicles they are moving between, so extra vigilance is critical.

Lastly, we absolutely must watch our speed in and near the school zones. These zones of slower speed exist to allow for more reaction time and shorter stopping distances in the event a child runs out into the road and to accommodate for all the cars turning into and out of our school lots.  I realize 15mph might seem slow, but the zones are short and in reality the few extra seconds it takes to traverse our school zones at lower speed is a small price to pay when compared to the potential heartache and pain of an accident.

Your Police Department will be deploying signs, cruisers and officers to the area of our schools in an effort to help promote safe driving and safe pedestrian habits when school gets back underway on the 31st.  We hope to see you out there setting a good example!
Volunteer Crossing Guards Needed!

The Town of Cumberland is seeking safety-minded volunteers to assist our community's children crossing to and from school in the Tuttle Road and Main Street areas.  Volunteers would be asked to serve mornings and/or afternoons for approximately one hour on school days.  A background check is required.  If interested, please contact Chief Charles Rumsey at the Cumberland Police Department at 207-829-2210 or

Good news at GHS with regards to student course failures in 2015-16.  The number of course failures dropped 35% last year and 50% over the last two years, thanks in part to the continued emphasis on RTI interventions and the removal of CP2 level courses.

Spanish teacher Margaret Corral returned with a group of students from a trip to Guatemala over the summer.  She writes, ¨The Guatemalan people showed us the true beauty of the human spirit in their amazing resilience in the face of suffering. They were so kind, genuinely grateful and joyful.¨
Greely students were able to help with the following while on the trip:

1) completed a home for a 10 person family, which included plastering the concrete block walls inside and out and pouring the cement flooring, 
2) began and almost completed entirely the foundation of a home for another couple and their 6 daughters which included much digging and moving hundreds of large rocks, concrete bricks and buckets of liquid cement 
3) installed 9 efficient and safe stoves in different homes 
4) worked with 45 children each afternoon teaching them English, doing crafts and playing games.
5) put together and distributed 10 water filtration systems.

Once again we have great reason to be proud and know that our students are developing into model global citizens and ambassadors.   

The students are: Lucy Corral '21, Maria Campbell '19, Andrew Graham '17, Will Hall '17, Henry Campbell '17, Shannon Flaherty '17, Katie Bacall '16, Wyatt Kilburn '16.

Thank you to all of our MIW volunteers: 130 volunteers donated 2,714 hours, saving the district $62,600 in 2015-16.

The state DOE informed us today that our evaluation system plan that was submitted in the spring was approved.  Many thanks to the initial stakeholder group and subsequent steering committee, both led by curriculum director Sally Loughlin, for the exhaustive work completed to bring our district into compliance on this law and provide a solid evaluation system for our teachers and administrators.  

In July, I had the opportunity to join fellow Maine superintendents Dominic DePatsy (Saco) and Betsy Webb (Bangor) in Washington, D.C. at the Legislative Advocacy conference, sponsored by the American Association of School Administrators.  We met with our congressional delegation and had face-to-face meetings with U.S. Sen. Angus King and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poloquin.  Major national educational issues focused on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation, reducing paperwork for special education, greater access for early childhood education, eliminating burdensome nutrition requirements, and reducing unnecessary and unfunded mandates from the federal government. 

Dominic DePatsy, Sen. King, Betsy Webb, and myself at the Senator's office, Washington, DC

Renovations at MIW have been completed. The school will have new space for a kindergarten classroom, GT classroom, social worker's office, assistant principal's office, learning support center, special education rooms, two small group pull-out rooms, and storage re-configuration. These new areas will substantially improve the available learning space in the school to meet the needs of increasing enrollment.  We have also been able to solve some of the security issues at the school by installing a window between the office and front foyer so that there can be visibility for the office staff when visitors are entering.

The Performing Arts Center building committee, chaired by Board member Gigi Sanchezhas met weekly since June to develop a concept design with architect Steve Blatt. The committee has made several substantial decisions that is moving the concept design forward.  A recommendation will be forwarded to the Board for consideration in early September.  The Board will then consider whether to place the PAC on the ballot for a November referendum.

GHS is implementing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in 2016-17. This will help us get much closer to 1:1 throughout the district, as we have budgeted lease purchases that will significantly increase devices available to students in grades K-6 (grades 7 and 8 already have 1:1 through the state's MLTI program).  Many school districts nationally and in Maine have adopted similar policies (or will be) in order to encourage students to bring their own devices for learning.  For those GHS students who do not have access to a personal device for school use, the school will provide one for them.  Currently, about 70% of all GHS students bring a device to school.

Did You Know?  If students are absent just 2 to 3 times a month, they can fall behind in reading and math, even starting  in kindergarten.  Missing school regularly can mean missed opportunities to build confidence, skills, and a habit of good attendance.  These are the same skills that will help each child succeed in college and their careers.