Message October 5, 2015

Message October 5, 2015

Two weeks have gone by since the unexpected passing of one of our seniors at GHS, Will Robinson. This has been a very trying and unsettling time for our entire school community. We continue to monitor the mood and response of students and staff. No amount of planning can prepare us completely to respond to these kinds of events.

Will's obituary appeared in the Press Herald this weekend:

"Known as William to his family and neighbors and Will to the faculty and students at Greely High School, he was kind, considerate, and polite and was loved and admired by all who knew him. Candlelight vigils were held in his memory on Chebeague and at Greely, and each drew more than 200 people. The student body at Greely High School decided to honor William by holding doors open for others just as he did. A teacher at Greely described the event: "When I walked into school this morning and saw senior students holding the doors open for people as Will had done for almost every day, I was struck by what influence he had on people."

Will came from two musical families so it is not surprising that he was the senior member of the Boy Singers of Maine and was just beginning his 11th season. He was a high honor student at Greely High School as well as the Portland Arts and Technology High School where he participated in the carpentry program. Will planned to attend Southern Maine Community College, to continue to hone his carpentry skills so that he would have a winter business to go along with lobstering, his real love. His teachers admired Will. They have described him as a student with a work ethic second to none. He was a conscientious student who spent hours at the Chebeague library.

Like all island kids, Will loved to dive off the wharf, ride his bike, and fish for mackerel. He was also adept in the kitchen and loved to cook. This past summer he prepared and delivered meals to his grandmother daily. He recently told someone that it wouldn't be long before he would be driving her around the mainland, which demonstrates his compassion and responsibility for others. 

In many ways Will was old beyond his years. In his college essay he wrote: "In my family, the tradition goes back generations: my father, my uncle, some of my cousins, and both of my grandfathers were all lobstermen…Seeing men and women work so hard in order to make a dollar really made me respect the lobstering industry, and I realized how important every cent is to the person who earned it."

I have been struck by the incredible response that students, staff, and the community have made in light of this traumatic event. I wish to give special thanks to GHS Principal Dan McKeone and Assistant Principal Jayme Jones, the K-12 guidance counselors, and K-12 social workers. Their leadership and efforts have helped to provide comfort to our grieving high school. Thank you also to the senior class and student council for their organization of a candlelight vigil that provided compassion and support for each other and the entire school community.

Our Instructional Support Department is working with five other area districts and Strive in South Portland to provide regional transition programming for students who are accessing their 5th or 6th year of high school. This regional work is providing our students and parents an opportunity to make connections with similarly aged students in surrounding towns and focus on their post secondary goals.

A couple of weeks ago, GMS Principal Mar-E Trebilcock, Instructional Support Director Julie Olsen, and myself spent a day visiting our 7th graders on Cow Island at the annual Rippleffect program. In addition to viewing many of the activities provided by the Rippleffect staff for our students, we were able to join "Chow Time" and eat lunch with students. Then Mar-E and Julie went zip-lining with one group while I took to a kayak with another group.

Congrats to GHS students Andrea Bryant, Abigail Israel, Harrison Pershing & Matthew Pisini, who were recently recognized as 2016 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists.

An 18-member ad hoc committee has begun its work exploring secondary start times, including Board members Karen Campbell and Gigi Sanchez. The strategic plan's objective is to study whether or not changing the time for our secondary grades to a later arrival time would be more beneficial for students. This also will require us to review our K-5 arrival times as well. This committee will continue to work through the fall months.

I had mentioned in August at our Board retreat that I would bring back two items from the Strategic Plan for further consideration before we move forward: Pre-Kindergarten and the PAC. The Facilities Committee has weighed in on both projects and made a recommendation that both the PAC and pre-K be part of the comprehensive Facilities Plan and not separate items. Part of the reasoning around pre-K's hold is the topic of MIW's possible renovation. Right now, MIW has 20 more students than last year and has no available space to house a pre-K program. The only other option is to place a portable classroom on school property, but the Facilities Committee is not pursuing this option. So, in order for us to move forward on pre-K, it would most likely need to be a component of the Facilities Plan.