Message October 19, 2015

Message October 19, 2015

At a home football game with Leavitt High School on Oct. 11, Leavitt senior Adam Smith was injured during the game and was treated by Greely trainer Tom Spencer and Dr. Kate Quinn, who then diagnosed this player with a spleen injury, a very dangerous condition.  Adam was rushed to Maine Med by an ambulance that was already on-site as part of our protocols for sporting events.  

This protocol has been broadened recently to include all athletic home games for most programs, thanks to the Town of Cumberland and specifically Bill Shane, with district support.  The ambulance's on-site presence and the quick diagnosis by Dr. Quinn may have saved the life of this player.  Many thanks to Dr. Quinn, Tom Spencer, and Cumberland rescue personnel Craig Weeman, Stephanie Weeman, Kevin Foster, Andrew Breitbel, and Adam Cafro.  Adam Smith is doing much better and is expected to make a full recovery.

I met with Superintendents Geoff Bruno of Falmouth and Andrew Dolloff of Yarmouth a couple of weeks ago to discuss ways that we can better collaborate in an effort to share services and resources.  We identified some potential areas for further exploration and also agreed to meet regularly for the rest of the year to continue these discussions.  I am hopeful that we can find joint areas for working together and found my two colleagues to be very open to collaborating with MSAD #51.

Recently, Sally Loughlin and the Initial Stakeholder group for educator evaluation completed the bulk of their work.  This work focused on consensus-building around several topics, including the use of student data in the evaluation process, as required by law, among many other decisions.  Sally is now transitioning the initial stakeholder group to a steering committee, which will oversee teacher and principal evaluation for the foreseeable future.

I am pleased that the NHS faculty council met over the summer and has made some adjustments to the NHS criteria for admission that should help open the door for more students to be involved in this program this year.  Here are some of the changes made:
  • GPA requirement adjusted from 93 to 90
  • Communication to students around NHS and criteria for admission will be multi-faceted at Parent orientation night, step up day, freshman orientation, and class meetings
  • All potentially eligible sophomores (based on GPA of 90) will be invited to an informational meeting to discuss admission criteria and solicit interest
  • Checklist will be used to communicate why candidates were not accepted, if this occurs
  • Commitment from faculty council that "leadership" can be equally measured both in and outside of GHS
  • Athletics be viewed by the faculty council as a legitimate area of service to meet NHS criteria
  • Anchor applications will be created to help students better understand what is expected for admission.
The high school scheduling committee has been exploring the possibility of moving to a block schedule for the 2016-17 year.  This schedule would provide many benefits for our students:
  •  Longer periods of uninterrupted instructional time. 
  •  Proposed schedule has class periods 77 minutes in length. 
  •  GHS is also exploring the options of including an all school support period and  expanding support labs in multiple disciplines. 
  •  The final schedule will have fewer student and teacher transitions during the day and  provides greater opportunity for teachers to teach in depth.
  •  It provides an instructional and learning model change that more easily lends itself to  proficiency-based learning.
The final details and revisions will be worked out by the GHS scheduling committee over the next couple of months. 

Our district has been involved in a grant project, Count Me In, over the past couple of years to bring greater awareness around the impact of student absences on learning. Sporadic absences, not just consecutive days of school, matter.  These four simple things could help:

1. Set school clothes out the night before to reduce the amount of time necessary in getting ready for school and eliminating the possibility of missing the bus and arriving late to school.  
2. Pack backpacks the night before.  Before putting the kids to bed, make sure homework, shoes for PE class, library books and snacks are placed in their backpack for the next day.

3. Place coat, backpack and instruments by the front door the night before.  

4. Agree NO television or video games until the morning routine is done.  One of the most common reasons students are “a few minutes late” to school is because they would not turn off their video game or television  in the morning.  Before the television can be turned on, kids should be dressed, fed, teeth brushed and backpack loaded by the door.  Set a TIMER to make sure the television is off at least 5 minutes before you need to leave for school.

The school district recently repainted a retired small school bus and donated it to the Aging In Place group for their use.  Many thanks to Phil Blake and Larry Lare at the transportation department for their work re-purposing this bus.  

Left to right: Larry Lare, Phil Blake, Dale Denno, Paula Slipp

October 23 has been proclaimed as "Bus Driver Appreciation" Day in Maine. Please take a moment to thank your child's bus driver this week!

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.