Responding to Unscheduled Events

November 6, 2015

Dear MSAD #51 Families,

As many of you know, a written bomb threat was discovered on Thursday at Greely Middle School. After assessing the threat, I decided to evacuate that school.  Students and staff went to the high school and remained there for about an hour until the police gave us the all-clear to return.  Students resumed their regular schedule for the rest of the school day.

I wish to acknowledge the smooth response by students, staff, and administration to this event and thank everyone for their patience and understanding.  I also wish to thank the Cumberland police and fire departments for their quick response and support.

This event has prompted some questions and concerns from families.  Though these kinds of events are (fortunately) infrequent, I think it would be helpful to all families for me to share how we handle these kinds of situations when they arise.

1.  The district has a comprehensive K-12 emergency response plan, which includes additional response plans for each school building, that we use whenever a safety issue may arise.  These plans have specific and time-tested protocols that we use when assessing and responding to an event that may be of concern.  Our local emergency responders have assisted in developing these plans.  For obvious security reasons, these are internal documents only.

2.  Our plan has varying degrees of responses based on the specific concern we are handling at the time.  Our K-12 administrative team is well versed on these plans and the response protocols we have in place.

3.  We have routine safety and fire drills in place that we use with students and staff.  For example, GMS had practiced an evacuation drill two weeks ago which was very helpful in establishing familiar routines for how to respond to an unscheduled evacuation.

4.  We work closely with our emergency response services, including the Cumberland Police department and Fire/EMS services.  We also utilize other local and regional agencies, as needed, depending on the event we are handling.

5.  It should be noted that our first and primary focus is the safety of students and staff at all times. This means that school and district administrators will be busy during the first critical minutes of an event ensuring that plans are being carefully carried out.  Given this focus, communication to parents may be delayed by a short period of time so that we can supervise and complete all initial safety protocols with precision.

6.  Based on the administrative attention to students and staff during the first few minutes of an unscheduled event, we realize that some families and community members may receive information from other sources, such as social media and the press, before the district has had a chance to send out information.  I'm not sure if there is a good solution to this, given the technological age we live in. I think the best thing we can do is to acknowledge that this will most likely occur and ask for your patience and trust that we are carefully handling the situation in the absence of immediate information.

7.  Once we have implemented our initial safety plans, communication from the Superintendent's office will be sent out to all parents of the impacted students.  We will try to do this as quickly as we can.  Our primary communication is through the email list system we maintain.  Please check to make sure your email is up-to-date so you will receive this information and notify your child's school office if changes need to be made.

8.  Initial communications to parents most likely will not have specific information, such as the nature of the threat.  This is for two reasons:  Usually we do not have all the information yet and do not want to put out inaccurate communication.  Second, we do not want to in any way compromise the emergency responders who are handling the event by providing too much public information.

9.  We did hear that at least one email I sent out did not get to some parents until late afternoon, well after it was originally sent.  We are researching why this occurred and working with the internet provider in question to find a solution.

10.  In terms of communication with students after an event has occurred, it depends on the age of the students and the nature of the event.  For example, our middle school enrolls students in grades 4-8, so we avoided any mass communication with all students given the wide age range in that school. We are also reviewing our protocols on communicating with students after an unscheduled event and may make some adjustments.  However, we know that families have varying thresholds as to how much information is comfortable and we rely on parents to make their own judgment as to how to best communicate this kind of information to your children.

I hope this helps in understanding how the district and schools respond to these kinds of situations. Please let either your child's principal or myself know if you have additional questions or thoughts.


Jeff Porter
Superintendent of Schools

Message November 2, 2015

1.   Our athletic teams have had a great Fall season.  Many exciting events occurred this weekend, including the football team in the playoffs; cross country and volleyball vying for the state title; and both boys and girls soccer in the semi-finals. 

Noteworthy accomplishments over the weekend include both boys and girls cross country teams qualifying for the New Englands after the girls came in #2 and boys #3 in the state. Special note to 1st place finisher Katherine Leggat-Barr and in 2nd place Carolyn Todd. #7 seeded Rangers football defeated #2 Leavitt to win their first playoff game in Rangers history, off to Marshwood this week.  The Girls Volleyball team was runner-up for the state title after a strong season.

Recently, the golf state individual championships were held with Erin Holmes the state champ runner-up.  Finally, in a challenging conference, the field hockey team qualified for playoffs. The Western Maine Conference recognized senior midfielder, Danita Storey as a  First Team All Star and sophomore goal keeper, Elizabeth Brown as a Second Team All Star. Seniors, Charlotte Benoit and Madelyn Day, were recognized with Western Maine Conference All Academic Team honors.  

Thank you to all players and coaches who participated in our Fall athletic programs.

2.  Strategic Plan Update.  Here are some current activities that have been part of the implementation of the district's Strategic Plan:

a.  The Environmental Stewardship committee, led by Scott Poulin, has begun its work fostering initiatives that promote the "greening" of the campus.  The committee has reviewed the single sort method of recycling, as is currently handled, is brainstorming potential projects in line with this action step, and will be identifying a couple of projects to be completed this year. (Plan link Goal II, Objective 3.3).

b.  All of our second-year teachers met with Sally Loughlin, Susie Robbins, and myself as part of our continued revamp of induction for teachers in their first three years of employment.  This session focused on helping teachers to reflect on their experiences during their first year as well as provide feedback to the district on their experiences. (Goal III, Obj. 1.1).

c.  The secondary late start ad hoc work group continues to work on adjusting the school day schedule for 2016-17.  This is in line with solid research on adolescent sleep patterns.  A survey will be sent out to all staff and families within the next few weeks. (Goal II, Obj. 1.3).

d.  Our Instructional Support office continues to refine district protocols around Section 504 plans, including converting all individual health plans to 504 plans, as recommended by legal counsel.  A new 504 data system was purchased and is being used to centrally track all student 504 plans. (Goal II, Obj. 2.2). 

e.  The district technology team is being assembled and will start its work shortly to develop a K-12 vision and plan for technology over the next three years.  (Goal II, Obj. 3.1).

f.  The Facilities Committee has met several times over the fall months and has begun discussions around developing a long-term plan for building repairs, projects, and timelines. (Goal II, Obj. 3.2).

g.  Staff Dialogue sessions begin tomorrow at MIW.  Martha Leggat, Board chair, and myself will be visiting with each school staff and asking for feedback on staff connections to the Strategic Plan.  Staff will be invited to review topics from the Plan and reflect on how these can be aligned with staff work.  (Goal III, Obj. 3.1).

h.  The Pathways program is up and running with around 15 students.  This program helps connect specific students with their learning in non-traditional ways.  (Goal I, Obj. 1.1).

i.  As part of the Monitoring Cycle, a monthly blurb and photo of a Strategic Plan activity or event will be highlighted through a number of communication vehicles.  The first one on the topic of student voice involving our two student Board reps., Kevin Cass and Hannah Smith-Erb, went out in the Ranger Connection, Twitter, and Superintendent's blog. 

Kevin Cass & Hannah Smith-Erb, student reps. to MSAD #51 Board

3.  The state visited SAD #51 recently for a regular food service program review and gave high marks to the program.  Hats Off to director Jon Carlson and all staff who work in our food service program. 

4.  I wish to thank Dale Denno and the Aging in Place group for inviting me to speak about the district this past weekend at their forum.  It was a great opportunity for me to communicate our budget and challenges with this wonderful group of about 150 attendees.

5.  Siemens Industry presented their final report to the Board of Directors on our district Energy project that was recently completed.  Siemens has reported that MSAD #51 will realize over $550,000 in savings after applying debt from the project.  More importantly, this highly successful energy project has reduced our carbon footprint by 30%.  This is equivalent to taking 30 cars off the road with emissions or saving two acres of forest. Special thanks to Tom Seekins, Charlie Roman, and the team from Siemens as well as the district's Finance & Operations director Scott Poulin and Facilities supervisor Don Foster for all their work on this project.  Also thanks to the MSAD #51 Board for supporting this important energy efficiency project.  Below are some of the projects that were completed:

  • New boiler at MIW
  • Duel fuel burners to account for variations in the fuel market
  • Natural gas conversion all facilities
  • New interior and exterior LED lighting in many areas of facilities
  • Building envelope upgrades, include weather stripping exterior doors
  • New control valves
  • Kitchen equipment retrofitting