Message February 22, 2016

1. As our district continues to evolve as a support for students in the area of technology, I would like to share a morning of technology training at GHS before vacation that was led by our own teachers. Topics included interfacing instruction with photoshop, Pear Drive scanning, iMovie, Notability for the iPad, YouTube, Google Classroom and 3-D printing.  Many thanks to these teachers who led sessions for their colleagues:  Gregory Greenleaf, Jen Michaelis, Don Legere, Wes Franklin, Heather Perkinson, Jeff Masterson, Erin Pollock, Kelvin Hasch, and Susan Inman.  Our school-based technology teams continue to provide support to their colleagues in each of our four schools, and the model of interfacing our library/media centers with technology has taken root under the leadership of district technology director Dirk Van Curan.

2. Also on the topic of technology, parents and students at the annual incoming freshman orientation night were provided information about the district's move toward BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, set to begin in the fall for grades 9-12.  Gone are the days when laptops, iPads, iPhones, and other devices were discouraged at school.  Currently on any given school day, approximately 70% of our students are already bringing devices from home. Our district technology committee is encouraging our students to bring devices to school, and will be providing preferred specs on devices that will be optimal for learning.  Our goal is a device for learning in the hands of all our students, and for those unable to bring a device from home, the school will have devices available for any student who needs one, whether for one day or the entire year.
3.  The process for searching for a new principal at MIW has begun.  Before the break, I met with teachers and support staff at the school to find our what qualities they are looking for in a new principal.  This activity was compiled into a Principal Profile that will be used to generate a parent survey going out this week to all MIW families.  Also within the next week, all students at MIW will have an opportunity in their classrooms to weigh in on the qualities they would most like in their next principal.  All of this information will be used to develop interview questions and a full profile that will be shared with applicants.  A panel of multiple stakeholders will be formed in the next few weeks that will help screen applications and conduct the first round of interviews.

4.  We were pleased to receive our preliminary state subsidy figures from the Dept. of Education a couple of weeks ago.  MSAD #51 is set to anticipate an additional $155,000 in revenue from the state, based in part on a halting of the enrollment decline that has been seen in the last five years.  In fact, we are watching our kindergarten registrations and are anticipating a possible increase in kindergarteners for next year.

5.  Tonight the Policy Committee and administration are pleased to present a 1st Read of Policy IKF, Graduation Requirements, for the Board's consideration.  This policy is our initial guidance on moving the district towards a proficiency-based system, which will be effective with the current 7th grade class, the Class of 2021. This policy also aims to draw a line in the sand around how we interpret state law for our students with special needs.  Currently, the law requires all students to demonstrate proficiency in all eight content areas, with no provision for alternative approaches to meeting this very rigorous standard. This leaves our students with special needs at a serious disadvantage, for they are expected to achieve the same level of proficiency as their peers.

Many people who are familiar with the law believe that this overreach is unethical and immoral and needs to be challenged.  I am pleased that MSAD #51 is the first in Maine to bring forward an alternative to the table that places proficiency for students with special needs back where it belongs-within the discretion and expertise of an IEP Team.  The revised policy the Board will review tonight is not only good policy, it is the right thing to do for our students who cannot advocate for themselves.  Many thanks to Director of Instructional Support Julie Olsen and Attorney Eric Herlan of Drummond-Woodsum for their leadership and passion in bringing this aspect of our policy to our community's attention.

6.  We are proud of our many athletic teams this winter season:
  • Girls Swim Team wins back-to-back state championship
  • Girls Indoor Track team finished in second place in the state
  • Girls Hockey team is regional runner-up, finishing with a 19-1 record
  • Boys Basketball finished 1st place Class A South
  • Girls Basketball finished 2nd place Class A South
  • At the Alpine Selection Shootouts at Black Mountain, Axel Lindsay and Nettie Cunningham made the Eastern US High School Alpine Championship team representing the state 

2016 Girls Swim Team State Champions