Message January 19, 2016

On January 4, the Board of Directors unanimously approved three substantial changes to the district's 2015-18 Strategic Plan that are listed below. As the Strategic Plan is a "living document," the Board has the discretion to amend the plan as needed.
a.  Defer Pre Kindergarten planning until the 2016-17 year (Objective 1.2).  
The reasoning behind this change is that an unanticipated space issue has occurred since last year when the Strategic Plan was being developed.  First, 20 more students are enrolled at MIW this year than last, which was unexpected.  Second, our space needs for a newly developed special education program changed and thus moved to the space that was being considered for PreK.  The only feasible option at this point would be to lease a portable classroom to be placed on the grounds of MIW. The facilities committee has discussed this and opted not to consider this option at this time, preferring to defer PreK plans until after the committee has completed its long-range plan.

Approved: Board establishes work group made up of representative stakeholders that will explore the feasibility and potential scope of bringing public PreK to the district. (This decision will delay the implementation of PreK for at least one year).

b.  Add Weighted Grades to Grading/Reporting Mechanisms (Objective 1.4).  
Weighted grades has been a long-standing topic of interest to many high school students and their families.  The idea behind this is to provide incentives for students to take higher-level courses at the high school level given that honors, AP, and IB courses would carry more weight that CP courses. This could prove positive for students who are on the fence about whether to take a more rigorous course, as this added incentive would hopefully help in making this decision. These weights could boost a student's GPA and thus better position them for college applications to more prestigious colleges and universities.  Essentially courses are assigned a weight value and these weights help determine a student's overall measure of rigorous learning.  There is some thinking amongst students and parents that the lack of weighted grades at GHS disadvantages students who elect to take rigorous courses because other high schools use this practice. Yarmouth, Falmouth, and Cape all weight grades at least partially.  A survey completed last year by the GHS student government concluded that out of 337 students who responded, 211 were in favor and 89 were neutral, representing 89% who would be OK with a change to weighted grades.

Approved:  Direct the Superintendent to develop a system for weighted grades that would be ready for implementation in August 2016.

c.  Add Substance Use ad hoc committee (Objective 2.1).  
Due to the important nature of this topic, there have been several discussions regarding the development of Policy JICH, Student Substance Use.  This policy was reviewed by the Policy committee at four or five different meetings and was attended by numerous people, including GHS social workers, administration, and the police chief.  A workshop was organized in November after concerns were raised following the 1st Reading of this policy in June 2015.  As the policy committee has devoted considerable time to this policy, it makes sense at this point widen the focus and participation so as to gain more perspectives.  Most people realize that substance use is not just a school issue, it is a community-wide issue. Best practices in looking at substance use have consistently pointed at a community focus.

Approved:  Board establishes an ad hoc work group with focus on community-wide best practices. When this ad hoc group completes work by June 2016, the policy committee would then re-review Policy JICH within the context of the ad hoc group’s work.  The policy committee would then forward a revised Policy JICH, if applicable, to the Board.

Message January 4, 2016

Happy New Year!

Be The Change

In an effort to bring more students together in positive ways, we are partnering with RSU 5 to bring the "Challenge Day" project to GHS on January 12 and 13.  This project is part of the Be The Change national movement meant to support positive change for high schoolers. This project will hopefully become an annual event for all sophomores that promotes the development of empathy and understanding between students around personal struggles.  

This nationally recognized program and professional facilitators focuses on breaking down walls between students and has been an effective tool in combatting bullying.  Many thanks school coordinator Jayme Jones for her work on organizing these days.  Also thanks to Ashley Caswell for handling all of the external logistics with the Be The Change organization.

Every Child Succeeds Act
In late December, President Obama signed into law the long-awaited replacement for the No Child Left Behind law, now called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Here are the major provisions of the new law:
  • Requiring annual statewide assessment tests for all public school students.
  • Giving states increased flexibility to design school accountability systems, school interventions, and student supports.
  • Giving states flexibility to work with local stakeholders to develop educator evaluation and support systems.
  • Increasing state and local flexibility in the use of federal funds.
Maine will continue to follow the last waiver requirements as directed by the US Dept. of Education until August 1, 2016, based on the waiver's sunset provision.  This will give the state time to analyze and begin formulating a new system for K-12 educational measurement and accountability.

Japanese Homestay
This week, we are excited to welcome a delegation of 10 students and 4 staff from Namioka, Japan as part of our long-standing annual "homestay" at GMS.  On Wednesday, a welcome ceremony will be held at GMS in honor of our guests, followed by many exciting activities planned throughout the week such as a visit to Portland's Old Port, eating a lobster dinner at the Muddy Rudder, and snow shoeing, among others.  The Japanese students will be immersed in classrooms at GMS and will have the opportunity to share their culture with our students.  Many thanks to Holly Groom, Leslie Livingston, and the Casco Bay Japanese Exchange for their continued leadership of this program.


Congratulations to girls hockey player Danita Storey for scoring her 100th career goal at the Dudley 
Cup game v. the Yachtsmen.  The girls hockey team is on a roll, ranked #1 by the Forecaster.                                                        
IB Program Review
GHS recently underwent its first five-year International Baccalaureate (IB) study since the program was implemented in 2009.  The review included commendations around student performance being well above national and international averages and our district's commitment to professional development and training for teachers who instruct IB courses.  Many thanks to IB Coordinator Vanessa Sylvester, GHS Principal Dan McKeone, and all of our faculty who teach IB courses.