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

Message February 1, 2016

1.  It was a pleasure visiting several 3rd grade classes recently to experience their "wax museum". Students dressed up in costume to depict their chosen famous character from history, sports, politics, or another field and read or recited information pertaining to their character.  Students exhibited many facets of 21st Century learning while engaged in this exciting project:

Creativity/ Innovation
Critical Thinking

2.  The Girls hockey team ended their regular season undefeated, taking in only 18 goals during the season's 17 games.  Great job to the Lady Rangers for their stellar performance.

3.  The state conducted a review of our Local Entitlement (federal special education funds) and determined that our accounting of these funds was among the best in the state.  Many thanks to Scott Poulin, Julie Olsen, Sue Walls, Christine Girard, and Jenn Stults for their outstanding management of these resources.  This review came after our FY 2015 audit was virtually flawless with no accompanying management letter.  This is unheard of and much to be proud of.

4.  The leadership team continues to develop the FY 17 budget.  The district office leadership team met with all principals and directors twice during the last month to review new program proposals and each school/program's budget details.  We continue to work through the new program requests, prioritizing and validating their link to the Strategic Plan.  As we complete the budget's initial draft, the finance committee will then begin looking at it.

6.  The Initial Stakeholder group held their final meeting today, wrapping up the work of the teacher and principal evaluation model.  Many thanks to Sally Loughlin and her team for all the hours spent developing a practical system for our teachers and administrators to use.  The next step is a steering committee which will oversee the implementation of the newly created system. 

7.   The Creative Collaboration class at GHS recently donated $1,600 to local charitable organizations, including $700 to Firefighters For Kids, $200 to Greely Bright Spot Fund, and $700 to the Cumberland Food Pantry. Thanks students and co-teachers Kelvin Hasch & Maureen Holland.

8. GMS 4th and 5th graders have been working on a school-wide goal of conducting good deeds. The school reached their goal of 500 slips in the "Fill the Bucket" challenge, earning a Crazy Hair Day.

9. Sally Loughlin and the Evaluation Initial Stakeholder group held their final meeting, ending months of work on building an evaluation model for the district's teachers and administrators. The next step is to transition the initial stakeholder group into a steering committee which will oversee the implementation of the new model. Many thanks to committee members who joined Sally: 

Lauryn Howard, MIW                                                        
Jane Conley, GMS 4-5        
Clare Harrington, K-5                                                  
Jane Crowley, GMS 6-8                                                              
Mary Hinman, GMS 6-8 
Patricia Mullen, GMS 6-8 
Dina Lattanzi, GHS
Julie Opperman, GHS
Joan Guild, GHS
Grace Leavitt, GHS
Susie Robbins, MIW
Jayme Jones, GHS
Cyndi Lasher, GHS
Karen Campbell, Board of Directors
Pete Wilson, community member

10. The Greely Girls basketball team celebrated the adoption of their newest teammate, 6-year-old Kinzie Frey, who is battling childhood cancer and was adopted by the team through the "Friends of Jaclyn" foundation. Kinzie's honorary status as a team member means she will be on the court side for many upcoming games and practices.