School board defines goals, reports on school progress, declining populationMember Brian Messing attends last meeting
St. George — The Regional School Unit 13 board meeting was held in St. George as part of an effort by the board to visit each town in the district. The board discussed benchmark progress, declining school populations and district goals Nov.1.
During the public discussion, retired educator and education committee member Jennifer Garrett asked the board to verify the additional courses available to students at Oceanside East High School and hoped a goal of the board was to increase communication and dialogue with the public.
Garrett suggested the board give up a committee in exchange for question and answer sessions with communities to act as ambassadors and exchange information.
Select board member John Snow said optimism has increased in town with the change of district administration. He added that he hopes for increased board cooperation with the town education committee as he presumes the town is not prepared nor necessarily inclined to follow through with the issues and requirements that accompany withdrawal.
Superintendent Lew Collins' goals for the 2012-2013 year included familiarizing himself with the schools and staff in the district through monthly school visits, reviewing board minutes from the past two years as well as past policy, financial and budget documents.
Collins also plans to create a public relations campaign and review the existing staff supervision and evaluation process. An in-district autism program is an additional aim.
A shared goal of the board and Collins was to complete and accept the district's strategic plan.
The board differed over the necessity of public input and vote. Member Sherman Hoyt suggested a straw poll be conducted to judge public support of the plan, while others said the communities had elected members for representation.
An online survey was also suggested to allow the community to give feedback on the plan.
Collins said a public forum, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 13, would give the community an opportunity to evaluate the strategic plan before approval by the board in January.
The board's additional focus includes balancing the budget to reflect the needs of both the tax base and students, and to seek more financial support from Maine Care reimbursement and grants as well as maximize energy efficiency.
Collins said after visiting Herring Gut Learning Center and receiving notice that the Georges River Education Fund has funded educational grants totaling more than $10,000 — he is impressed with the district and said the work of the schools and the community is phenomenal.
Half of the schools in the district are making adequate yearly progress, or AYP, a measure implemented by the state from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Cushing,Thomaston Grammar, St. George, Owls Head, and Gilford Butler schools achieved AYP status.
The NCLB Act was overhauled in 2001 to ensure that, nationally, students met 100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014.
Collins said the target is unrealistic, failing to take into account many factors for student success and improvement.
Collins said the state education commissioner is seeking a waiver to allow the state to look at internal progress rather than the NCLB benchmark.
Schools are measured in three graduations — AYP, monitored status, or as a CIPS school. CIPS stands for continually improving performance school.
Lura Libby, Oceanside West and Oceanside East are at monitored status, and South School is a CIPS school. Rockland District Middle School is awaiting review.
The state average of AYP is 35 percent and the district stands stronger at 50 percent.
The schools are categorized by NECAP testing that are taken annually in the fall. The scores are translated as school performance.
"There are some wonderful things happening here," Collins said.
Board member Loren Andrews said that the numbers of enrollment from September to October show that the high school lost 16 students. Collins said he didn't know the answer to the loss, but said he would look into it.
Collins said the trend line of decreasing enrollment will continue statewide.
"How do we respond to declining enrollments?" Collins said.
Brian Messing addressed the board and said it was an honor and privilege to serve as Rockland's representative. He added that concentration on the Many Flags campus going forward was imperative to the success of the community.
Messing received standing applause from fellow town representatives and the superintendent after his three terms of service to the district. Messing is not seeking re-election and the Nov. 1 meeting is his last.
Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at email@example.com.