School district plan targets standards-based teaching, 21st century skill set

Public forum planned for December
By Juliette Laaka | Nov 15, 2012
Photo by: Juliette Laaka Members of the strategic planning committee meet to discuss the plan before it is presented to a public audience on Dec. 12 for feedback. Pictured from left, Superintendent Lew Collins, School Board Member George Emery, Guidance Counselor Emily Davis, Educational Technician Jessie Luttrell, Community Member Anna Mason, Educator Patricia Mellor, and Director of School Improvement Neal Guyer. Not all committee members are pictured.

Rockland — The Strategic Planning Committee discussed Nov. 14 the draft of Regional School Unit 13's five-year plan.

A forum is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 5 p.m. at Oceanside High School East, providing the opportunity for public discourse and suggestions. Members of the public will not have the opportunity to vote on the plan.

The school board will review and vote on the plan in January or February.

A posting on the district website asks, "what do you want our future to be?" —  encouraging community members to submit feedback. The 32-page draft is available online at rsu13.org. Superintendent Lew Collins said an online survey will be available next week.

The mission of the district "is to engage all students in the acquisition of the knowledge and skills necessary to be a successful and contributing citizen in the 21st century."

The plan outlines lead objectives and action strategies, including establishing plans to create a pre-kindergarten program and a development office to focus on grant-writing and fundraising.

The plan states the district will focus on standards-based teaching and learning regardless of state mandates, which was agreed to at an administrative work session.

Neal Guyer, school improvement director, said the state is already going in that direction, and Collins added that his intention is to continue on that course.

"We can't haul through the curriculum and slap credits on students. It's not working," he said. If students are not at the appropriate academic level to move to the next grade, they shouldn't transition," he added.

Committee members met to discuss the paring down of the plan, which was done in order to make it more readable for the public.

"This is meat, and really, really good work," said Collins of the draft.

The committee is comprised of educators, community members, school board members and administrators in the district.

Greg Hamlin, former school board member, said he was disappointed the issue of student respect was omitted in the latest draft. "We lost history that was in the first draft," he said. He added he does appreciate brevity albeit believes the new draft is dry and missing a humanistic element.

School Board member George Emery said teaching respect and social skills is  embedded in the school culture, and is constantly in need of attention.

Collins said since respect is not a measurable item, he wants to be accountable and focus on issues and targets that can be quantified, adding he aimed to be mindful of the public when paring down the document for readability.

Oceanside High School East Principal Tom Forti said the plan is a working, flexible document that focuses on the what, why and how, adding that immeasurable, albeit important elements, can be added in an appendix.

Educator Patricia Mellor said the public wants to see that their feedback is evident in the plan.

Collins agreed and said he believes the plan is propelled by public feedback.

Hard copies of the strategic plan will be available to the public in a variety of places, acknowledging not all people have access to a computer. Collins said plans will be at the library and district schools.

The district's involvement in the Many Flags campus concept was also removed from the plan. Collins explained that the strategic plan is the RSU 13 plan, not the Many Flags plan, and thought further mention would be redundant.

Loren Andrews, school board member and member of the Mandy Flags board, said there has been too much work done by too many people to not include the commitment of the district to the Many Flags model.

Mellor said public confusion remains as to what Many Flags is. "It's still a vision, and this document is concrete," she said.

Collins said he is proud of the board and community's commitment to creating and achieving goals — keeping the district accountable and cognizant of the future.

The district is tracking classes to measure yearly academic growth through an individual and computerized national assessment, the Northwestern Evaluation Association for grades 2 to 10. This assessment will track district student performance to national norms. Grades 3 and 11 will be assessed compared to state standards for reading and math with the New England Common Assessment Program, or NECAP. The assessments will maintain transparency, inform decision making, and help recognize academic trends.

Collins added that consolidation of Main School Administrative District 5 and SAD 50 resulted in financial savings. In the 2008-2009 year, Collins said $9 million was saved with the merger, and last year $2.2 million was conserved.

The committee will meet again following the public forum to consider feedback from the community.

Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at jlaaka@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Carol W Bachofner | Nov 16, 2012 07:46

It is important to keep in mind that such a "plan" is a living document, one that will be adjusted over the years ahead to identify and meet the needs of our students and the community as we move toward a brighter future of lifelong learning for all.



If you wish to comment, please login.