As many of you know, the Many Flags, One Campus model has been researched, discussed and refined over the past seven years. We, the Many Flags Application Steering Committee, are now in the process of drafting the application for designation as the first 9-16 integrated model campus in the state. In fact, if selected, the Many Flags model will be the first of its kind in the nation. Our application is due to the Maine Department of Education on March 15.

Competition for this special program designation will be stiff. Only one region in the state will be selected.

Over the past seven years, thousands of hours have been dedicated to the development of this innovative educational concept. A significant portion of that time has been spent seeking input from students, parents, teachers, education experts, business owners, industry leaders, higher education providers and school board members throughout the Midcoast. Well-publicized public information sessions and stakeholder input forums were held in every town in Regional School Unit 13; public presentations were made multiple times to the Maine School Administrative District 40 and Five Town Community School District and SAD 28 school boards, and in-depth input, advise and involvement have been provided by the Region 8 Board of Directors who represent all of the sending schools to the Mid-Coast School of Technology.

As a result of this unprecedented amount of input and stakeholder participation, the Many Flags model that exists today emerged. As a reminder, the objective of the Many Flags, One Campus model is to co-locate on one integrated campus a regional high school (composed of a consolidated Georges Valley High School and Rockland District High School); the Mid-Coast School of Technology; a higher education center with courses and degrees provided by the University of Maine and Maine Community College Systems; and an Industry Center of Excellence (the first two providers will be the Marine Systems Training Center and a Merchant Marine Training Center). This integrated 9-16 “one campus” model will provide greater access to a wide range of seamless options for all high school students in the greater Midcoast, as well as adult learners.

In the course of developing the Many Flags model, concerns from the public, parents and students were heard and considered. The concept of a regional high school resonated well, but parents also told us that a high school larger than 1,000 students would be too big and simply unacceptable. The Region 8 board, representing the Mid-Coast School of Technology, made it clear that while it agrees that an integrated campus is a good idea, it must maintain its independent status so it can appropriately respond to the specific needs of the students from all of the sending schools throughout the entire region. And everyone emphasized that a well-designed and appropriately located campus, with significant levels of input from all parties who will eventually be located on the campus, will be essential for success.

The Many Flags Steering Committee has worked hard to solicit and incorporate these, and many other, suggestions from all of the stakeholders in the greater Midcoast. It is because of that collaborative and inclusive effort that we are a bit disappointed that the SAD 40 School Board recently announced that it does not support the upcoming Many Flags application that is being submitted to the Maine Department of Education. During this process there have been numerous public meetings with the SAD 40 School Board and meetings between the SAD 40 School Board chairman and chairmen of the former SAD 5 and SAD 50 school boards. We have heard their concerns about ensuring that the students they send to the Mid-Coast School of Technology are provided the best possible access to programs on the Many Flags campus – and their concerns that appropriate cost accounting systems be put in place to ensure that they do not pay for services that don’t directly benefit their students. We agree with those points completely and assure members of the SAD 40 board that they and their representative on the Region 8 board will be active partners in the final programmatic and operational design of the Many Flags model if we are selected by the Maine State Board of Education this year.

The Five Town CSD School Board mentioned the same concerns that the SAD 40 School Board raised. However, the Five Town CSD board has expressed its support for the overall Many Flags model and the application that we will submit in March. The Five Town CSD letter of support for our application states, in part, “In the event that Many Flags is selected to receive funding, we [the Five Town CSD] look forward to additional in-depth conversations about how the change will impact students in our communities.”

We look forward to working closely with the Five Town CSD and SAD 40, as well as all of our Many Flags partners throughout the Midcoast, once we are selected as the first innovative 9-16 one campus model for Maine. As evidenced by our seven- year journey thus far, the Many Flags development process is like a marathon – and right now we are at about the halfway point. There is much to do – and much more collaboration and inclusion will be required. We will need continued support, strength and input from all parts of the Midcoast if we are to finish and win the race.

Members of the Many Flags Application Steering Committee include Beth Fisher, director of the Mid-Coast School of Technology; Judy Lucarelli, superintendent of RSU 13; Edmund Hart, chairman of the Region 8 board; Ruth Anne Hohfeld, chairwoman of the RSU 13 School Board; Jamie Doubleday, RSU 13 board representative; and State Sen. Chris Rector