William Shuttleworth does not mince words when it comes to public education: As he assumes leadership of Camden and Rockport K-8 schools, as well as Camden Hills Regional High School, he is determined that students who will be leading the country be well prepared, not just for college but for the military, and careers.

 

“I think public education, for all its warts and flaws, remains our one last enduring hope for America,” he said. “Schools remain our hope of equity for this country and this world.”

 

With the high vision, he has practical goals. He believes the school day should be extended by another hour, he wants to see more after-school activities: music, the arts, chess club and play, and he wants students to have nutritious meals on his watch.

 

“These children will be living on the precipice of the 22nd century and enduring problems we will never see,” he said. “We want them doing it with joy and success. We must give them tools to figure out their lives, and the confidence to do it, and earn a paycheck.”

 

Last December, many countries were startled by international math, science and reading test results, which ranked Shanghai 15 year olds as the top performers on a list of 65 countries. In that ranking, American students sat between 15th and 31st place, according to the Dec. 29 New York Times article “Shanghai Schools’ Approach Pushes Students to Top of Tests.”

 

In the article, the U.S. Secretary of Education called the rankings a wake-up call. The achievements of Asian students, in general, were attributed to education systems “steeped in discipline, rote learning and obsessive test preparation.”

 

The flip side — and this is where Shuttleworth takes note — is a system regarded by some as dependent on teaching to the test with little room for creative and entrepreneurial thinking.

 

The strength of the U.S. system, he believes, lies in encouraging students, and society, to take quantitative, or factual, information and using it to solve problems on a daily basis. The U.S. is on the cutting edge for problem solving, he said. “I’m not sure Shanghai is.”

 

On Sept. 8, Shuttleworth was at the Bus Barn, administrative offices of SAD 28 and the Five Town CSD, in Camden. Next to the baseball diamond of the Camden-Rockport Middle School, the Bus Barn was built in the 1980s to be just that, to house buses. But it was quickly appropriated and renovated as offices and classrooms during a space crunch, when enrollment pushed the seams of the schools and initiated a 15-year campaign to overhaul and build new schools. Today, it still houses the districts’ offices and Shuttleworth has settled into an eggshell-blue office, formerly occupied by Patricia Hopkins, who moved on to be superintendent in Gardiner and RSU 11, and for one year by Wayne Dorr, who retired this past summer.

 

With his first week into the school year, Shuttleworth had already addressed a variety of issues — students smoking pot at the high school, an untimely death, and fielding myriad parental opinions and concerns. Unruffled, he bantered about the merits of one newspaper over another, and with staff, compared cars. He is a social administrator, highly visible, showing up at soccer games, or in downtown Camden, outfitted in a district-red Schooner’s vest and cap.

 

When Shuttleworth sits down to talk about education, however, his demeanor formalizes and his passion is channeled through articulate and emphatic sentences.

 

“For all the shots that people take at American schools, and certainly we can improve, let’s face it: Who creates great engineering and cures for cancer,” he said. “We can’t be complacent and our schools must remain very, very strong.”

 

He has initiated a renewed focus on curriculum development, within the schools of the two districts, as well as the five towns of Appleton, Camden, Hope, Lincolnville and Rockport.

 

Appleton, Hope and Lincolnville are organized as Union 69, representing the K-8 schools in each town. Within each town, a school committee decides the direction and budgets of those schools. The three towns join Camden and Rockport as the Five Town CSD at Camden Hills Regional High School, built in 1999 in Rockport.

The five towns were encouraged to organize as a regional school unit several years ago during former Gov. John Baldacci’s massive and controversial district reorganization effort, but the citizens in each town voted down the proposal; since then, the districts have been assuming financial penalties that have been waived once, imposed, and then again waived.

 

But preceding that reorganization exercise, there has been an effort since 2000 to streamline and make more cohesive the five town K-8 curriculum so that by the time students get to the high school, they are on the same academic page.

 

Shuttleworth believes that the success of the effort will now be integrally tied to the state’s adoption of new standards, Common Core, and the discontinuation of Maine Learning Results, which have driven classroom lessons for years.

 

The beauty of Common Core, said Shuttleworth, lies in that it is a collaboration of most states. The development of the standards has been led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers since 2009. The two Washington-based policy organizations pulled in the College Board, ACT and Achieve Inc. to build specific education standards and benchmarks.

 

By the end of 2009, many states had committed to adopting Common Core, agreeing that standards must be fewer, clearer and higher, that they be internationally bench-marked, include all types of learners, and that they not dictate curriculum, which is to be a local responsibility. As of 2011, Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska and Montana had still not committed to the standards; all other states, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, had formalized their adoption.

 

Embedded in Common Core is the expectation that parents are to know, as well, what and how they need to help children learn.

 

Locally, the implementation of Common Core standards has begun with Five Town Curriculum Committee meetings, the last one held Sept. 6. There, at the high school library, board members, principals and assistant principals, teachers and superintendents gathered from the towns to talk about curriculum work between Union 69, SAD 28 and the CSD.

 

They talked about a time line, the pace of work for three curriculum committees, and the proposed emphasis on math, English and foreign language. Next year, the focus will be on science, social studies and the visual arts. In 2014, it will be health, performing arts, and career and education development.

 

Common Core “is a great document,” said Shuttleworth, developed by “many, many people to hold states accountable with benchmarks kids should achieve at grade levels.”

 

While states have developed their own qualified measuring sticks, there has been “far too much education isolation,” he said. “Educationally, we are all one family.”

 

 

Discipline

Shuttleworth was hired last spring by the boards of the Five Town CSD and School Administrative District 28 following the retirement of Wayne Dorr, himself filling the position for one year after Hopkins departed for Gardiner.

 

Shuttleworth, 65 and a grandfather, has been a superintendent and principal in Maine for decades. He was also a psychiatrist with the U.S. Air Force during the 1970s, with a mental health center that provided services to repatriated prisoners of war. His background also includes principal of West School, the alternative K-12 school in Portland, and as director of special education services in Dover-Foxcroft.

 

By this point in his career, he knows children, and teenagers.

 

He has commented that he is impressed by the caliber of SAD 28 and the CSD student body. He cites how kind and thoughtful the students are. He knows they also get into trouble.

 

“The whole idea of discipline is to teach, not to punish,” he said. “How do you develop that and have a safe school? How do we protect all of the kids?”

 

And, he is aware that some parents are concerned about the use, and possible overuse, of suspensions as a discipline method, and said he looks at other models of intervening. He will not, though, reestablish the presence of a police officer in the high school. For several years, Camden Hills did secure a resource officer through the Rockport Police Department via a federal grant; after the grant ran out, the district did not renew the position.

 

“I’m not in favor of that model,” he said. “If there was gang violence and shooting in the hallways, I would support it.”

 

Yet he is firm in ensuring the schools are drug-free. To that extent, he is willing to host a drug dog for searches of the school and parking lots. He has met with both Randy Gagne and Mark Kelley, respective Camden and Rockport police chiefs.

 

“I believe my responsibility is to ensure that schools are drug-free,” he said. “I hate the idea, but if I have to do that to support my statement, I would do it. I have never seen anybody’s life ever benefited from doing drugs.”

 

For several years, Kelley has offered to take a drug-sniffing dog through the high school and parking lots, as evidence of marijuana, and other drugs, materialized.

 

Both Shuttleworth and Kelley discussed parameters of such a search, with the first possession confiscated, the second infraction sent to the juvenile court system.

 

Most recently, four students were caught at the school smoking pot.

“I do not want to put every child in our police log who decides to make a poor decision,” said Kelley, in a subsequent conversation. “It is not my intention to make everyone who is found to be in possession of alcohol or drugs be summonsed to court upon our first invitation to the school. Upon a second invitation, anyone who has found to be in offense would be subject to the court system, as well as any administrative penalties from the school system.”

 

 

Wellness

In addition to integrating Common Core into the districts, Shuttleworth plans to focus on wellness and nutrition in school.

 

“I’m big on that,” he said. “Our responsibility is to provide two quality meals a day. We are working to ensure that we improve that.”

 

He also wants to expand after-school activity.

 

“We want kids to be moving, off the couch,” he said.

 

In 2001, Camden Hills created a Wellness Room for students, offering Reiki, massage, tea and a break. The room came into being as a response to 9/11 and a rash of suicides in the same time period. A school-sponsored Wellness Day spurred such positive feedback from the student body that wellness, in general, was given more consideration as a tool to help kids along a given path.

 

Ten years later, the Wellness Room remains a part of the high school and students are allowed to visit it during study hall or lunch, not during classes.

 

For Shuttleworth, he wants to expand extra-curricular time after school for all children, to keep them engaged and to keep them moving.

 

Most of all, he wants to reach all students as comprehensively as possible. He supports career and technical training, and said there will be a closer look at whether and where Camden Hills and the Mid-Coast School of Technology overlap, and where they enhance each other’s mission.

 

“All kids learn in different ways,” he said. “Society cannot function without that. We will always need our cars repaired, a roof over our house.”

 

He is also willing to look at innovative methods of teaching, such as dissecting frogs in 3-D, as opposed to using dead animals raised for the purpose of middle and high school biology classes. This year, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, 185,000 3-D projectors were sold to schools, as the trend grows.

 

He intends to communicate with parents with a regular newsletter, and said he will visit with “any group that ever wants to talk to me. I will be there.”

 

“You are going to see me,” he said. “My life is my schools.”