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News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, August 21, 2014
CSD board holds extra meeting, discusses proficiency-based education
Water quality and infrastructure needs addressed

by Tevlin Schuetz

The school board held a special “workshop” meeting at DISHS on Wednesday evening, August 13.

This meeting was the second one this month, as the board continues to beef up its schedule to address issues and coming changes facing the school district.

Water quality at DISES

A letter was sent out to parents regarding a recent issue raised with water quality at the elementary school, Superintendent Mark Jenkins said. Although the water passed a safety inspection, a move to supply DISES with bottled water is underway and will be a quick fix to alleviate concerns while the issue is investigated, he said.

Roof repair at DISHS

In exploring the need for roof repairs at the high school, Jenkins spoke of recent roof work at the Brooklin School. He said the cost was less than originally expected and that the area over the cafeteria and academic wing at DISHS is comparable in square footage to Brooklin’s repair. Based on that comparison, the cost could be around $50,000. Jenkins said town meetings would be required to free up funds. Approximately $30,000 has been put into a reserve account for each of the past three years for maintenance and technological uses [so there is $90,000], he said.

Busing and maintenance

A contract for $40,000 for the school year has been inked with Andrea Brown, LLC to include busing coverage to the Hancock County Technical Center. The CSD will be billed $30,000, while $10,000 will be split between Brooklin and Sedgwick.

The amount is about half of what School Union 76 paid for the same service last year. The board agreed that Brown is working to accommodate the needs of the schools and their budget.

Dave Pelletier, head of maintenance, may need assistance from a licensed electrician and a plumber to resolve heating issues at DISES, Jenkins said. Room controls and issues with the main system have caused problems with temperature control.

Because maintenance issues are not being handled quickly enough, Jenkins added, the board may need to consider another position—someone “north of cleaning, but south of licenser.”

Action items

The board voted to accept the nomination of Jessica Brophy for the Interim Adult Education Director position. The position is contracted for one year with a salary of $26,000 and 50 percent benefits. There were four applicants to the post.

The board also approved the nomination of John Lincoln for the Reach Director position. Lincoln, who is from Cumberland, R.I., was said to be enthusiastic and well qualified, according to Jenkins. Lincoln will be tasked with helping to develop the position as well as with teaching theater, and provide, according to Jenkins, “arts in the classroom in support of the curriculum.” He will also augment the music programs.

Extra meetings and the strategic plan

Jenkins raised the potential necessity for twice-monthly meetings until December to address the proficiency-based education policy. He said the policy will need public review after it is crafted by the board. Member Stephen York said “the enormity of the work” as well as the size of the school budget involved justify the extra meetings, and he stressed the importance of rebuilding communications with the community.

The board also decided that a subcommittee should be created to work on a strategic plan for the district. Board members Skip Greenlaw and Andy Vaughn and one community member, as yet undecided, will form the subcommittee, which will work on an initial draft of the plan.

Proficiency-based education

Jenkins affirmed that an option to extend the deadline for implementation of the state’s proficiency-based standards to 2019 is being pursued with the Maine Department of Education.

High school Principal Todd West clarified to the board that the extension option is criteria-based; it is not a case of schools being able to pick whatever dates they want. He voiced his support for proficiency-based education, saying it is good preparation for kids as they move on to college and careers.

The board also discussed how the policy addresses students with special education needs as well as how grade level expectations—specifically of the eighth and ninth grades—might be affected.

Jenkins said, per state requirements, students must be proficient in order to graduate, but some students may simply not meet those requirements. A different type of certificate may come into play for those students, he said, like a certificate of attendance, versus a regular diploma.

With respect to standards, “flexibility comes with how schools measure achievement and how [schools] teach students,” said West.

West said the standards include overarching skills such as communication, problem solving and collaboration, and are not confined to any one academic area; they are measured over the course of a student’s path through the school curriculum. He assured the board that students who fall behind in one grade level are given extra help the following year. The standards, if missed, do not prevent a student from moving to the next grade, he said.

West also differentiated proficiency-based education from Common Core, stating that the goal of proficiency-based education is “identifying the most important skills and making sure kids understand them.”

Review begun of proficiency-based policy

The board began a line-by-line review of the document containing the Maine Department of Education’s proficiency-based standards, the implementation of which is required under state law. The school district will draft its own policy outlining how the standards are applied in the classroom.

Vaughn voiced concerns about the implementation of proficiency-based education, suggesting there “could be unintended consequences.” He continued, “In an ideal world, this is best for kids, but this is being introduced to eighth graders who haven’t had the benefit of going through…proficiency-based K-12.”

Citizen participation still a concern

During citizen comments, Heidi Shepard said she was surprised to discover that the agenda provided to her by Principal West earlier in the day had been replaced by a revised agenda, which was handed out at the beginning of the meeting. She stated that what she had prepared to address was no longer a focus of the new agenda. Jenkins said the new agenda had been determined over the past few days and was made available a few hours before the meeting.

Shepard expressed her frustration after the meeting. “There needs to be an open forum,” she said. “When do we raise concerns? If not at [school board] meetings, what’s the point [in going]?”

Upcoming meetings

The school board will hold back-to-back meetings at the high school on September 2 and 3. The meeting on September 2 will be of the regular monthly format, while the September 3 meeting will include a workshop session. Both meetings will be at 5:30 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.