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Mid-year letter from the School Board Chair

posted Jan 26, 2016, 10:56 AM by Susan Conley

MSAD #51

Cumberland - North Yarmouth, Maine


Message from the MSAD #51 Board of Directors Chair


January 26, 2016

Dear MSAD #51 Community Members,

The year has been a busy one in our classrooms, on the stage, on our athletic fields, and in our extracurricular after-school programs.  The arrival of midterms, mid-season winter sports events, District Band and Chorus auditions and elementary school report cards are all reminders that we are halfway through the 2015-2016 school year.  We’ve been engaged in a variety of projects and initiatives at the administrative and board levels.  Our Strategic Plan, adopted by MSAD #51’s School Board in June, 2015, guides much of the work we do and provides an excellent framework to ensure we are moving forward in directions deemed highly important by community members, staff, administrators and board members.  Examples include:

Late Start Proposal:  Due to community interest in adjusting our school start times, administration created a 17-member advisory committee comprised of school administrators, students, staff, parents and board members to consider alternative start times.  The results of a survey completed by 1300 stakeholders overwhelmingly supported a proposal which beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, delays starts for Greely High School and Greely Middle School 6-8 by thirty minutes, and Mabel I. Wilson and Greely Middle School 4-5 by fifteen minutes.  Two public hearings will be held at School Board meetings on February 1st and February 22nd at 7:00 PM in the Greely High School library to solicit opinions on the proposed change.  We welcome your participation at either of these meetings.

Facilities Review:  The MSAD #51 Facilities Committee worked tirelessly this fall and early winter, looking at all of our school facilities and how they impact teaching and learning.  The committee conducted space studies to determine whether our school buildings adequately meet the needs of our students.  More deliberations will follow this winter and spring regarding what projects to prioritize in the next five years. The committee recognizes the critical balance between educational needs and fiscal responsibility.  We look forward to completing the long range facilities plan in June, 2016, at which point it will be shared with the MSAD #51 School Board for approval.

Staff Dialogues:  One of the Strategic Plan’s action steps is to provide an annual opportunity for dialogue sessions with every employee group.  I had the good fortune of joining Superintendent Porter this fall and early winter, to meet with the staff groups at each of our schools to hear their thoughts about six different components of our Strategic Plan.  I was reminded at each of our conversations of the incredible talent, commitment and insights of our staff.  Information shared at the dialogues will be compiled to help further define our priorities while implementing our Strategic Plan over the next two years.  We look forward to talking with staff groups we have not yet had a chance to meet in upcoming weeks.

Environmental Stewardship:  As a member of our newly formed Environmental Stewardship Committee, I can’t help but share a little news about our progress!  Fostering education and initiatives that promote environmental causes is another action item in the Strategic Plan.  Since September, a group of students, staff, administrators and board members have been meeting to discuss projects that will make our campus more “green”.  Initiatives that are currently being investigated are transitioning to a single-sort recycling system, beginning a composting program and replacing paper towels at Greely High School with hand driers.  Student “green teams” are engaging with environmental issues at several of our schools.  I’ve appreciated seeing the energy of staff, students and administrators around this topic!

Strategic Plan Amendments:  In early January, the Board approved several amendments to the Strategic Plan which will involve new investigations in the months ahead.  One amendment involves deferring Pre-Kindergarten planning until the 2016-2017 year.  The Board will establish a work group made up of representative stakeholders that will explore the feasibility and potential scope of bringing Pre-Kindergarten to the district.  A second amendment is to add weighted grades to grading and reporting mechanisms for the 2016-2017 school year.  And finally, due to the important nature of addressing substance use in any district, the Board will establish an ad hoc work group comprised of multiple stakeholders with a focus on community-wide best practices. The committee’s work will be completed by June, 2016, and will inform our thinking and practices regarding banned substances.

Proficiency Based Diplomas:  Our staff and administrators, led by fearless leader Sally Loughlin, continue moving the district forward on the journey towards a proficiency based system.  Work this year includes developing new graduation standards and determining a uniform grading system for grades 6-12.  We know that community members will continue to have questions as we move towards full implementation of proficiency based grading and diplomas, and are committed to communicating new practices at the school and board levels.

I continue to feel so fortunate to live in a community that values education in the way that Cumberland and North Yarmouth do.  I witness on a daily basis the commitment of our educators and administrators to our students.  We are all the beneficiaries of the talent, experience and dedication that exists throughout the district, from our teaching staff, to our secretaries, to our food service workers to our bus drivers to our facilities and maintenance crews.  And this doesn’t even touch on the volunteer efforts of community members, who through organizations such as PTO and Foundation 51, as well as individual efforts, make our schools so much richer.  Thanks for all you continue to do to make MSAD #51 strong!


Martha Leggat,

MSAD #51 School Board Chair