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Letter to the communities from the Superintendent of Schools - October 15, 2012

posted Oct 15, 2012, 11:56 AM by Susan Conley

October 15, 2012

Dear MSAD #51 Community Members,

    Our school year is off to a great start, and I’m impressed by what’s been accomplished in the six weeks since our students returned from summer vacation. At all grade levels, classroom routines are established and students are engaged in both academic and extracurricular activities. Committee work in the schools, whether pertaining to school climate, wellness or technology integration, is improving our quality of life and learning. Teachers dedicate themselves to professional development relating to Response to Intervention, literacy, and the Common Core standards, while students prepare for NECAPS, music festivals and athletic contests. Spend a moment with a Mabel I. Wilson P.E. class, the North Yarmouth Memorial School math team, Greely Middle School’s jazz band or Greely High School’s drama club, and you will be impressed by the different expressions of learning.

    One of the primary initiatives for our staff this year is our new system for teacher evaluation. In April, 2012, Maine’s legislature passed a law that will require every Maine school system to have a new teacher and principal evaluation in place by the 2015-2016 school year. Though our choice to create a new system for evaluating our teachers preceded the legislature’s work, we are pleased that our approach will help us meet the new law’s requirements. First used statewide in Delaware, in 2011 we adopted the Charlotte Danielson Framework. This is a research-based model for effective teaching that involves annual classroom observations for every teacher, every year. “Peer observers”, teachers who are trained in the area of evaluation, provide descriptive observations of their colleagues while administrators provide evaluative observations. About one third of our teachers have volunteered and attended the training to become peer observers. We appreciate our teachers’ support for this initiative. Having an evaluation system that requires us to analyze instruction, as well as student results, gets to the heart of good teaching. We believe the system provides the structures and supports to hold ourselves accountable to a shared standard of effectiveness, and to continuously improve our teaching practices.

    Another goal for the 2012-2013 school year is working to integrate the Common Core standards into our curriculum as a district. Designed to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce, Maine adopted the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics in April of 2011. We are working to align to these new standards which are now shared by 45 states. Teachers are working together to ensure our instruction and assessments prepare students to meet these standards, which will be assessed by Maine starting in 2014-2015. In addition to the final or summative tests, this initiative will also provide assessments that can be used formatively for ongoing check-ins.

    A third important development I’d like to share is MSAD #51’s Board of Director’s decision to adopt the Strategic Thinking and Planning Report. Many community members participated last year, on either the committee that produced the report or the focus groups that provided valuable input for its creation. The report aligns the District’s vision and mission in support of 21st century learning goals. Our administration will work with the community in the months ahead to study the report and further develop strategies to create a framework for its implementation. We will engage in conversations about community partnerships, personalized learning, global awareness and wellness among other topics, and invite you to share in these discussions. You will receive information in the months ahead of opportunities to join the conversation regarding how MSAD #51 can evolve to align with these goals.

    Finally, I continue to feel fortunate for the support MSAD #51 receives from parents and the larger community. Whether I’m watching volunteers read with students in the classroom, the coordination of fundraising events such as the Foundation 51 auction or the Close Buy PTO drive, the energy of cheering crowds at sporting events or musical performances, or students honored for service by the Lions Club, we wouldn’t be the same school system without the dedication of our partners in education. We look forward to continuing to develop and build on these relationships in the year ahead. Thanks to everyone for your commitment to our district, and I hope you are enjoying our beautiful Maine fall.

Dr. Robert Hasson