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An Invitation, Welcome & Thanks from the Superintendent of Schools

posted Aug 21, 2019, 11:59 AM by Dave Fournier

You and Yours are Invited …

RSU # 71 Students, Families, Staff and Community Members 

CELEBRATE the Belfast Area High School

Construction and Renovation Project

Ribbon-Cutting, Ice-Cream Social and Open House 

Monday, August 26th, 2019 -  1:00 - 2:00 pm

 in Front of the New Math and Special Education Wing

(on the left as you face the high school --  past the pool and football field)


I’d like to welcome students, families and staff new to RSU #71 and say welcome back to those returning. I have found that RSU # 71 is a wonderful district in which to learn and to grow, with ambitious and engaged students, caring and involved families, dedicated and enthusiastic staff, a hard-working and well-informed school board, and a great many talented and generous community partners.


Speaking of community partners, I’d like to publicly thank the many who have planned a wide range of fabulous enrichment activities for the students of RSU # 71 during this year’s “early release Fridays.” Students in kindergarten through 12th-grade will be released early on Fridays (K-5 students will be dismissed at 12 noon and students in grades 6 - 12 will be dismissed at 1:15 pm). During this time district staff will be engaged in professional development, training and collaboration, all in the interest of improving student outcomes. The link below shares some of the projects that we’ll be working on as part of our ESEA Plan.      


https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lvQl7rLmvcuHQfFhbVfVVozrS0773nZdVjyQwfvF0tA/edit


Here is an updated list of community partners offering activities for students on PD Fridays; we are very grateful for you all!


  • Belfast Free Library - Children’s Librarian Erica Rubin Irish and others will be offering a Chess Club, among other wonderful activities.

  • Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition - Programming by BBWC educator Jenni Flowers will be offered at the Captain Albert Stevens School.

  • Waterfall Arts - A Creativity Club with a different project every week, plus time for free-draw and independent work will be led by art educator Bridget Matros at CASS.

  • The Game Loft in Belfast will be opening early on Friday afternoons.

  • Kids Unplugged - Students from the Kermit Nickerson school will be bussed from Swanville to Kids Unplugged in Belfast.

  • The Cornerspring Montessori School in Belfast is offering Nature Play Fridays from 12 - 3 pm.

  • Waldo County Y - Morrill, Belmont and Searsmont: After-school programming will be offered in the tri-town at the Ames School, with two trained YMCA staff members for up to 24 students who are registered with the Y’s Early Release Fridays.

  • Waldo County Y - THMS and BAHS - The Y will be opening early on Fridays for middle and high school students in the teen access program.

  • Waldo County Y - CASS students registered at the Y in the afterschool program may take a bus from school to the Y at dismissal on Fridays. 

  • Bank of America Volunteers will be teaching chess to elementary students at East and Kermit Nickerson School.


Please feel free to call me, email me or stop by to say hi in our new digs.  Central Office has moved to the old special education wing, which has been renovated. (Turn right after the new addition and you will see our sign.)


With best regards and warm wishes for a great start to the new school year, 


Mary Alice McLean


Mary Alice McLean,  Superintendent


mamclean@rsu71.org

(207) 338-1960


August Greetings, To RSU # 71 Staff & School Board!!

posted Aug 18, 2019, 8:01 AM by Betty Lu Davis


This is just a friendly reminder that we are due back at work on Monday, August 26th in the cafeteria at Belfast Area High School.  Here is the schedule for that day and the next:


Monday, August 26th - BAHS Gym & Buildings & Grounds 8:00 am - 2:00 pm


8:00 - Association Meeting

  • Who: Attendance is optional

  • Where: Belfast Area High School Gym 

  • Coffee will be available!

9:15 - 11:30 am - Welcome, Welcome Back and Team Leader Training Part I 

  • Who: All staff are required to be in attendance, including central office staff, administrators, administrative assistants, principals, directors, all support staff including custodians, secretaries, bus garage personnel and educational technicians, all professional staff, including teachers, specialists, counselors, nurses -- in short all staff --  are required to stay from 9:15 - 11:30, with the sole exception of the foodservice staff who will leave after the Opening Day Welcome/Welcome Back, in order to prepare our full staff cookout and ice-cream social. 🍉  🌭 🍔


12 noon - 1:00 pm - RSU # 71 Staff Cookout for All Staff and School Board

  • What: Hamburgers, hotdogs, watermelon, chips, pickles and drinks, music on the loudspeaker, hugs and catching up conversations -- everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend to enjoy this huge gathering and especially to warmly welcome all the new staff into the RSU # 71 family.

  • Where: BAHS Canopy - Food will be under the new canopy at the entrance to the high school.  Lunch may be eaten at picnic tables under trees or in the sunshine (we hope) on the football field and lawns or inside the cafeteria or gym, where there will be chairs and benches in the gym and tables and benches in the cafeteria.

1:00 - 2:00 pm - Belfast Area High School Renovation and Construction: Ribbon Cutting, Ice-Cream Social and Open House Celebration 🎶🍦📢

  • Who: All community members, school board members, news media, city council, town selectpersons, staff, students, parents -- come one and all.

  • Where: The ribbon-cutting will be in front of the new math wing, with a short speech followed by an Ice-Cream Social outside. Frozen treats (cones, ice-cream sandwiches, and popsicles) will be under the canopy and Open House will be in the new and renovated portions of the high school (only).  


Tuesday, August 27th - BAHS Gym  8:00 - 11:00 am 


8:00 -  11:00 - Team Leader Training Part II, with a Focus on Instruction and Learning: All Instructional Staff (teachers, counselors, educational technicians, specialists, nurses, library-media specialists, technology integrators and administrators (all principals and directors involved with instruction) are required to attend.

  • Where: Belfast Area High School Gym 

  • Please bring your own coffee, water, and snacks on Tuesday -- teams may wish to plan who will bring what -- many thanks!

The remainder of the day will be spent in individual schools on building level work.


Please feel free to be in touch with your supervisor if you are not sure where to be on these days!


I look forward to seeing you all on August 26th and to getting the exciting voyage of 2019-2020 underway!


Best Regards,    -Mary Alice


Letter for Parents concerning Early Release Day Fridays

posted Jul 1, 2019, 3:30 AM by Dave Fournier

To:  RSU #71 Parents and Guardians and Belfast Area High School Students

Re:  Early Release Day Fridays 


Dear RSU #71 Families and High School Students,


With the approval of a weekly Early Release for all students by the Board of Directors, we want to share with you the plans that will support our district goal of improving and expanding professional development, training and common planning time on teams for all district educators and staff.  We already have many wonderful learning activities in all of our schools, though there are many indicators that we can and must do even better by our students. School and district improvement will be realized in ways both measurable and immeasurable if we provide teachers and other staff members with much-needed support and time to work together.


Specific details regarding the Early Release Plan are as follows: 


  • K-5 students will be released at 12:00pm on every Friday afternoon.  


  • 6-12 students will be dismissed at 1:15 - 1:30pm every Friday afternoon.

Sports practices for THMS and BAHS will follow the regular schedule. WCTC students in the afternoon session, will be dismissed at the usual time (1:50 pm), with bus transportation provided to students needing to be transported home.


We are very fortunate to have community partners able and willing to provide families with enrichment opportunities for their children on Friday afternoons.  While these plans will need to be arranged and paid for by parents, we do intend to provide assistance to families that need help planning and/or paying for these services. Transportation to after-school activities will be provided by the school system within each  catchment area, though parents will be responsible for transporting students home from there. (For example, the Waldo County Y will be offering after-school care at Ames Elementary School for up to 24 children in the Tritown until up to 5:30 or 6:00 pm; but parents will need to pick their children up at the end of the day.) Parents who need assistance in the logistics of planning or paying for after-school care are asked to please indicate this need on the enclosed form and return to my office in the enclosed self-addressed stamped envelope by July 19.  We are also looking for high school students -- especially those involved in PE Leadership, Peer Leadership, National Honor Society, Student Senate, National Arts Honor Society, Theatre, Chorus and the Civil Rights Team, as well as students who may be thinking of a possible career in early childhood education or social services -- who would be willing to volunteer their time on Friday afternoons. There is also a form that interested high school students are asked to fill out and return. The list of community partners offering student enrichment activities thus far is as follows:

  1. Waldo County Y - Morrill, Belmont and Searsmont - after-school programming in the tri-town, located at the Ames School, with two trained YMCA staff members for up to 24 students who are registered with the Y’s Early Release Fridays Only program

  2. Waldo County Y - THMS and BAHS - Y will be opening early on Fridays for middle and high school students in the teen access program

  3. Waldo County Y - Bus from CASS to the Y at dismissal on Fridays for those students registered at the Y in the afterschool program with the understanding that the Y is limited by licensing standards as to the number of youth it can serve 

  4. Waldo County Y - Parents may register at the Y for K-5 after-school activities as space allows

  5. Waterfall Arts - CASS - Bridge Jr. Art Afterschool - a creativity club with a different project every week, plus time for free-draw and independent work. Led by art educator Bridget Matros

  6. GameLoft - opening early on Friday afternoons

  7. Kids Unplugged - Nickerson - bus from Swanville to Kids Unplugged

  8. Bank of America Volunteers - teaching chess to elementary students at East and Nickerson

  9. BAHS Students - We are hoping that students in PE Leadership, Peer Leadership and those interested in a career in Early Childhood Education may be willing to volunteer some time in our K-5 schools to augment supervision of students who need it. (My sister and I did this in high school and it spurred our interest in a career in education.)

Three specific areas targeted for professional development in instruction, teaching and learning are:


  1. Transforming Schools Through Student Engagement 


  • Putting the powerful tools of measuring progress back in the hands of students

  • Igniting the capacity of students to take responsibility for their own learning and build independence, critical thinking skills, and perseverance

      2.  Collaborative Culture 

  • Helping educators build classrooms that are respectful, active, collaborative, and growth-oriented

  • Helping schools build school-wide structures, expectations and practices to elicit keen engagement, investment and performance on the part of students and staff 


       3.  Learning That Lasts


  • Challenging, Engaging and Empowering Students with Deeper Instruction


 Common Planning Time (CPT):  The primary purpose of common planning time is to

 bring teachers and other staff together to learn from one another and collaborate on projects that will lead to improvements in lesson quality, instructional effectiveness, and student achievement. These improvements result from (1) the improved coordination and communication that occurs among teachers who meet and talk regularly, (2) the learning, insights, and constructive feedback that occur during professional discussions among teachers, and (3) the lessons, units, materials, and resources that are created or improved when teachers work on them collaboratively. CPT will be planned and overseen by building principals, directors, teacher leaders and me to ensure that time is being well used as a vehicle to better meet the needs of our students. All professional staff will be trained in Team Leader Training in August, 2019 with the expectation that, over time, all professional staff will serve as leaders of their teams.  The uses of CPT will include:


  • Professional Discussions  - Teachers review lesson plans and assessments that have been used in a class, and then offer critical feedback and recommendations for improvement.  Teachers collaborate on lesson and unit planning, analyze student assessment data, and plan school-wide activities (school, grade level or department meetings).

  • Assessing Student Products and Performances  - Teachers assess one another’s student work products and performances,  with an eye to seeing patterns and trends in student performance that reflect instructional strengths and weaknesses.  Teachers then offer up recommendations and make commitments to try alternative strategies to elicit even better results. (For example, teachers may score student writing  using the district writing rubric for that grade level.) 

  • Diving into Assessment Data - Teachers analyze student-performance data to identify trends—such as which students are consistently failing or underperforming—and work collaboratively to develop and commit to using teaching and support strategies to help students. By discussing the students they have in common, teachers can develop a stronger understanding of the specific learning needs and abilities of certain students, which can then help them coordinate and improve how those students are taught.

  • Discussing Professional Literature - Teachers familiarize themselves with educational research through reading and sharing relevant texts. Focused and protocol-driven conversations help teachers discard teaching strategies that research and experience show to be ineffective, consider alternative methods, and then share with colleagues the impact of the change (e.g. “white board example” at BAHS).

  • Creating Courses and Integrated Units -  Teachers collaboratively work on lesson plans, assignments, projects, new courses,  integrated units. capstone projects, celebrations of learning (e.g. science fairs), learning pathways, personal learning plans and  portfolios.  Unified Arts teachers and specialists (i.e. art, music, theatre, PE, health teachers and school nurse, school counselors, school psychologists, social workers, speech therapists, etc) consider where their content areas overlap and bring alive another’s content area though planning together.

  • Response to Intervention and Individualized Student Plans -   Teacher teams work together to plan interventions for struggling students.  Teachers, parents, school counselors and administrators form SIT (Student Intervention Team) to create individualized plans for students who need these.

  • School Improvement Leadership Meetings -   Leadership meetings allow time for schools to identify goals and create plans to meet those goals (ESEA and Comprehensive Needs Plan).

  • Curriculum and Assessment Work - Rather than pull teachers out of classrooms to work on K-12 curriculum and assessment designs, and hire substitutes to teach students, time would already be built into the school calendar to do this important and foundational work..  

  • Professional Development and Training in the Use of Instructional Best Practices - Each school and area of the district will follow up on the professional development that was provided in August.

  • Training Mandated by Law - Districts are required to document and submit to the state evidence of training on a wide array of topics, including:  Blood Borne Pathogens, Affirmative Action, FERPA, Suicide Prevention and Mandatory Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect.

  • Safety Training - We need to train all staff in ALICE (Alert-LockDown - Inform- Counter and Evacuate  i.e. active shooter training) and our RSU 71 School Safety Plan and Protocols.


Support Staff Teams and TrainingSupport staff also need time to build capacity, to receive training and to work as members of a team.  Topics include: 

  • Safety Protocols in RSU 71 

  • New and improved methods in the fields of cleaning and maintenance

  • Review of job description and evaluation tools

  • CPR/First Aid

  • Behavior Management 101

  • Building Positive Culture on Teams (Custodial and Bus Garage Teams)

  • Attendance/Truancy Protocols and Policies

  • District Policies and Protocols


Intended Outcomes: Weekly Early Release Days will promote a variety of positive professional interactions and practices among staff in our schools:

  • Teachers and Educational Support Staff (ESP) will assume more leadership, responsibility, and greater personal investment in the school-and-system- improvement process.

  • Teachers and ESP will feel more confident and better equipped to address the learning needs of students, and more willing to engage in the kind of self-reflection that leads to professional growth and improvement.

  • School cultures will improve as work relationships grow stronger and more trusting, with staff interacting and communicating more productively.

  • Instructional innovation and 21st century pedagogy will be in evidence in all of our K-12 classrooms, with teachers and educational technicians consistently and daily applying new learning about effective  instructional techniques. 

  • Helped Out - Teachers will use more evidence-based approaches to designing lessons and delivering instruction.  Staff who are effective will be supported to become highly effective. Staff who are ineffective or not effective enough will be supported such that they may improve and maintain higher levels of day-to-day performance.  

Please return the enclosed need & interest form if you are: 1) a parent or guardian looking for assistance in planning and/or paying for Friday afternoon enrichment activities for your children or 2) a parent or guardian or family member interested in volunteering or contributing resources to families in need or 3) a high school student interested in volunteering some of your time on Friday afternoons.

Please feel free to be in touch with me if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,     

Mary Alice McLean, Superintendent of Schools, RSU # 71

*Click the PDF below to access the full letter and need & interest form.

Superintendent remarks at graduation

posted Jun 21, 2019, 1:02 PM by Dave Fournier

Greetings, BAHS Class of 2019, Parents, Friends, Family and RSU 71 Staff Members and Board of Directors,


The first time I was invited to give a graduation speech was in 1997 after having left Georges Valley High School, where I had taught English, to take over the principalship at the middle school that sat across the playing fields in Thomaston.  I was deeply honored to have been invited back by my former students to be their class speaker; but I took the honour rather too seriously and crafted a lecture reminiscent of the deep long lectures I’d loved at Harvard Divinity School, where I’d become certified to teach high school English through its program in Religion and Secondary Education.  The graduating class’s class motto was “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” a famous saying from Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher and reputed author of the Tao Te Ching.  I gave the speech all my might on the night before graduation and it was way too long. Today I speak to you as the superintendent of schools for RSU 71 and as your former high school principal and promise that I learned an important lesson that I’ve taken into account on this important day,  23 years later. I’ll be a brief 5 minutes.


We will miss this supremely talented class, its singing, its acting, its playing, deep thinking, sense of humor, exceptional accomplishment in science and writing and the visual arts, its talent in the trades, its service to the school and community, its kindness and charmingly affectionate and respectful ways with one another and even with adults. We hope you will come back to see us and your alma mater often.


The central metaphors I wish to consider today are only three, the first mountain, the second mountain and the valley in between. They are borrowed from a new book by one of my favorite modern writers, David Brooks, a conservative columnist for the NYT.  He describes the first mountain as being about individualism, a long process of self-discovery and self-promotion in which you rack up grades and credits, individual accomplishments and recommendations, resumes and medals, cords, stoles and , and many colorful feathers in your cap, as witnessed by the many graduates who today will barely be able to walk on stage from the weight of their accomplishments. Accolades and special accoutrements  or not every single  one of you has successfully made it to the top of the first mountain, a long and arduous climb to graduation after 13 or more years in public education, an accomplishment that  required a lot of very hard work. It has I hope led to the happiness I hope you all feel today, and know you all deserve, a warm inner bubbling feeling that comes from having successfully jumped through the many hoops that were set before you, to the satisfaction of your teachers, administrators, parents, school board and community. We have had high expectations of you.  You indeed met them and we are all here to recognize and congratulate these accomplishments.


The second mountain, according to Brooks,  is not so much about self-fulfillment, not so much about happiness in self-achievement and acquisition and more about the joy of forgetting yourself altogether. Attaining a deep calm joy derives from giving yourself altogether away through commitment to a cause or a person or a faith or institution or philosophy. OR to a career that will take all the talent and love and energy and time you can muster. On the second mountain you do not ask “What is in it for me?” or “How will this impact my GPA?” Rather, it is about how can I match my particular interests, talents, idiosyncrasies and proclivities to strengthen something that  needs strengthening in this world.


A couple of years ago at a graduation speech at Rockland’s MCST the keynote speaker was Peter Horch of Horch Roofing. Mr. Horch described finding his true calling when he had made time, at the very end of a very long hard day of work to pull his truck into the driveway of an elderly woman who lived alone and had a long-standing plumbing problem that badly needed fixing.  He pulled his tired self out of the truck and found that the sheer joy the old woman conveyed on her face and in her voice as she opened the door was a defining and transformational moment. Her joy energized him and awakened his own joy at having a skill set that was badly needed, not only by this woman, he realized in that moment, but by an entire community of people. He realized at that moment that he was indeed in possession of  a set of skills which he enjoyed using and that were badly needed. Since that moment he has built a very successful and remunerative business and is living a good life that is both profitable to him and of service to his community. “How can I make my family or community or world better because of the energy and interest I bring to solving problems and answering a call to duty and to service?” This is the question that gets answered on the second mountain.


The third metaphor is the valley, Brook’s description of the times when life hits you with terrible blows. It could be the death of a beloved friend or family member.  It could be a cancer diagnosis or health issue that precludes your doing the very thing you are best at. It could be the loss of a job or divorce or a bad break-up or addiction or indebtedness or emerging mental health crises that consumes you or one you love in a valley of darkness, sadness and depression. The valley is known by tragedy or failure of some kind.


Brooks argues that people usually have to go through some sort of a valley in order to make it to the second mountain.


I would argue instead that many of you already know all about life in the valley because many of you have been forcibly and repeatedly kicked right down the first mountain and into the valley, by circumstances beyond your control, such as the death of a friend or family member, or by poverty or the need to babysit instead of study, work instead of playing on a team or singing on a stage.


When I was climbing the first mountain during my own growing up years I often had to make what seemed like the tough choice to be purposely selfish on occasion, by hiding out at school or in the public library, where I couldn’t be hunted down, and also by working at a laundromat starting at age 14 so that I could get my homework done in relative peace, and have money to contribute to the family.  I had a wonderful and loving family with parents who strongly believed in service and in the social gospel of love, but it was through willingful selfishness that I carved out a place for personal achievement that ended up in the long run -- four degrees and several continents later -- being a source of great strength to a family I still love unequivocally . The big old leaky drafty home of my childhood was filled with children -- some adopted, some biological, some foster,  some wondering waifs, some international students -- who regularly found their way to our table, along with financially struggling college students from the nearby Framingham State who were thankful for a cheap place to stay -- and with adults the like of Raoul, AKA “Rocky” LaRocque, a talented artist whom my parents worked hard to get out of prison on parole. He later married a nun in Fall River Massachusett and we all went to the wedding. I share a couple of personal details as a way of illustrating that sometimes the very things that seem to trip you up, that seem to impede personal progress, end being the best of all training grounds for the growing of skills, skills such as constitutional endurance, depth of understanding and to mix metaphors, an ability to steer your ship successfully through turbulent waters. At the end of the day it hasn’t been the degrees I earned -- although I am grateful for them and found that they have helped me a great deal. You can take the skills that you may not wish to have had to develop prematurely and turn them into your strongest assets.


And so I conclude, within the five minutes promised, with three things:


  1. I congratulate you and wish you true happiness at this the pinnacle of your thirteen-year hike to the high school graduation, the summit of your first mountain.  

  2. I wish you -- during any valleys and second mountain hikes that lay ahead -- fortitude and the memory that you have been deeply loved by all of us present here today, who believe in you, who have given of ourselves for you, and who have loved you with whatever we have had to give, and in spite of our own limitations.  

  3. And 3, down the road a little way,  I wish you the joy of reaching a second mountain summit of self-forgetting, a time when all that you are and all that you know gushes forth with great joy in a distinctive life unique to you, a life of service, fulfillment and deep commitment.  


Thank you.


-Presented by Mary Alice McLean, Superintendent


Belfast Adult Education Celebrates Its Graduates

posted Jun 17, 2019, 4:04 AM by Betty Lu Davis

post Grad exuberance. Scotty and Ashlee.jpg

Belfast Adult Education Celebrates Its Graduates

You might be surprised to know that adult education graduates have goals that mirror those of traditional high school students:  Ashlee is committed to becoming a pediatric nurse. Alex plans to become an electrician. Odin has decided that he’ll go to college to study forensic science.  They are just three of the twelve students (of a total of thirteen) who participated in the Belfast Adult Education (BAE) annual graduation ceremony on the evening of Wednesday, June 5 in the Belfast Area High School gym.  All twelve students have ambitious college and/or career readiness goals and much cause to celebrate, having returned to school after significant life challenges interfered with the more traditional high school graduation pathway.

 

Wearing traditional caps and gowns, they marched to piano music performed by Lincoln Blake. They were welcomed onto the stage by BAE director, Darrell Gilman, BAE advisor, Marie Roberts, RSU 71 superintendent, Mary Alice McLean, and RSU 71 Board of Directors Chair, Caitlin Hills.

 

The ceremony included a message of congratulations from Superintendent McLean, who applauded students for achieving educational goals despite hardships they’d encountered along the way.  Two students, Ashlee Butler and Scotty Clark, stood at the podium to share the story of their educational journey. They described the tremendous obstacles they overcame before choosing an alternative educational pathway.  While their stories were unique and deeply personal, they highlighted the courage and resilience all adult learners must draw upon to accomplish goals that others often take for granted.  They also noted that caring relationships with adult ed staff gave them the confidence to see themselves as capable learners and the motivation to stick with the program.

 

As the ceremony drew to a close, the BAE advisor presented each student with a personal certificate describing their individual achievements, which was followed by the awarding of diplomas.  Students and their families gathered in the cafeteria to celebrate with cake, refreshments, and photo opportunities.

 

Graduates have reached this milestone by completing the High School Equivalency Test (commonly known as the HiSET) or by taking courses to complete the credits needed to receive their High School Diploma.  Some of the graduates have been working toward their graduation goal over a period of several years, while others have been able to graduate more quickly. 

 

The BAE graduating class list includes:  Michael Benjamin, Trapper Berard, Ashlee Butler, Scotty Clark, Alexander Cunningham, Corey Deschamps, Randy Elwell, II, Mazey McKeen, Loretta Mosher, Melinda O’Brien, Odin Scappaticci, Shylyn Skillings, and Wendall Tracy.

 

BAE provides year-round services in high school completion, workforce readiness, and college preparation for adult learners as well as one-on-one tutoring in reading, writing, math, and computer skills. If you are ready to start (or restart) your educational journey and work towards your goals with the support and guidance of a dedicated staff, take the next step and contact Belfast Adult Education at 338-3197. FMI, go to www.belfast.maineadulted.org or look for the BAE brochure in your mailbox early this fall, when it is mailed to every residence in Waldo County. 

ESEA Application for 2019-2020

posted Jun 4, 2019, 6:41 AM by Dave Fournier

Parents are invited to attend the July 8th RSU #71 School Board Meeting at the Troy Howard Middle School at 5:30 to be provided information about the tentative projects identified in the RSU #71 ESEA application. Please attend to have the opportunity to share feedback on the use of federal funds in our district.

Please click the link below to view the letter to parents with more information

Ames Students Honor Veterans Who Served

posted May 30, 2019, 4:26 AM by Betty Lu Davis

Ames students place flags at Grove Cemetery

Honor veterans who served
By Fran Gonzalez | May 24, 2019
Photo by: Fran GonzalezVFW Post Commander Anthony Kimble looks over a headstone with Ames Elementary students May 24 to decipher name and age and reflect on their dedication before placing a commemorative flag.

The entire Ames Elementary School in Searsmont turned out to commemorate fallen servicemen and women today by placing American Flags on graves sites at Grove Cemetery.

The event was sponsored by the Randall Collins Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3108, in preparation for the formal flag placement ceremony tomorrow.

Jim Roberts, VFW operations manager, said in a press release, "Every year the Belfast VFW places the American flags on grave sites on the Saturday before Memorial Day, but this year we are showing students, continuing our mission of 'Veterans in the classroom,' and having students witness, then practice, placing flags."

Post Commander Anthony Kimble encouraged students to say the veteran's name out loud, thank them for their service, notice their age and reflect on their dedication.

"Do this with respect and gratitude," he said.

Before placing flags, Ames fifth-graders sang "God Bless America," followed by Roberts playing "Taps."

"It is important," Kimble said, "not to take for granted the freedoms we have, which were paid for by the servicemen and women and their ultimate sacrifices.

"We will not forget," he said.

Principal Lori Smails said, "It was very meaningful for both students and staff to participate. Again, it really connects what we are teaching in the classroom to real-life events.

"Today's event was truly authentic learning. Students see the flags in our community or watch a ceremony on television, but participating in such an event brings learning to life, and also creates the sense of community we want to instill in our students."

Second grade teacher Sarah Nelson said she was thankful to Randall Collins VFW Post 3108 for reaching out to the Ames School for this educational opportunity.

"We have been most fortunate to partner with members of the VFW to foster patriotism and community volunteerism," she said.

"An event where each student places a flag on the final resting site of a service member shows our students the true meaning of Memorial Day, teaches flag etiquette and builds respect for those who have served."

Each Ames Elementary School student has a flag to place at the grave site of a serviceman or woman at Grove Cemetery May 24. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Ames students place flags with guidance from Bill Pollock, Post 3108 quartermaster, right, member May 24. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Ames Elementary School second grade teacher Sarah Nelson leads students into Grove Cemetery May 24 to place flags on the final resting places of servicemen and women and thank them for their service. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Ames Elementary fifth-graders sing "God Bless America" before placing flags at Grove Cemetery May 24. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Ames students with teacher Sarah Nelson, center, join in singing "God Bless America" at Grove Cemetery May 24. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
(Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
(Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)

"Girls on the Run" article

posted May 30, 2019, 4:23 AM by Betty Lu Davis

'Girls on the Run' heads to Husson for 5K run

Group promotes self-esteem and confidence for girls in grades 3-5
By Fran Gonzalez | May 23, 2019
Photo by: Fran GonzalezGirls on the Run team along with Coach Shannon Sommer, on left; Head Coach Kali McCarthy, Coach Cynthia Martell, parent volunteer Carol Bullock and Coach Greta Brown, kneeling, pose in their new T-shirts May 20. The group will march in the Belfast Memorial Day parade and will run a 5K at Husson College on June 9.

BELFAST — Co-coaches Shannon Sommer, Greta Brown and Cynthia Martell, along with head coach Kali McCarthy, have been busy pounding the pavement with a pack of "Girls on the Run" at Capt. Albert Stevens School in preparation for a big run.

Team members received bright pink "Run Like a Girl 5K" T-shirts May 20, courtesy of Inner Sense Screen Printing, for their upcoming run on June 9, at Husson College in Bangor. The Waldo County group will be joined by other teams from Penobscot, Knox, Hancock, Aroostook, Kennebec, Frankin and Washington counties, all taking part in the celebratory 5K event.

The nonprofit group is designed for girls in third through fifth grade and promotes self-esteem, team-building, kindness and working together, Coach Sommer said. They also talk about bullying, supporting one another and how to step in if they ever witness someone being bullied.

According to the group's website, the lessons are designed to build self-worth and help girls feel confident in who they are. Activities help girls recognize their personal strengths and teach them how to stand up for themselves and others.

The program culminates with girls performing a community service project. This year, Sommer said, they have chosen Vets and Pets as their own and will be making treats for pets of veterans. They will also march in the Memorial Day parade in Belfast.

The group was started two years ago at CASS and currently has 15 girls who meet Mondays and Wednesdays after school.

"It's a good combination of exercise, social skills and fun," Coach Martell said.

Girls on the Run practice for their 5K run at Capt. Albert Stevens School May 20, running around the school 15 times. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)
Girls on the Run prepare for a 5K run by running around Capt. Albert Stevens School 15 times. (Photo by: Fran Gonzalez)

Sixth-graders learn about littering, civic duty, during second annual Keeping Belfast Beautiful

posted May 7, 2019, 12:27 PM by Betty Lu Davis

Sixth-graders learn about littering, civic duty, during second annual Keeping Belfast Beautiful

By 
Erica Thoms


The Troy Howard Middle School’s sixth-grade team poses in front of the garbage they collected from Belfast’s streets May 2. (photo by Erica Thoms)
Left to right: Liza Cookson, Eliza Barrett, and Drew
Left to right: D.J. poses with Liza and Eliza. Connor stands far right. (photo by Erica Thoms)
(photo by Erica Thoms)
(photo by Erica Thoms)
One of the THMS group’s out cleaning poses for a picture May 2. (photo by Erica Thoms)

BELFAST — The second annual Keeping Belfast Beautiful event was a resounding success following community-wide efforts to clean the streets of Belfast May 2, 3, and 4.

While the main clean-up took place Saturday, May 4, one group of intrepid sixth graders and their teacher (and multiple other chaperones) decided to take to the streets a couple of days early, choosing to put in their efforts on Thursday, May 2, instead of the following day due to rain concerns.

Martha Conway-Cole is the social studies teacher for sixth graders enrolled at Troy Howard Middle School, and times the event to coincide with students studying the watershed.

“When we’re studying the watershed and the oceans we do a lot of research about how plastic is getting into our water supply and into our oceans. Generally the kids really connect to that, because they did see the cigarette butts, which were all around the storm drains, so you can see how when it’s really pouring rain it pours into the gutters and then pours down the storm drains and then the storm drains go right out to the beach and into the ocean,” she said, adding that the kids in her group were jumping over storm drains remarking about how many cigarette butts were near them.

Conway-Cole, who also took her then-sixth grade class for Keeping Belfast Beautiful’s inaugural event last year, said she plans to make the tradition an annual one for her students.

She said she was inspired to learn about what prompted event-founder and Belfast Police Sergeant John Gibbs to start the event, which was his own childhood in Monroe. Gibbs said that when he was growing up in Monroe there was an annual road clean-up that he really enjoyed, and wanted to bring that to Belfast.

As it would turn out, Conway-Cole had her own childhood experiences participating in civic duties on Earth Day each year. In addition to cleaning up near their school campus, she and fellow classmates would also plant trees, and plant native plants in wetlands that were found to improve water quality.

“I went back and they’re huge now, so that was kind of cool,” she said of the trees.

She said she was excited when Gibbs announced the event last year, especially given the potentially life-long effects on students who participate.

“It puts a seed in kids heads about community involvement and stewardship of the environment and they grow up and they spread it to the next community they’re living in, so that’s sort of what we’re looking at,” she said.

In addition to coinciding with their study of the watershed, participation in KBB is part of THMS’s civic standards, where kids take action in their community, and also provides valuable hours of screen-free time, where kids are really taking the time to talk to each other, Conway-Cole said.

Of their reaction to the event, Conway-Cole said the students really seemed to enjoy themselves.

“They talk about “what do we do to prevent people from throwing cigarette butts and what do we do to have less trash on the ground.” That’s one of my goals as a social studies teacher is to have them connect with social policy ideas,” she said, adding that several kids had ideas on ways to potentially curb peoples’ readiness to discard cigarette butts anytime, anywhere.

“So one kid said, “we should have higher fines for littering,” and another kid said, “what if the police spent some time each month giving citations to people who throw cigarette butts out the window?....” it certainly made sense to me,” she said of the suggestions.

“Maybe if people started thinking, “oh, I’m not actually allowed to do this, then maybe they’ll stop doing it,” she said.

When asked why she thinks so many people feel free to litter cigarette butts at will, Conway-Cole said she thinks some of it might be down to misconception.

“I think a lot of people think they’re biodegradable,” she said.

Cigarette butts are the number one type of refuse cleaned from shorelines worldwide each year, according to Dr. Sandra Curtis, of the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

During the 2017 International Coastal Cleanup Day, over 2.4 million cigarette butts were collected, which have filters made up of cellulose acetate - a type of plastic that is non-biodegradable.

Beyond being non-biodegradable, cigarette butts leach toxic chemicals into the water table. The chemicals, which include acetic acid, hexamine, arsenic, and chromium, can remain for up to 10 years and can be poisonous to fish or wildlife who may mistakenly ingest them. Cigarette butts can take up to 15 years to disintegrate.

“Last year my class wrote some letters to the hospital because they were seeing a large amount of cigarettes around the hospital, because people have to step off the campus of the hospital, so they basically throw them all out right there. I think I’m going to try to do some research gathering about who at the hospital to actually address the letters to so that we can maybe get some institutional response to that.”

Conway-Cole said her group gathered a similar amount of trash as last year’s group did, including similar numbers of cigarettes near Waldo County General Hospital, where there are currently no trash receptacles in the front area where people frequently smoke.

“Obviously it’s not the hospital's fault, but some education and receptacles would probably help,” she said.

Conway-Cole wasn’t the only THMS participant to mention cigarette butts, with one of her students, Connor, offering words of advice to would-be litterers.

“We did this ‘cause we gotta keep the ocean clean mostly because when you get all this stuff it’s going to get washed up and go down drains and it's going to come out into the ocean and it's going to start killing the environment. Also if you’re going to smoke, do not throw your cigarettes out onto the road, hold onto them until you get to a place where you can throw them out because we found at least a hundred,” he said.

Connor said it was his first time participating in the event, which he described as nice, saying “I got a lot of exercise, found some cool things. I found half of a tire…,” he said, though he was unsure of exactly where he found it.

Classmate Drew said the event went well and his group found a lot of trash. He also had succinct advice for litterbugs. “Don’t litter, it’s an idiot move,” he said.

Another man of few words, fellow classmate D.J. said that people should keep Belfast beautiful and “work for the environment.”

Fellow classmate Eliza Barrett said she saw a lot of cigarette butts during the pick-up, which was what she was expecting. Barrett said she would tell people to stop littering and use the trash cans, “that’s why they’re there. The ground is not a trash can,” she said.

As for why she thinks people choose to litter instead of bringing their garbage to an actual trash can, Barrett said she thinks it’s down to laziness.

“They’re too lazy, or they think that other people are going to pick it up for them,” she said, adding that everyone should pick up their own trash.

Classmate Liza Cookson said she thought the event was kind of fun.

“I think it was kind of fun to help Belfast be beautiful again, I guess,” she said. Cookson said they mostly saw cigarette butts and bottles on their route.

“I feel like it’s a good thing ‘cause we’re helping the environment,” she said of spending her time cleaning the streets. Cookson had similar sentiments to share with litterers, saying “People should stop littering, there [are] trash cans.”

For Conway-Cole, and for all of Belfast, the second annual Keeping Belfast Beautiful cleanup, was a resounding success.

“I think it’s really nice to have children get involved in their communities in tangible ways that actually make a difference, so whether parents do it, or boy scouts or girl scouts do it, it makes a difference; it changes kid,” she said. “I know it changed me and its part of why I make sure it happens.”

While the first year of the event netted 4.27 tons of trash, the second annual KBB surpassed that mark by over a ton, with 5.43 tons cleaned from Belfast’s streets by roughly 600 volunteers during the May 4 event.

RSU 71 Budget Booklet Is Now Available

posted May 6, 2019, 11:04 AM by RSU71 Webmaster   [ updated May 6, 2019, 11:11 AM ]

Everything you need to know about the proposed 2019-2020 is in the RSU 71 Budget Booklet.  You can find the booklet here along with all other proposed budget resources such as the proposed budget report and board meeting videos.

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