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BAHS Juniors Win Awards

posted Jun 25, 2019, 9:11 AM by RSU71 Webmaster   [ updated Jun 25, 2019, 9:11 AM ]

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. 

Belfast Swings to First Regional Boys Tennis Title

posted Jun 5, 2019, 8:00 AM by Betty Lu Davis

High school sports

Net gain: Belfast swings to first regional boys tennis title

In battle of unbeatens, Lions outlast Caribou 3-2 at Bates College
By Zack Miller | Jun 05, 2019
Photo by: Zack MillerThe 2019 Class B North boys tennis champions from Belfast Area High School.
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LEWISTON — For the first time in school history, the Belfast Area High School boys tennis team will play for the state Class B championship.

That is because, in a battle of unbeaten opponents, the No. 2 Lions (15-0) outlasted No. 1 Caribou (14-1) 3-2 in the Class B North title match on Tuesday afternoon, June 4 at Bates College.

The victory earned the talented Waldo County court squad, led by coach Scott Benzie and assisted by John Cameron, its first regional title and berth in a state championship match.

Watch video below. Photos from this match will appear later with this story.

Belfast will play the winner of Yarmouth and Freeport for the coveted state crown on Saturday, June 8 at 12:45 p.m. at Lewiston High School.

Freeport (12-1) is ranked first and Yarmouth (13-1) third.

Belfast and Caribou did not play during the regular season.

Earlier in the regional playoffs, Belfast beat No. 7 Old Town 5-0 and No. 6 John Bapst of Bangor 4-1. Caribou defeated No. 9 Erskine Academy of South China 3-2 and No. 5 Waterville 4-1 previously in the postseason.

"You can't replace this (feeling)," said Benzie. "I've been in a few (state championships) as a coach and a player, and you always think back to the events that happened. I'm 62 years old and I can still remember the things I did when I was 18. This is something these kids are going to remember for a very long time."

"I think it's great to make it all this way, especially after a great season," said Lion senior Sam Spectre. "It was nice [when we clinched]. Kyle [Agbuya] jumped in my arms, and it was a lot of fun."

"I was really happy," said Agbuya. "I don't know what to say. It feels really good [to be the first Belfast team to go to states]."

"We began feeding off Josh [Chun] and Eli [Jolliffe] (at the beginning of the season)," said Benzie. "They are the ones that got things going, and then we found a couple of athletes. The rest of the team has very little experience. There are three to four guys that have only played for two years, and [Bonarrigo] picked up a racket eight weeks ago. They've gelled, and the doubles have played well, and really stood up today."

The individual results, with Lion players listed first, were: In singles, Josh Chun lost to Parker Duprey, 2-6, 6-7 (5); Eli Jolliffe beat Sawyer Deprey, 6-2, 6-3; and Max Lewis lost to Gabe Rand, 2-6, 2-6.

In doubles, Dyllan Clark and Bonarrigo beat Aidan Plante and Cody Martin, 6-1, 6-4; and Spectre and Agbuya beat Brevin Barnes and Logan Cheplie, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Lions Robertson-McIntire, Hansen state Class B champs

posted Jun 5, 2019, 7:58 AM by Betty Lu Davis

High school track and field

Double-trouble: Lions Robertson-McIntire, Hansen state Class B champs

BAHS' girls 4x100-meter relay, which includes Lagerbom, Bruns, Banks, Robertson-McIntire, also first
By Staff | Jun 03, 2019
Photo by: Mark Haskell
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BREWER — For years, two Belfast Area High School student-athletes — Junne Robertson-McIntire and Jack Hansen — have set a high standard — a state-championship standard — of success for the always-deep, ultra-talented Lion winter and spring track-and-field teams.

The pair did it again on Saturday, June 1 in the state Class B championship meet.

The teammates won two individual state titles, while Robertson-McIntire also was a member of a first-place relay team and another runner-up foursome.

Overall, it was another tremendous day for the Lions, again buoyed by the standout efforts of Robertson-McIntire and Hansen.

Watch video and see more photos below.

Robertson-McIntire, one of the finest sprinters in New England, finished first in the 100 and 200 meters, and as the final leg of the winning 4x100-meter relay that also included Audrey Lagerbom, Lindsay Bruns and Mackenzie Banks.

Perhaps even more impressively, Robertson-McIntire had to run the 100 meters three times on day. She ran a prelim 100 to see which runners qualified for the finals, but a malfunction in the electronic timing equipment forced the athletes to make that same 100-meter sprint twice in the prelims and, for a few, like Robertson-McIntire, once in the finals.

The junior prevailed in all three runs.

Additionally, Hansen, one of the finest all-around athletes in New England, soared to titles in the triple jump and pole vault.

Also of note for the Lions was the fact Max Lewis played, and won, his third singles tennis match in Belfast's Class B North semifinal playoff victory over John Bapst of Bangor on Saturday morning in Belfast before he traveled to Brewer to finish seventh in the state high jump at five feet and eight inches.

"It was pretty stressful to be honest," Lewis said. "I woke up and went to tennis, and they changed the schedule so I could compete first."

To add to the stress, John Bapst was late because of transportation issues. The matches were scheduled to start at 10 a.m., but did not get underway until 11:15.

"That made everything tighter," Lewis said. "John Bapst arriving late really added to the stress. I arrived in Brewer around 1:45, and I was scheduled to jump at 2 p.m. I had to change and warmup in 15 minutes.

"It was a pretty big relief when I got to track. I was stressing really bad on the way up there hoping I would make it. (The) tennis (matches) affected me a lot. My legs were really tired. I had jumped 6-foot 2-inches in practice, which would have won [the title], and 6-feet normally, but [I jumped] 5-foot 8-inches at the meet. It was a big difference and I was pretty upset with myself."

The Lions had to reach qualifying distances, times and heights during previous meets to earn spots in the state championship meet.

The state champs, among others, qualified for the New England championships on Saturday, June 8 in Saco.

The New England qualifiers from Maine are based on the performances at the three state meets (Class A at Lewiston, Class B at Brewer and Class C at Mount Blue). The state champs in each event from the three classes and the next three best performances will qualify for the New England meet.

If one or more of the six qualifiers decides not to compete, then the New England field from Maine will be filled with the next best performances from the state meets.

The state Class B girls team scores were: Brewer 84, York 70, Cony of Augusta 59, Belfast 53, Old Town 51, Greely of Cumberland 45, Winslow 44, Waterville 27, Mount Blue of Farmington 25, Cape Elizabeth 24, Leavitt of Turner 24, Freeport 21, Mount Desert Island 19, Lawrence of Fairfield 18, Gray-New Gloucester 17, Lincoln Academy of Newcastle 9, Medomak Valley of Waldoboro 8, Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield 8, Lake Region 8, Camden Hills of Rockport 7.5, John Bapst of Bangor 5, Poland 4.5, Ellsworth 4, Presque Isle 4, Yarmouth 3, Gardiner 2 and Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft 2.

The state Class B boys team scores were: York 63.33, Greely 53, Mount Desert Island 40, Belfast 39.5, Hermon 38, Presque Isle 38, Brewer 35.5, Cape Elizabeth 32.5, Erskine Academy of South China 31.33, Old Town 31, Lincoln Academy 27, Nokomis of Newport 26, Yarmouth 25, Waterville 22, Cony of Augusta 20, Camden Hills 18, Freeport 18, Maine Central Institute 18, Foxcroft Academy 14, Morse of Bath 11, Mount Blue 9, Oceanside of Rockland 8, Fryeburg Academy 6, Leavitt 6, Ellsworth 6, Gray-New Gloucester 5, Gardiner 4, Lawrence 3, Medomak Valley 1 and John Bapst 0.5.

The Belfast girls individual and relay results were:

4x800-meter relay — 7, Belfast (Mallory Tibbetts, Kayla Payson, Hannah Sanderson, Lindsay Bruns), 10:35.71.

100 meters — (prelims) 1, Junne Robertson-McIntire, 12.71; and 29, Audrey Lagerbom, 14.11.

100 meters — (finals) 1, Junne Robertson-McIntire, 12.61.

4x100-meter relay — 1, Belfast (Audrey Lagerbom, Lindsay Bruns, Mackenzie Banks, Junne Robertson-McIntire), 51.97.

800 meters — 20, Mallory Tibbetts, 2:39.13.

200 meters — 1, Junne Robertson-McIntire, 26.32.

4x400-meter relay — 2, Belfast (Lindsay Bruns, Ada Potter, Lillie Mitchell, Junne Robertson-McIntire), 4:18.25.

High jump — 3, Lia Frazee, 5-0.

Long jump — 20, Lillie Mitchell, 13-9.

Triple jump — 6, Lia Frazee, 32-6.5; and 9, Lillie Mitchell, 31-08.75.

Javelin — 3, Shera Hilt, Bel, 107-10.

Discus — 13, Cali Joseph, 92-7; and 15, Katie Ritchie, 90-10.

Shot put — 12, Katie Ritchie, 30-4.

Pole vault — 8, Lillie Mitchell, 8-6; and 9, Lia Frazee, 7-9.

The Belfast boys individual and relay results were:

4x800-meter relay — 16, Belfast (Brian Rollerson, Matthew Kelley, Joseph Potter, Zachary Armstrong), 9:49.94.

110-meter hurdles — (prelims) 5, Jack Hansen, 16.38.

110-meter hurdles — (finals) 4, Jack Hansen, 16.07.

100 meters — (prelims) 3, Cole Martin, 11.64; and 15, Donovin Armstrong, 12.00.

100 meters — (finals) 8, Cole Martin, 11.75.

4x100-meter relay — 2, Belfast (Donovin Armstrong, Jon Duso, Cole Martin, Andrew Akles), 45.25.

400 meters — 12, Andrew Akles, 54.28.

3,200 meters — 9, Miles Cannon, 10:30.37.

4x400-meter relay — 8, Belfast (Donovin Armstrong, Jon Duso, Gary Moline, Andrew Akles), 3:42.02.

High jump — 7, Max Lewis, 5-8.

Long jump — 3, Jack Hansen, 21-00.75; 8, Jon Duso, 19-10; and 12, Cole Martin, 19-0.

Triple jump — 1, Jack Hansen, 43-6.75; and 7, Jon Duso, 40-7.75.

Pole vault — 1, Jack Hansen, 14-0; and 16, Nicholas Ritchie, 10-6.

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)

Early Release Schedule for Professional Development

posted May 15, 2019, 3:34 PM by Dave Fournier   [ updated May 21, 2019, 9:36 AM by Jason Tozer ]

After considerable deliberation spanning several months, the RSU 71 School Board approved a weekly early release for all students district-wide in order to support a district goal of improved and expanded professional development time for educators and training for district employees.

The Board of Directors has been entertaining the concept of a more consistent professional development model for the last several meetings, with in depth discussion occurring on February 25th,   April 29th, and May 13th. The ideas that were presented regarding expanded professional development options included:

  1. late start vs. early release,

  2. elimination of a week of vacation,

  3. snow day make-up

  4. scheduling  PD days in August before the students arrive in September and then doing weekly follow-up during early release days.

The purpose of expanding professional development opportunities  are as follows:

  1. Leaders of Their Own Learning: Transforming Schools Through Student-Engaged Assessment

  • 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 need to be planned and overseen by building principals, directors and teacher leaders to ensure that time is being well used as a vehicle to better meet the needs of our students. All professional staff will need to 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.

  • 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 assess 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 a SIT (Student Intervention Team) to create an 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.

  • Department Meetings -   Department meetings allow teachers to collaborate on lesson and unit planning, analyze student assessment data, and plan school-wide activities..

  • Curriculum and Assessment Work - Rather than pull teachers out of classrooms to work on curriculum and assessment, 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 Training:  Support 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

  • Behavior Management 101

  • Building Positive Culture on Teams (Custodial 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 “helped out” to improve and maintain higher levels of day-to-day performance.  Staff who do not demonstrate necessary improvement in a timely way will be “helped out” of the district (to other employment).

The discussion on May 13th revolved around understanding the timing of dismissal, goals of teacher use of the PD time, and possibilities to support families in securing childcare for early release afternoons.

During the Board meeting on May 13th, Board Member Josh Solebello, “We are investing in our teachers and we are going to have a better experience for our kids. Our kids are going to get a better experience because we are going to have stronger teachers because they are going to have an opportunity to collaborate that they don’t have today.”  

Superintendent MaryAlice McLean stated at the same meeting,  “The elementary schools will get far more professional development time with this model, but that compensates for the fact that currently they have virtually no common planning time where the middle school and high school have some of that time currently built into their schedule. We have tremendous strengths but there is room for improvement; and that really rests on time to come together as teachers and support staff.”

While the Board of Directors is keenly aware of the challenges that families will have to account for with an increase in early release days, the Board believes that in order to meet our goals as a district common planning time must be included for teachers to collaborate around curriculum and students.

Specific details regarding the Early Release Plan are as follows:

  • Full day Professional Development days during the school year have been eliminated and replaced with 5 professional days in August.

  • For the 19-20 academic year K-5 students will be released at 11:45pm every Friday afternoon.  (The order of the typical dismissal time would be reversed, with elementary schools released first because elementary teachers have so much less planning time, and minimal common planning time.)

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

  • Sports practices for THMS and BAHS will follow the regular schedule.

  • All district teachers and staff will be working normally contracted hours on those Fridays.

Agendas of all RSU 71 school board meetings are posted 7 days ahead of time on the RSU 71 website, and videos of all meetings are posted within a few days of each meeting. http://www.rsu71.org/home/board-of-directors/board-meeting-videos.

Public participation on agenda items at each meeting are always welcome.

Mary Alice McLean

Superintendent of Schools RSU #71

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

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.

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