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by Anne Berleant
School board members heard an update from Union 93 Curriculum Coordinator Rachel Kohrman Ramos at their July 11 meeting, and then unanimously voted to form its own standing curriculum committee for the school. As in past years, working on the Blue Hill Consolidated School curriculum is a board goal for 2012-13.
“All [past BHCS] curriculum work has come from within the school,” said board member Ben Wootten.
Wootten made the successful motion to form a curriculum committee “of two board members” and principal Della Martin.
“Blue Hill is very geocentric. We’re really not interested in what’s going on at other schools,” said Wootten, who volunteered for the committee, along with Annie Rice.
When asked about Ramos’ participation in the committee, Wootten said the standing committee would be in touch with her “when appropriate.”
“Wouldn’t it be good to have a teacher [on the committee]?” asked second grade teacher Kathy Hally.
The board agreed that teachers should “rotate” through the standing committee at its request,.
Ramos was hired last December to implement the national Common Core standards in the five Union 93 schools (Blue Hill, Surry, Castine, Penobscot and Brooksville) by September, in line with Maine’s expectations for state public schools. Her salary is funded by a two-year grant to the union.
“I’m here to start the conversation that needs to be started,” Ramos said shortly after beginning her position. Her goal was “consistency across the Union” in curriculums for each grade, so that all students meet the Common Core bench marks.
Toward that end, Ramos pulled teachers from all schools this spring to work together creating a curriculum map, which sets learning targets aligned with the Common Core, and to share teaching strategies. This lets the following grade teacher know where students’ knowledge begins and ends in a particular content area, and parents to know the academic expectations of their children in the classroom. It also facilitates a smooth academic transition when a student moves to another school district within the union.
“In six months, we’ve gone from having no curriculum map to having [one] union-wide,” Ramos said. “Every teacher had a hand in it.”
The curriculum map will be online in August at schoolunion93.com, Ramos said.
Ramos also outlined the Physical Sciences Partnership program that will put project-based learning in middle school science classes. The program is run through the University of Maine at Orono and funded by the National Science Foundation. Ramos applied for the program grant for Union 93, with Blue Hill, Surry and Castine participating this year.
The hands-on, physical process will “boost motivation for students to do science,” Ramos said.
An additional new program, Ramos said, was a Union 93 gifted and talented program that will be “ready to go” in the first trimester of the upcoming school year.
While no Union 93 school currently runs a gifted and talented program, “there is differentiated teaching to students in all the schools” because of the small classes, Superintendent Mark Hurvitt said when contacted by phone. “But certainly we could do more.”
AYP status reached in math, not reading
Principal Della Martin reported that the class entering sixth grade this fall did not meet AYP standards for reading.
Last year, that same class failed to meet AYP in math, and the school was placed on “monitor status.”
“Adequate yearly progress,” or AYP, is a federally designated status to ensure economically disadvantaged students do not perform at lower standards than other students at schools that receive Title I funding and is mandated by the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. (Economically disadvantaged students are defined as those qualifying for free or reduced meals.) Maine assesses all students’ performance through yearly NECAP (New England Comprehensive Assessment Program) testing.
Economically disadvantaged students performed 11 points lower in reading than other students in that class, Martin said, while the statewide average was a seven-point gap. In attendance, the AYP standard was met “by one point.” The school has not been placed on formal School Improvement Status, a consequence of not meeting AYP standards for two consecutive years.
Martin said that RTI (Response to Intervention) teachers would work with the upcoming sixth graders in reading and continue to reinforce math.
“[There is] a lot of work to do with the sixth grade students,” Martin said, with “the same group” struggling as they have moved through the school.
“We’re also looking at ways to enrich the environment for students after school,” Martin said in a follow-up interview, calling the “aspirations of these kids” the main issue. “They do function better than [the NECAPs] seem to indicate, but they don’t see the value of the test. We traditionally have not taught to the test.”
While 30 states were granted a waiver in meeting AYP standards for 2011-12, Maine did not follow through on initial plans to apply, Hurvitt said.
“The school ought to do our best for them, but there’s no guarantee [the situation] will get better,” said board member John Richardson.
When asked why students have not repeated grades to address the issue, Martin said students have been recommended for retention, but parents have resisted.
On this issue, “this school has chosen not to go into battle,” Hurvitt said.
Use of security cameras approved
The board approved installing hallway and outside security cameras, from a proposal by Franklin Burke, supervisor of buildings and grounds, and Matt Jurick, technology teacher, at a cost of $5,138.
The proposal was spurred by two break-ins at the school last May. Fundraising money was stolen during the break-ins.
Chairman Jon Smallidge reported community “discomfort” over students being watched on screen.
“No one is allowed to have access unless you want them to watch it,” Burke said. He pointed out that the cost of installing the system equals the approximate cost of replacing two school laptops.
The cameras will by no means be used to monitor teachers or staff,” Smallidge said, and will not be used in classrooms.
The vote was 4-1, with Susan Keenan against the motion.
In other business, the board approved one unpaid leave request for 2012-13 and denied a second request. The vote was 3-0-2 to grant school librarian Beth Jackson a three-month unpaid leave of absence (Richardson and Wootten abstaining). Spanish teacher Silvana Cuello was denied her request for a one-year unpaid leave of absence (0-4-1, Richardson abstaining).
Kathy Hally’s request for a three-month sabbatical starting in February 2013, to study how reading is taught in New Zealand, was unanimously approved.
The board next meets on Wednesday, August 8, 5 p.m., at the school.