News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, June 6, 2013
Timetable, content of Island school system strategic plan debated

Deer Isle-Stonington CSD Archive
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by Jessica Brophy

Much of the CSD 13 school board’s Tuesday, June 4, meeting centered on discussion of the school’s strategic plan.

Community member Suzanne Ruch, an active member of the Strategic Plan Committee, said that she was disappointed, confused and frustrated by Superintendent Mark Jenkins’ presentation on the strategic plan at the May 22 board meeting. “I started serving on the committee almost two years ago, and we all did a lot of work and we just stopped cold last spring,” said Ruch, who said she had asked for updates on the progress of the strategic plan three times in the year since. She said the committee had left off with a directive to the school system staff to “really grapple with the draft” and then come back to the community at large with a revised draft.

“My sense is that involvement [of school staff] has been minimal at best,” said Ruch. “I’m really frustrated, it feels like a lot of scurrying last minute to get this done. A lot of people spent a lot of time on the front end of this, and I feel like a whole year has gone by with nothing.”

Elementary school art teacher Shannon Westphal said she and other teachers were confused by a request from Jenkins to help narrow the scope of the plan to a few key ideas to turn into action steps. She suggested an all-staff meeting to walk through the document, perhaps identifying a few action steps for the following year with more effort next year to identify others for the rest of the five-year plan.

Third-grade teacher Judy Rhodes said it was the end of the year and teachers are working on putting together report cards and teaching, and there might be difficulty in finding time to work on the strategic plan.

Board chairman Mark Cormier said there had been some discussion at the board level of delaying the strategic plan for a year.

Board member Andy Vaughn said the school system might be “better served” by an interim, one-year plan, so that next year there can be a “real process involving teachers, staff and community.” He suggested a timetable for that work to be complete by January of 2014.

Jenkins said it would probably make sense to attempt to get a one-year outline of action steps in place and then move on to the full strategic plan over the course of the fall. Discussion of the strategic plan will continue at a school board workshop scheduled for Wednesday, June 19, at 8 a.m. The location for that meeting has not been determined.

In other business, the board approved the hire of Jean Vadeboncoeur as a K-2 literacy specialist (6-0). Vadeboncoeur currently teaches in Auburn and has substantial education and experience in literacy teaching, said Jenkins.

Elementary school principal Mike Benjamin shared results from DIBELS assessment, which examines early literacy skills. Overall, the results show a slight improvement from the beginning of the year. Vaughn asked what specific efforts were being made to target those students who are below or well below benchmark. Specifically, he pointed to the 19 out of 50 seventh-graders below or well below benchmark, and asked whether there were efforts planned to support those students.

“We’re not going to target just those 19 kids,” said Benjamin. He said there were overall efforts of test question practice, so students will know what is expected of them. Benjamin said there are also efforts underway to review the school’s current writing program and to improve it.

During the elementary school principal’s report, board member Linda Nelson said she would like to see an updated and specific school improvement plan with benchmarks, and would like to see that plan communicated clearly to the public. She pointed to the high school’s plan, which she said has shaped the efforts at the high school over the past few years and is posted on the school’s website.

CSD School Board

Next meeting Tuesday, July 2, 5:30 p.m.

at Deer Isle Stonington High School