Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 1, 2018
Survey shows support for Brooklin School
by Tevlin Schuetz
Over half of those who responded to a survey addressing the future of the Brooklin School believe it is vital to the community.
The results of the online survey were the focus of a late afternoon meeting on January 23. Around 40 people attended, and consultant Mary Jane McCallum facilitated the event.
McCallum summarized the results and explained the metrics of the survey before attendees organized into small discussion groups to further examine and interpret the findings.
In answering a question regarding the importance of Brooklin having its own school, a majority of survey respondents indicated strong support, with 51.72 percent having selected the “extremely important” box, while 12.07 percent answered “not at all important.” The remaining responses were skewed toward supporting the school’s presence in the community.
When asked by The Weekly Packet if these results were typical, McCallum answered, “Yes, especially with elementary schools.”
Having worked around the state, she has seen this pattern often, she said.
“A school is the heart of a community, and [people worry] that if it goes away, no one will move there,” McCallum said.
She is also currently consulting with the Deer Isle-Stonington school district, where “they don’t want to lose the high school,” she said.
McCallum was hired by the Brooklin school board last summer to assist in information gathering, as the board and community explore options for the school’s future. She created the online survey and compiled the results for people to review.
McCallum noted the most common responses but also included less frequent ones because they can be valuable, too.
“Sometimes there is a gem of an idea,” she said.
Survey participants were asked a variety of questions—ranging from how they would describe the school to what they consider to be its strengths and weaknesses—and were prompted to define the ideal relationship between the school and the community. They were also asked to identify important characteristics they would want to see in students coming out of the school and what their skill sets should be.
The Brooklin School’s small size may be a blessing and a curse, being the pivotal characteristic with regard to strengths and weaknesses, according to survey results. It was the number one factor identified as a strength (just above talented and dedicated staff), making education a more personal experience for students. On the flip side, however, it was overwhelmingly the most commonly named weakness and was associated with the school being isolated.
Chief among the respondents’ aspirations for the school was offering students a challenging, rich, and community-based educational experience; the biggest fears expressed were the decline in enrollment and families moving out of town, school closure and consolidation with another school.
The discussion groups sifted through the survey responses, and they came up with ideas for ways to sustain and improve the school. One group’s idea was to develop unique learning opportunities to increase enrollment, while another suggested having a volunteer coordinator position for a stronger school-to-community connection.
McCallum revealed the makeup of the survey respondents: 49 identified themselves as parents of current students; 13 were school staff; 23 were students; 107 identified as community members; 17 were business owners; 47 former students or their parents responded.
At the meeting’s conclusion, school board member Libby Chamberlain said the strategic planning committee will build a vision statement and mission plan for the school, incorporating ideas and concepts gleaned from the meeting. She also noted that the committee is seeking a few more volunteers to help contribute to the process.