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On March 9, the Maine Education Commissioner identified the Deer Isle-Stonington High School as one of 10 Maine schools with “low levels of proficiency in math and reading over a three-year period and a low level of improvement.” Based on this determination, our school is eligible to share in $12 million in federal school improvements grants.
The school board must decide by Friday, April 2, if it wants to compete for the funds by selecting one of four school improvement models and then prepare a formal grant application by Friday, May 7.
The Stonington Economic Development Committee does not endorse the methods used to select Deer Isle-Stonington High School as a low-performing school, nor does it advocate for any one of the four school improvement models. However, we view this moment as providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring new resources to support substantial improvement in our schools that will benefit our students, families and the economic well-being of our island long into the future.
The members of the SEDC unanimously recommend that the school board seize this opportunity by indicating their interest in applying for the grant now and to begin to deliberate which school improvement model has the potential for leading to the greatest benefit for our students.
Our interest in school improvement comes from our recognition that many of our students are not well prepared for the world of work when they finish their secondary education. On January 7 the SEDC had a meeting to discuss job readiness of our young people with high school Principal Todd West and elementary Principal Mike Benjamin and about 15 Island business leaders.
One of the major concerns identified by business leaders was that many students entering the work force lack basic job readiness skills in literacy, math, customer service and basic computer skills, including mastery of software programs such as Excel and Quick Books. Without these skills, many of our young people have difficulty securing stable entry-level jobs that pay decent wages. Simply put, businesses will not hire them or retain them on their staff.
Whether or not we endorse the Commissioner’s findings, the fact is that it will be hard to attract people or businesses to invest here if our schools are viewed as consistently underperforming other Maine schools.
As the school board reviews this opportunity, we urge them to open the discussion to the entire community and to create a diverse committee to formulate a strategy that will lead to the transformation we are all seeking.
Dan Hadley, Chairman, Stonington Economic Development Committee
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