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Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, March 22, 2012
DIS high school principal outlines improvements at education breakfast

Deer Isle-Stonington CSD Archive
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by Faith DeAmbrose

A third annual business and education partnership breakfast, hosted by the Stonington Economic Development Committee, took place March 12, and topping the agenda was a progress report from Deer Isle-Stonington High School Principal Todd West. In the areas on which he reported, West said improvements in basic reading and writing skills continue to improve and goals have been established in other areas such as post-secondary preparedness.

Elementary school Principal Mike Benjamin, who has participated in the breakfast for the last two years, was not in attendance for reasons that West said were unexpected and unavoidable.

Focusing on matters at the high school, West said three goals have been established:

• every student entering high school in ninth grade will get a diploma;

• all students will learn proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics; and

• students will learn “higher order thinking skills,” meaning they will learn to become clear and effective communicators.

“So, how are we doing?” asked West, who then proceeded to answer the question.

“We are on pace to graduate 86 percent of the students who entered the school in 2008,” he said, adding that those who graduate are required to keep a portfolio geared toward the development of higher order thinking skills. The portfolio is graded and is a requirement of graduation.

West spoke briefly about the addition of advanced placement, or AP, courses, explaining that two years ago one AP class in calculus was offered, and this year there are AP courses in literature and composition, statistics, physics, and next year a course in U.S. history will be added.

The high school is also working with area colleges to offer free courses for college credit to students who qualify. The program occurs on a case-by-case basis, said West.

In addition to learning skills necessary for advancement to college, the school is also planning to expand its “On Your Own” class, possibly next year, to be a mandatory course for graduation. The On Your Own class is taken by seniors; the curriculum involves basic life skills work such as financial literacy, basic job and other skills needed for life preparedness. The course will help students who are not planning to go on to college learn valuable skills they can use in the real world, according to West.

After hearing an update from West, the meeting shifted to discuss the Ready by 21 program and its second job shadow day.

Ready by 21 is done in partnership with Sedgwick-based Healthy Peninsula. HP Executive Director Amy Vaughn called the approach “cradle to career,” and said the goal is to fully prepare students and young adults for life’s challenges in a variety of ways. Currently under the Ready by 21 model, Vaughn runs the high school’s Real World 101 class that brings professionals into the classroom to share experiences and knowledge with students.

The high school job shadow day, in its second year, will take place Monday, May 7, explained Jane Osborne, who has helped organize the program. She said last year’s effort was “successful.” She said the school is working with students to identify their interests and then will reach out to the local businesses that match those interests.

Later in the month, HP will host an Early Childhood Health Fair at the Island Medical Center that will screen infants and toddlers in a number of areas. Through the child development screenings specifically, said Vaughn, professionals can identify developmental delays and hopefully reduce special education costs. Vaughn said 25 percent of students at the elementary school receive special education services; that number is 10 percent higher than the state average.