Wiscasset School Committee

Superintendent announces program reviews, strategic planning

Posted:  Wednesday, September 13, 2017 - 7:45am

At its first meeting of the school year Tuesday night, the Wiscasset School Committee welcomed new teachers and educational technicians, appointed member Jason Putnam to the sixth grade ad hoc committee, learned about new steps in a systemic strategic plan, and learned about federal program reviews for Title I and nutrition programs.

The new teachers will be Kathleen Bridges, a grade three classroom teacher, Caroline Ridout, a grade eight English language arts teacher, and Rachel Hamlin, a district-wide gifted and talented education teacher. The three new educational technicians announced were Tracy Johnson, Anne Wright and Caitlin Ramsay. There are still two open ed tech positions in the high school’s aspirations program.

The sixth grade ad hoc committee is working to move the sixth grade to Wiscasset Middle High School. Plans already exist to reconfigure the school next year to allow the entire middle school to be together in one wing, while the former technical school area will be reconfigured to accommodate a new technology area as part of a greater focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. The schools received a Title IV grant for just under $10,000, to provide a well-rounded education, improving school conditions for student success, and the effective use of technology. Curriculum Coordinator Patricia Watts is writing a separate grant application to support the continued development of the STEM program, with the integration of technology.

Superintendent Heather Wilmot said that auditors are currently reviewing the department’s finances, and a draft audit report is expected shortly. She said the goal is to bring the finance committee and the town’s budget committee, or the school committee and the board of selectmen, together once the audits are complete to review the financial information as a single body.  In response to a question from member Glen Craig, Wilmot said a focus of the meeting would be identifying and resolving “unresolved issues” from 2014.

Wilmot said the administrative team participated in a two-day retreat to outline the next steps for setting a systemic strategic direction for the school department. Priorities would include proficiency-based education, response to intervention, and school culture. One of the next steps in the process, she said, is to determine how to expand the dialogue with staff, students and the greater community.

The school department also began a new hire program over the summer to support new teachers. Wilmot said the first year was a success and she looked forward to its continued development to support and retain teaching staff.

A regional program for certain services with RSU 1 met some milestones over the summer as well. The group is looking for a location in Bath to start the program, and then will move the program into WMHS for the 2018-19 year. Some special education services, as well as the current partnership in technical and career education, could be shared between the two districts.

The schools are also disposing of some materials, which are available if anyone expresses an interest. Items include several sets of books at Wiscasset Elementary School, and a surplus of welding gear. Stacy White, WES principal, is the contact person for the books, at swhite@wiscassetschools.org. Contact Peg Armstrong, WMHS principal, about the welding gear and supplies at parmstrong@wiscassetschools.org.

The schools were notified that the Title I-A and nutrition programs would be monitored and reviewed during the 2017-18 school year. Title 1-A is a federal program that provides assistance to school districts and schools with a high percentage of children from low-income families. Watts and nutrition director Lorie Johnson will participate in the review process.

Armstrong announced a new middle school program for project-based learning. She said it would be highly individualized, and worked out between teacher and student after identifying the student’s strengths and challenges. She said the summer school program succeeded in recovering 22 credits.

White said the new elementary schedule would permit students to have longer, uninterrupted blocks of class time, especially in literacy. The school is working with students to teach appropriate behavior using positive reinforcement. Students can earn tickets for special privileges, such as a “mixed up dress day” on a Friday in October if the students collectively earn 1,000 tickets before the end of September. She said the Pre-K program is going well, and will transition to a full-day program, most likely by Thanksgiving week.

Carrie Kern said there is a new behavior analyst as well as a full-time school psychologist. She said the goal of the special education team was to build capacity in behavior management. The school department was accepted at a Maine Autism Leadership Training program, which she said was a great honor. Kern will be giving one of the training sessions.

The eighth graders received permission to begin fundraising for their spring trip to Boston. Due to the mileage, the trip required committee approval.