Future of education

To the Editor:

Over the course of the next several weeks, our communities will have the opportunity to meet and collectively discuss strengths, needs and challenges specific to our schools. The goal of these community forums is to gather feedback as to what is valued in our school system and how we can continue to provide high quality, fiscally responsible public education.

Planning strategically is both important and necessary, as we recognize resources are not unlimited and should be maximized in support of doing what is best for all students. In reaching out to all stakeholders: parents, teachers, students, citizens, elected officials, business and community leaders, we seek to collaborate openly and realistically about the needs and priorities of our students, schools and communities.

The focus of this process is to listen and learn about perspectives and priorities and to develop recommendations for consideration. As this work unfolds, multiple scenarios are possible, ranging from making no changes to how our communities support and deliver K-12 public education to a variety of potential partnerships or consolidation options. The result of this work will feature a report, including options and recommendations for school board and community consideration and will be presented by December 2017.

In support of this work, a steering committee has guided our path to date by conducting planning meetings and gathering data and information specific to our schools and programs. This information can be found on the MDIRSS website (mdirss.org) under the long-range planning tab or on Facebook (MDIRSS Community Engagement).

Why are these conversations important? Education is transitioning to better meet the needs of all learners through the implementation of Common Core and standards-based learning. Consistent expectations and increased collaboration between our schools will provide the platform to consider thinking regionally about how and where our communities can best deliver high quality, efficient and effective educational programming while maximizing resources.

Through these community-based conversations, programming to include pre-K, gifted and talented, middle-level education, special education, co-curricular, maintenance, food service, transportation, energy, capital improvements and others will be considered for best practice and efficiency. Of equal importance, as we seek to recruit, attract and retain our exemplary teaching, support and administrative staffs, we must be cognizant of providing competitive salaries balanced with the increased challenge of unsustainable health care and benefit premium costs.

Our students and schools consistently perform well above state and national averages on standardized tests. Throughout K-12 in MDIRSS schools, art, music, drama and athletic programs are perennially successful on every level. In recent years, curriculum, assessment and professional development have been realigned for continuity and consistency to ensure all students enter our high school universally prepared for success.

As we consider what is best for our students and schools, there has never been a better time than now to review what is working well and, more importantly, what we can do better. Please join us for these community forums; your participation, feedback and support is important.

A complete list of forums dates, times and resources may be found on the MDIRSS district webpage. Should you have any questions, please contact me at 288-5049. Thank you in advance for your continued support of our students and schools.

Marc Edward Gousse

MDIRSS Superintendent of Schools

Bar Harbor

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