RSU 18 has 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 1 high school. We serve over 3000 students in 8 different schools and 5 different towns. The staff working to meet the needs of those students includes 1 dean of students, 3 assistant principals, 8 principals, 221 teachers, 9 school counselors, and numerous support staff. In RSU 18, 14.4% of the population receives special education services, 43% receive free/reduced lunch, and we have a graduation rate of 94%.
Numbers can tell you a lot about a district, but what isn’t fully reflected in the numbers is the district’s commitment to doing everything possible to see that every student gets what they need, in every school, every day.
Each of the elementary schools strives to set a strong foundation for their students’ educational career. Pre-screenings, pre-k classes, and programs like kindergarten jumpstart ensure that students are appropriately placed and ready to begin their formal education. Throughout their elementary experience, students have access to additional support if they find themselves struggling. “We have several programs in place that ensure the “whole child” is at the center of our planning,” said Jenn McGee, “and we work very hard to make sure all of the students’ needs are met in order to create the optimum situation for our students to learn.”
Intervention blocks in each school also help students overcome obstacles to learning. For example, Atwood’s WIN (What I Need) time allows students to receive explicit instruction on basic skills, and WES’ Kid Zone, an alternative education program, helps students stay on track within the classroom setting. All students are also encouraged to develop stronger social skills and positive habits of mind through town hall or team meetings, mentor programs, and buddy systems. Each school has a behavioral program in place to help students who struggle with self-regulation. Each elementary school also has an academic coach that helps analyze student data with the goal of developing the best practices to ensure that all students are meeting their highest potential. A balanced approach to the 1:1 iPad program helps students move forward in their literacy and math instruction at their own pace, and students with stronger academic skills benefit from gifted and talented classes and groups like Odyssey of the Mind. Additional science education is addressed through the LC Bates program and others like it. Many of these programs are actually funded with grant money at no cost to taxpayers.
Support continues as students move up through the grades. Both middle schools are designed to help students prepare academically and socially for the transition to high school. “We group and regroup students within our academic teams based on what students are ready to learn or based on student interests in seminars,” said MMS Assistant Principal Melanie Smith. CMS also allows voice and choice in student selection of social studies seminars and students take “skills” classes in team building, career prep, high school prep, organization, library, technology, and keyboarding. Both schools also have numerous programs in place to help with academic and behavioral improvement. FAME is a support class that uses NWEA scores to develop small group targeted instruction on reading comprehension and fluency as well as writing skills. MINT (Math investigation time) serves a similar function for math skills. General academic skills, including homework completion, can be addressed through the Peer Tutoring program at MMS or RTI(Response to Intervention) at CMS. In addition, programs like JMG at CMS see to it that students have a sense of where they want their future to go before they even set foot into high school by addressing concepts like personal organization, leadership, and teamwork. Both schools also provide students with leadership possibilities through groups like Student Council, Civil Rights Team, Student Leadership team, and the Hardy Girls’ Group.
New programs are being added all the time to address students needs. The new Spark program at MMS was developed this year in response to studies showing that all students need physical activity and movement to keep their brains active and engaged. For forty minutes, three times a week, students have a choice in the physical activities they take part in. It is also a whole school activity that allows students to interact with peers and teachers on other teams.
Finally, the high school has a number of different programs that allow students of all walks of life to succeed, whether their path leads them to higher education or directly into the workplace. KV Behavioral Health and the Day One program can help students who are struggling emotionally or with substance abuse issues. Any student can get extra academic help through a tagging system called EdYOUsched that allows teachers to schedule time with students who need one-on-one instruction or additional work time. Jobs for Maine Graduates is a specialized program that helps students who may have educational and life barriers, and MMTC allows students to focus on career preparedness in a specific field. On-site and off-site alternative education programs provide smaller classes, additional support, and a more manageable day schedule to overcome educational barriers.
The high school has also put a great deal of emphasis on personal interest and choice, creating a wide array of classes and seminars that give students multiple paths to meet standards. Independent studies and Virtual High School Courses allow students to go beyond the already extensive course of studies offered, and Dual Enrolment classes and Advanced Placement courses help students earn college credits while still in the high school setting. Along with the seminars, the new YES (Year End Studies) program allows students to take shorter, specialized classes based on student and faculty interests.
These are just some of the supports in place for students across all levels of RSU 18. Each school runs further RTI programs to help struggling students move forward in their learning. Each school also provides some form of nutritional aid for students in need. In addition to free and reduced meals year round, food pantries are located in many of the buildings while other schools have programs that send snack packages home on weekends and during summer vacation. Our Farm to School gardens help supplement the cafeteria offerings while teaching students valuable skills including work ethic, teamwork, and greater environmental awareness. Schools across the district have been working to incorporate more movement through kinetic classroom seating, outdoor classrooms, and courses from Yoga and Mindfulness to Math Movement.
This level of dedication is not something that can be reflected in numbers. Numbers cannot tell the full story of a district that continually recommits itself to finding new ways to create multiple paths towards success and multiple safety nets for each and every student that comes through its doors.