Schools to represent Maine at regional conference on educational innovation

PORTLAND – Three Maine schools and one Maine school district—Ellsworth High School, Troy Howard Middle School (Belfast), Westbrook High School and Regional School Unit 2 (Hallowell)—have been invited to represent their state at a regional conference on effective strategies for improving teaching and learning in the 21st century.

The conference, High School Redesign in Action, will take place March 20–21 in Norwood, Mass. The two-day event is sponsored by the New England Secondary School Consortium, a state-led regional partnership committed to high school innovation, in collaboration with the departments of education for Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

All the selected schools have made significant progress raising student achievement, graduation rates, college-enrollment numbers or other indicators of educational success.

“Maine schools have long been looked to as national leaders in education innovation and I am proud these four schools from our state are getting a chance to share their success stories with others around the region,” said Maine Department of Education Commissioner Jim Rier. “As we continue to raise expectations for all Maine students, these schools provide an example of the engagement and excellence that results where there is a shared commitment to effective, learner-centered instruction; great teachers and leaders; and multiple pathways for learner achievement.”

The Commissioner added that two of the four Maine schools that will present at the conference are also featured on his Department’s Center for Best Practice (, an online resource center that includes case studies and tool related to implementing proficiency-based education and other practices shown to improve student outcomes.

The presenting schools were selected not only for their exemplary work, but also for their extraordinary commitment to making sure every student has a chance to succeed, to live a fulfilled and meaningful life, and to make a positive contribution to the world in which they live. In addition, several of the honored Maine schools—Westbrook High School and all three high schools in Regional School Unit 2—are members of the Consortium’s League of Innovative Schools (, a multi-state network of secondary schools working together to improve their programs and performance. The League’s goal is to promote the exchange of best practices and innovative improvement strategies throughout the region.

The New England Secondary School Consortium is a regional partnership working to advance forward-thinking innovations in secondary education that will empower the next generation of citizens, workers, and leaders. The Consortium’s goal is to ensure that every public high school student receives an education that prepares them for success in the colleges, careers, and communities of the 21st century. The Consortium is funded by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation (, the largest philanthropy in New England focused exclusively on education, and coordinated by the Great Schools Partnership (, a nonprofit educational-support organization in Portland.

Maine’s High School Redesign in Action Presentations

Schools: Ellsworth High School, Ellsworth, Maine
Presenters: Tristan Bates (teacher), Jonathan Bender (teacher), Jessie Falabella (teacher), Tracey Hollingsworth (teacher), Lydia Kinney (teacher)
Presentation Information: Friday, March 21 at 10:45 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.
Contact: Focused Learning Team |
Description: In this interactive presentation, faculty from Ellsworth High School will describe the development, design, and implementation of its teacher-developed Response to Intervention program called Focused Learning—an integrated, dynamic, technology-assisted program that addresses the learning needs of every student through a combination of intervention, extension, and enrichment opportunities. Each day during second period, 500 students move to their interventions, extensions, enrichments, or study halls based on their distinct learning needs. The school’s flexible scheduling model is managed through a teacher-designed app that lets the staff “tag” students in a targeted and timely manner, using a prioritized content-area schedule that allows for an even distribution of students across each content area throughout the week. While this initiative is still in its early stages, the Ellsworth High School teaching faculty are excited to share the development process, management of the program, qualitative and quantitative data, and the personal experiences of teachers and students.

Schools: Regional School Unit 2, Hallowell, Maine
Presenters: Rick Amero (principal, Monmouth Academy), John Armentrout (director, information technology),Christine Arsenault (teacher, Monmouth Academy), Brenda Dalbeck (teacher, Hall-Dale High School), Virgel Hammonds (superintendent), Libby Ladner (teacher, Hall-Dale Middle School), Steve Lavoie (principal, Richmond High School), Eric Palleschi (teacher, Monmouth Middle School), Megan Rounds (teacher, Richmond High School), Matt Shea (coordinator of student achievement), Mark Tinkham (principal, Hall-Dale Middle/High School), Charlie Urquhart (teacher, Richmond High School)
Presentation Information: Thursday, March 20 at 2:15 p.m. and 3:45 p.m.
Contact: Virgel Hammonds|
Description: Regional School Unit 2 has been implementing K–12 proficiency-based learning for several years now. Join the presenters as they describe how their model has given students significant amounts of voice and choice in their learning. In the district’s three high schools, students have authentic opportunities to design their own learning pathways, learn at their own pace, and engage in learning experiences that not only match their interests, but that build upon the resources and opportunities that exist in the wider community. In this session, participants will learn about the structure, schedule, and other design elements that have empowered the district to dramatically increase personalization for students without watering down standards.

School: Troy Howard Middle School, Belfast, Maine
Presenters: Bruce Bailey (assistant principal), Kim Buckheit (principal), Sandy Flacke (special education coordinator), Chris LaValle (social-studies teacher)
Presentation Information: Thursday, March 20 at 3:45 p.m. and Friday, March 21 at 10:45 a.m.
Contact: Kim Buckheit |
Description: Each year, the Troy Howard Middle School staff holds a four-day workshop series called “Standards-Based Education in Action” as a way to ensure the continuation of practices that have improved student achievement in our school. Teachers new to Troy Howard join visiting teachers from other schools to learn about “how we do business” from veteran faculty and students. Each session involves direct instruction from multiple teachers and students, as well as classroom observations and demonstrations of teaching principles in action. Participants will learn about this unique professional-development program and walk away with a breakdown of the learning targets for each of the four days.

School: Westbrook High School, Westbrook, Maine
Presenters: Rhonda Fortin (mathematics instructional coach, grades 5–12), Jeff Guerrette (mathematics department chair), Will Leque (mathematics teacher)
Presentation Information: Thursday, March 20 at 2:15 p.m. and Friday, March 21 at 9:15 a.m.
Contact: Jeff Guerette |
Description: Westbrook High school began its journey to become a proficiency-based high school starting in the math department, and department chair Jeff Guerette and sophomore math-team teacher Will Leque are working at the forefront of proficiency-based math instruction. In this workshop, participants will learn how Westbrook High School developed an integrated, proficiency-based math program in which learning is constant and time is the variable. Classroom procedures and systems will be discussed along with the opportunities and challenges inherent in putting students at the center of learning.

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