A new leader brings along new practices and fresh ideas. In Lewiston Public Schools, Superintendent Todd Finn’s new idea is turning heads, not only in the news, but more importantly, getting the attention of the staff and students as well. Fridays with Finn aims to take on the very important goal of staying connected with students, teachers, and staff in Lewiston’s 10 schools and programs. Recently, Maine Department of Education staff got the unique opportunity to experience Fridays with Finn by being cordially invited to tag along.
The morning started in the busy lobby of Lewiston Regional Technical Center (LRTC) as students were arriving for class. One of 32 Career and Technical Education (CTE) Centers and Regions, LRTC is connected to Lewiston High School, providing Lewiston students with the chance to experience hands-on, career-based curriculum only steps away from their general education classes. In addition to serving Lewiston residents, LRTC also caters to an abundance of surrounding schools – all of which arrive in droves as an eventful Friday with Finn begins.
The first stop is to drop baked goods off at the front office at LRTC, a tradition many school leaders swear by to keep in good graces, knowing the vital role front office staff play in school operations. The second stop is to find a certain student enrolled in the Education/Development of Children Program who tweeted at Mr. Finn earlier that day, inviting him to stop by during his visits – an invitation he was eager to accommodate. An avid communicator, like many school leaders tend to be, Finn takes to Twitter on a regular basis to stay connected and share his thoughts and ideas with the community. Tweeting about Fridays with Finn ahead of the day’s visits was no exception.
Popping in and out of LRTC classes happening that morning, Mr. Finn had many interesting and pertinent conversations along the way, including a talk with welding students about new ways to learn and appreciate math. He also took an impromptu quiz in the nursing assistant class and stopped to fist bump a student in the digital media class who follows him on Twitter. We finally found the Education/Development of Children Program student as she was working with pre-school children who attend LRTC’s Education & Development of Children class. True to form, Mr. Finn sat right down to share the moment and connect with the students, teachers and children in the class, taking the time to ask for feedback at each and every turn.
“These weekly visits are vital to me because they provide me with an opportunity to connect with students and staff regularly,” said Finn.
Before heading out to visit another school, Mr. Finn made a stop at the Store Next Door to check in with store staff Jamie Caouette and Katie Karantz just in time to help bring in a load of donated items. A well-known fixture in the Lewiston School Department for the past 20 years, the Store provides homeless students with clothing, food, supplies, and other necessities they may not have access to. When asked about Fridays with Finn, Katie eagerly responded, “It’s a big thing, it gets his face out there and gives him the opportunity to get to know the kids.”
Following the visit to LRTC, were visits to Montello Elementary School, Farwell Elementary School, and Connors Elementary school, 3 of Lewiston’s 5 elementary schools. At each stop, Mr. Finn made his way around the halls, poking his head into open doorways. While some students were working on understanding different emotions, others were painting during art class, playing basketball during physical education class, testing buoyancy in a science experiment, or reading their own original Halloween stories out loud to their classmates (among many other activities happening that morning). As usual Mr. Finn took the opportunity to ask for feedback whenever possible and always greeted students and staff along the way, many of whom recognized and appreciated his presence.
The eventful morning was enough to see that students, staff, and teachers are certainly appreciative of their regular face-time with the new leader and the opportunity to engage in conversations that help shape the evolution of education in the district and the community.
This article was written by Maine DOE Staff Rachel Paling in collaboration with school leaders from Lewiston Public Schools as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. For more information or to submit an idea or a write-up, email Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org.