School Board Discussion about Schools, February 03. 2011

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Cranberry Isles School Board
Community Discussion about Schools
Notes of 3 February 2011

Background: Because of the low student population from Great Cranberry Island in recent years, the Longfellow School has been unused. For the past three years students from GCI have commuted by boat to attend the Islesford School. With an anticipated increase in students from Great Cranberry in the near future, the School Board recommended a community discussion about school alternatives.

I. Barbara Meyers, chairperson of the School Board, opened the discussion at the Community Center, Great Cranberry Island, after a delicious pot-luck dinner. She introduced Superintendent Rob Liebow.
II. Rob thanked everyone for coming and began with a few ground rules for discussion:
A. Although the School Committee has the legal authority concerning the opening and closing of schools and their locations, no decisions will be made tonight.
B. Comments and concerns will be welcomed either verbally or written on 3x5 cards.
C. The focus of the discussion will be “What’s best for the kids?”.
D. There will be no budget discussion this evening.
E. Rob passed out copies of a six-page “document” with X’s indicating potential students from the present until school year 2015-2016.
1. The pages showed possibilities for an increase in student population from Great Cranberry Island, particularly younger children, during the next few years.
2. Rob pointed to a line drawn between second and third grade as a suggestion about greater difficulty in boating commute for younger students. This line is merely one interpretation and may vary.
3. In the 2013-2014 school year, as many as five students are anticipated from GCI, with four of them kindergarten through second grade.
F. Rob turned the discussion back to Barbara Meyers, who fielded questions and comments with poster-sized pin-ups and marking pen.
III. Barbara invited questions and comments from community members, especially parents and potential parents of students. On posters, she marked pros and cons for each of several school models as they were suggested.
A. Two-School Model (#1 on large sheet):
1. Pro:
a. No commute.
b. We already have buildings.
c. Lunch at home.
d. Will attract families to the island.
e. More involvement by community.
f. Weather not an issue.
g. K-8 grade experience.
h. Handicapped student not an issue (can serve special needs).
2. Con:
a. Kid dynamics can be unfavorable.
b. Disconnect between families of the two islands.
c. Low learning mass (critical mass).
d. Less diverse socialization.
e. No teacher transition for up to nine years.
f. Teacher loss more serious.
g. More extreme gaps between grades.
h. Possible family loss (school too small).
i. Separates the islands.
B. One-School Model; location to alternate by youngest population (#2 on large sheet):
1. Pros:
a. Learning groups larger, resources larger.
b. Teacher collaboration – tailored to individual kids.
c. K-8 experience unique.
d. Draw islands together.
e. Community involvement.
2. Cons:
a. Boating.
b. If very young students on each island, how to split.
c. Hard for teachers to plan (related to boating).
d. May lose families.
e. One school building always idle.
f. Boating and child care.
g. Very young need parents (loss of work and time).
h. Difficult for parents to check in with teachers by visiting school on regular basis.
i. Communication between parents and teachers more of a challenge.
C. Rotate by Pre-set Pattern Model (#2A):
1. Pros:
a. More transition practice.
2. Cons:
a. Not as flexible for population shifts.
b. Boating and child care problems.
c. Very young need parents (loss of work time).
D. Pre-school and Kindergarten on their Own Islands; Olders Together (#3):
1. Pros:
a. Meets needs of the age-group.
2. Cons:
a. Limited socialization.
b. Adjustment harder for first-grader.
c. Boating and child care.
d. Very young need parents (loss of work time).
E. Kindergarten through Second Grade on their Own Islands; 3rd -8th graders Together (two days/week all together for art/music/PE; Regular instruction held by Poly-Com video) (#4).
1. Pros:
a. None noted.
2. Cons:
a. Poly-Com not 100% reliable.
b. Kids want to be face-to-face.
F. One School Only (#5):
1. Great Cranberry Island (pros/cons not discussed).
2. Islesford (pros/cons not discussed).

These are some of the points brought up during the discussion. Apologies for any gaps or omissions:
• Should boating schedule match school, or school match boating?
• Mail schedule also a factor.
• Bill Dowling: Commuting a safety issue.
• Commuting a huge issue.
• Possibility of 6th – 8th graders to Mount Desert.
• David Axelrod: Possibility of having both schools, but families decide which one. Ted Spurling: That was the model during the last few years of the Longfellow School on GCI.
• Boating.
• After-school programs
• Housing.
• Safety, boating, child care.
• Transportation between boat and school.
• How are students affected by impact on staff?
• How is “Best Practice 21st Century” affected? Lindsay Eysnogle: We do have a 21st Century School.
• Chris Hathaway: Meeting all needs equally is a “burdensome mirage”. Somebody will always be inconvenienced, and that this is not necessarily a death-knell to have a one-school system. One school may be more attractive to some; cannot know the desires of people who may move here.
• Henry Isaacs: We need to be clear that these are ideas—that we may choose to remain the same. Important to ask the question of the community, not necessarily determine an answer.
• Lindsay Eysnogle: Weed out unrealistic scenarios. Budget will become an issue later. Get questions and answers on details; feasibility of options.
• Kate Chaplin: Solve technology issues.
• Barbara Meyers: What kind of meeting/follow-up?
• Kate Chaplin: Community letter to residents.
• Donna Isaacs: Likes Lindsay’s idea: weed out, with feasibility studies, what is unrealistic. Have structured conversation in best, equitable way.
• Barbara Meyers: Could make transportation safer and more structured, but speaking as a parent, could not make for more loving and more co-operation from families.
• Kelly Sanborn: May depend on what other families of commuting students would want.
• Donna Isaacs: It is the teachers’ job to advocate for the students, and during this dilemma we should keep focus on the kids. What’s best for the community will follow.

Conclusion: The School Board is very interested in public concerns. From recent conversations, it appears that at present (one week later) people are very passionate about the well-being of the schools and the impact on the islands. The Board would like to work with the communities to find a smooth, non-invasive resolution, if any change becomes desired by the communities.

Respectfully submitted,
Theodore L. Spurling, Jr.
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