Strengths of Brewer

Recently to start the year, I asked the faculty of Brewer to participate in a back to school activity where we reflect on our practice and our memories of Brewer, and share what makes Brewer School Department an exciting place to work and the best place to send our children to for their education.  In my first three months as Superintendent, one thing I have learned is that there is a strong commitment to education in Brewer and the community support is something I have not seen before in my 23 years in education.  I have heard the phrase, “teachers care about kids” and “teachers love what they do”, many times in my career.  I have met many remarkable teachers along my path as well. However, there is something special about Brewer.  I have been trying to describe it to the people that I meet, and the phrase “community of caring” is a good start but it is so much more than that.

From my very first interview, I remember telling my husband, we are moving!  The connection to the people around the table asking me questions and the connection to how this town supports not only their children but each other in times of need, I see everyday.  For example, when you get welcomed into Brewer, you get little care packages at your door, you get people that check in on you to see how you are doing, you get asked to dinner, you get that perfect little note in your mailbox when you are least expecting it.  In Brewer, everyone seems to know what is happening to everyone, but we also lend a helping hand without even thinking about it.  I have seen teachers during this holiday season, donate numerous gifts and food items to make sure children had a Christmas.  I have seen businesses call our schools to ask how they can help out and I have seen the numerous donations that support our schools each month at our School Committee meetings.

One of the things I have learned is that family has a strong presence in Brewer.  The generations of family that have gone through our schools and the number of employees that use to be students within our school system is amazing to me.  People always come back to Brewer to give to this community.  In the next few months, the district will be undergoing the strategic planning process where we will look at our vision and mission of our school department.  This process started in 2011 and fizzled out a little over the last few years.  Another strong showing of community is that when these members of this committee were called, they were all too eager to come back and represent their prospective areas and serve on our planning committee again. Another example of Brewer’s strong community and dedication to our schools!  During this process we will have a community forum and I will be asking for your voice in what we do well and what you would like to see us improve upon.  This is important in mapping out our plan for the next five years.  I look forward to having you participate through either online surveys, in person at our community forums, or in smaller neighborhood meetings.

Recently I presented to the faculty regarding pieces of our vision and mission focusing on student-centered and personalization of instruction.  Offering our students multiple pathways to demonstrate their learning and multiple pathways to earn a diploma with strong programming is a goal for Brewer.  We believe that all kids can learn and our faculty works hard to help each child find a way to demonstrate that learning.  We offer some of the most unique programs in the state from our Forestry and Outdoor Education program to our Air Force JROTC program where you can actually get your pilot’s license!  If art and music are your niche, our award winning band, new Art wing, and drama program are simply out of this world.  Brewer offers multiple AP courses, dual enrollment college courses, and support for all students to be successful.  I could go on and I have in my prior article that was in The Scholar  that was mailed to all of our Brewer residents written and published by our students.

As I close this entry, I wanted to share with you some of the statements sent to me by the teachers.  I have put a slideshow together for you that you can view.  Please enjoy.  And if you ever have a moment, please stop by the office and say hello.  I love to meet and talk with the people that make Brewer such a dynamic community to live in and raise our children in.

Please click here to enjoy the show!

January Superintendent’s Report


Regular Meeting

6:00PM, Monday, January 4, 2016
Brewer High School Lecture Hall

Superintendent’s Report

1. School Event Recognition:  Band and Choral Concerts

Just wanted to take a moment and recognize our choral director Heather Macleod, Brady Harris, and Lanissa Nadeau for their remarkable talent and efforts with our children in the Brewer School Department. I attended all music events prior to the Holiday Break and each left me wanting more and anticipating what I would hear the next week. The students and parents are to also be commended for the time they put in practicing and bringing their students to the early morning rehearsals and practices. Their performances certainly put me in the holiday spirit!

2. Strategic Planning Update

We spent approximately twelve hours of time contacting prior committee members searching for a strategic plan that may have existed in 2011. After speaking with a few committee members and reviewing all school committee minutes from 2011 through 2015, we have determined the following:

March 10, 2011 Curriculum Audit Report, moved to receive by SC

December 5, 2011 Table approval of Strategic Planning Committee to January 2012

January 9, 2012 Nomination/approval of SP committee

August 16, 2012 Workshop meeting on Mission & Vision led by Mr. Jeff Walstrom

November 1, 2012 Approved first reading of Policy AD- Mission & Vision

November 5, 2012 Approved second reading/adoption of Policy AD – Mission & Vision

February 4, 2013 Moved to receive Brewer High School Strategic Plan (5-year)

September 9, 2013- October 7, 2013  Mr. McIntire reported on the progress of his draft Strategic Plan (District Improvement Plan)

February 3, 2014  Mr. McIntire proposed a work session to continue toward completion of

October 6, 2014  Mr. Leithiser presented the Brewer Community 4-year plan, which will be in line to end with the high school 5-year plan

March 12, 2015 Workshop on District Improvement Plan

What is next? Now that the School Committee has given the charge to form a strategic planning team on December 7, 2015, this team will be formed. A survey monkey has been developed and a one-call will go out to our parents and teachers this week together information and form our team. Prior committee members will be called first to see if they would like to continue the work they started. Our first meeting will be on January 28. The agenda for the meeting can be found here.  This agenda also contains the dates of all future meetings.

3. Budget Process Update

Gretchen Gardner and I have met to review the budget process and where we are with salaries and benefits compared to this year. With all contracts signed, this year we actually have some firm numbers when it comes to salaries. With steps and 2% percent increases and a ten percent increase budgeted for insurance we are estimating an increase $668,446. This is not unusual at this stage in the budget. This week I will be presenting to BCS and we will also be starting the request process through teachers. Administrators will have their building studies to me by January 11th. The BHS presentation was held on January 11th. The budget timeline can be found here.

4. Policy Review List and Timeline

The Maine School Management Association lists the policies that are required by all school districts. After a thorough review of the policies, a required list with our current needs has been supplied. The missing policies will be our first priority. We will then review outdated policies that need updating. Please see the policy review list in your packets.

5. ESSA Overview (Every Student Succeed Acts)

New Education Law Reduces Federal Reach President Obama signed into law on Dec. 10 a replacement for the unpopular and ultimately unworkable law that was known as No Child Left Behind, putting more control in the hands of states and school districts and preserving the local governance authority of local school boards. The vote was 85 to 12 in the Senate and 359 to 64 in the House.

Now known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the law updates what was officially called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which essentially defines the federal government’s role in K-12 The ESSA goes in a distinctly different direction than NCLB, which set achievement goals for all schools and labeled them as “failing” when they didn’t make the required progress toward 100 percent proficiency for all students in reading and math. The new ESSA limits the federal government’s role and pushes decision-making around accountability to the state and individual school districts. Standardized state tests are still part of the picture, but other factors will be considered, like school-climate and teacher and student engagement. States would still have to test students in reading and math in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, but get wide discretion in setting goals and determining how to hold schools and districts accountable. States would still have to identify their lowest 5 percent performing schools, and identify schools where subgroups, including children in poverty, are underachieving. The difference is the federal government no longer would prescribe interventions in those schools. That would be a state and local decision. The U.S. DOE also would no longer have a say in how teacher evaluations are to be conducted.

A primer published by Education Week just days before the House vote outlined key initiatives in the proposal and the difference between current law and the old ESEA and NCLB waivers.

 States would still have to submit accountability plans for approval to the U.S. DOE. These new ESSA plans would start in the 2017-18 school year.

 States would set the rules around teacher evaluations. Maine’s system is in state statute and currently is in its pilot year.

 Gone is the now outdated requirement to get all students to proficiency by a date certain – a system that created so called “failing schools” under NCLB.

 States can pick their own goals around proficiency and graduation rates, but must set an expectation that groups furthest behind close gaps.

 States have to identify and intervene in the bottom 5 percent of performers, and these schools have to be identified at least once every three years.

 States have to identify and intervene in high schools where the graduation rate is 67 percent or lower.

 States must identify schools where subgroup students are struggling. Subgroups include English learners, students in special education, racial minorities and those in poverty.

 For elementary and middle schools there must be at least four indicators.

 That includes three academic indicators: proficiency on state tests, English-language proficiency, plus some other academic factor like growth on state tests.

 New is the requirement that at least one non-traditional indicator must be included like student engagement, educator engagement, access to and completion of advanced coursework, post-secondary readiness, school climate/safety, or others proposed by the state.

 For high schools the indicators are proficiency on tests, English-language proficiency, graduation rates, plus at least one other indicator that focuses a little more on whether students have the opportunity to learn, or are ready for post-secondary work.

 For the bottom 5 percent of schools and for high schools with high dropout rates, districts will work with school staff to come up with an evidenced-based turnaround plan and the state will monitor the effort. If schools continue to founder for no more than four years, the state can step in with its own plan.

 For schools where subgroup students are struggling, the schools have to come up with an evidenced-based plan. If problems persist, the district steps in. For chronic underperformance within subgroups – defined as scores as bad as the bottom 5-percent schools- the district and state have to step in.

Thank you to the MSMA for providing a thorough summary of ESSA.