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.

Superintendent’s Report -December


Regular Meeting

6:00PM, Monday, December 7, 2015

Brewer High School Lecture Hall

Superintendent’s Report

  1. School Event Recognition:  Veteran’s Day Assembly; Art Appreciation Night; Warts and All Play; JMG Opening Ceremony; Football Playoff Game

I just wanted to comment on the following events during the month of November.  I continued to be impressed by the level of talent and dedication by our students and faculty.  The Veteran’s Day Assembly was a first for me and I was moved by the veterans I met that day and the spirit of the assembly itself.  If you have not seen my blog entry with pictures from this event, please take a look on our district web page.

The Art Appreciation Night I was able to attend towards the end after another meeting and was able to capture view the students of Se Beowulf drop a beat on the open mic as they were revved up on hot chocolate.  It was teenagers at their finest and it was a joy to watch.  The art work was amazing and I hope to get some student work hanging in my office soon.

The Warts and All Play while appropriate for older audiences, was very creative. We have very talented actors, director and advisor in this area and I wish this group a lot of encouragement and “luck” (not really appropriate for actors, should be “break a leg”) as they move forward with their winter production and One Act competitions in the spring.

Our JMG program in both schools is highly impressive.  For those of you that are not familiar with our Jobs for Maine Graduates Program, the JMG program at the 7th and 8th grade, works with students to build academic and personal skills like leadership and problem-solving to help with the transition to high school.  I want to commend the Alex Ricker for a very successful Opening JMG Ceremony held on November 18th.  The high school JMG program had a very successful College Access Week in November.  The high school program works on helping our students career development, job attainment, job survival, leadership, self development and personal skills.

Finally, I’d like to congratulate the football team, coaches and volunteers on their very successful season.  I know they were disappointed in their loss at Brunswick, but they should be proud of their efforts and team work this season.  I look forward to next season.

  1. UTC Tour

I spent an evening with Greg Miller, Director of UTC, and learned a great deal about the programming offered to our students.  It is by far the best technical center I have visited in the state.  His pride in the building, the use of local resources to build upon learning experiences for kids, and the community support for each of these programs in inspiring.

The opportunity to earn college credit, high school credit and certification in specific skills for no or very little cost is a remarkable opportunity.  If you have not visited UTC and gone on a tour, I highly suggest you do.

  1. Autism Safety Education and Training Grant

Angela Moore has been working with Matt and Nancy Brown from the Autism Safety Education and Training out of Portland, Maine regarding a grant to help bring Autism Education and Training to our community.  Participants will be provided with a detailed understanding of autism, as well as with the tools to recognize and respond to emergency situations involving persons in this population. Discussion will emphasize specific strategies to employ when working with persons affected by developmental disabilities such as autism, during disasters or other critical incidents, and will provide a roadmap to creating a community-wide plan for such scenarios.  If this grant is received, we hope to work with local authorities to provide education and training.

The goals of the training are the following:

*Describe autism and other developmental disabilities.

*Describe specific characteristics of this population that directly impact safety.

*Formulate a plan to effectively assist persons in this population in an emergency situation, including incidents of wandering and elopement.

*Implement strategies to collaborate with other agencies and community partners to plan for emergency situations involving persons affected by developmental disabilities

  1. Administrative Team Evaluation Process and Training

On November 23rd, the administrative team completed Module 1 of the leadership evaluation process they will pilot this year.  Just as the teachers are piloting their new evaluation system aligned with the new state requirements, the administrators will be doing the same.  The components of this evaluation system include:

*self-evaluation and goal setting in the following five areas:  professional practice, professional growth, school climate conditions, school growth and learner growth

* ongoing collection of evidence

* feedback and monitoring of growth

*reflection and ratings aligned to a rubric to the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC)

The administrative team is meeting with me this month to review self-reflections and goals.  We are also meeting bimonthly for feedback and supervision meetings.

Research shows that there are essentials to improving schools:

*unified district vision with strategic plan with clear outcomes that are measurable

*effective leadership where principals become educational leaders within there schools focusing on all students learning

*quality teaching and learning with high expectations and accountability for all adults *coordinated and aligned curriculum, instruction and assessment

*coordinated and embedded professional development

*support for system wide improvement that focuses on effective use of data, strategic allocation of resources, and policy and program coherence

*clear and collaborative relationships

As an administrative team, we are or will be working to develop each of these items within our school department.

  1. School Board Training on November 30th

I wanted to let the community know that the school committee and myself attended a training on November 30th called “Effective Leadership for Our Schools”.  This training covered the duties of the board and superintendent and how we can expand our influence to be the leader we want to be.  It was a nice way to begin our work together as a new school committee.

  1. Meeting with Commissioner Beardsley

I had the opportunity to meet and discuss education with Commissioner Beardsley in November.  This meeting was informative as he was able to listen to needs from the Penquis Superintendents as well as share his thoughts regarding the Department of Education.  As he is new to the position, this meeting was more of a meet and greet and general information gathering but he plans on visiting with Penquis again.

  1.  Budget Process and Timeline

This timeline was created in collaboration with Gretchen Gardner.  It reflects the need to build a budget and justify a budget to our constituents that is based on true needs of our students and teachers.  We will be building our budget from the ground up, having meetings at all levels, and bringing forward a budget to the community that meets the needs of our district wide goals, our students, and is fiscally responsible.

Budget Process 16:17   Click here for the timeline and dates of budget meetings.


Veterans Remembrance Assembly

I have been blessed with many opportunities in my life from becoming a mom to three wonderful healthy children, finding the love of my life and being fortunate to find a career that gives me immense pleasure in watching children discover their possibilities and teachers and staff helping to make those possibilities a reality for each child.  Last week I witnessed a first in my career and wanted to share with you the remarkable experience if you were unable to attend.  I am referring to the Veterans Remembrance Assembly on November 10, 2015 at Brewer High School.

This morning began with a breakfast prepared by our kitchen staff. Our student council served up scrambled eggs, sausage, pancakes, and cinnamon buns along with coffee, tea and juice to over a hundred veterans and their families.  Conversations between the army, navy, marine corps, air force and coast guard filled our beautiful cafeteria space.  Teachers, staff members, and students stopped to thank veterans for their service to our great country.  Smiles, laughs and even a few tears were shed as stories were shared about those service men and women that passed away during this year as many of these veterans return year after year to participate in this assembly.

I smiled as I shook the hands of so many veterans that day and held back a tear myself as I thought about what each of these veterans have done for the freedoms I am lucky to have today.  After breakfast, our veterans assembled outdoors and lined up by military branch.  As the 195th Army Band and Select BHS Band Members played the processional “Branch Themes”, each branch was led into the gymnasium to a standing ovation.  I was so proud of our students as they stood a little taller and honored our military veterans and their families as they entered our gymnasium.

Evan Vidas, a member of our Air Force JROTC, led the assembly.  He then introduced the posting of the colors which was done by the BHS AFJROTC Color Guard.  The students in the Color Guard in the picture below are: Pedro Rodriguez, Logan Linzman, Jeremy Gignac, Andrew Rackliff, Jessica Jewell, Lillie Nash, Ian Coleman, Tyler Mock, Dallas Getchell, and Tyler Storen. These students marched in perfect synchronicity as they posted the colors.

After Principal David Wall’s welcome, there was a recognition where the BHS AFJROTC honored MIA and POWs.  The Prisoner of War (POW)/Missing in Action (MIA) table serves as a ceremonial remembrance of all the men and women who have served in the armed forces and have either been captured as a POW or categorized as MIA.  It honors all five services and symbolizes the strength of those who fight for our country and rests in the traditions that are upheld today.  The tradition of setting a separate table in honor of our prisoners of war and missing comrades has been in place since the end of the Vietnam War. The manner in which this table is decorated is full of special symbols to help us remember our brothers and sisters in arms.  The students that participated in this remembrance were Dylan Bragdon, Ethan Griffiths, Marcus Nash, Alex Reardon, Tim Sovis.

Our keynote speakers for the event were Colonel Douglas Farnham, the 101st ARW Commander and Master Sergeant Daniel Moore, the 101st ARW Command Chief.  These men spoke about the history of Veteran’s Day, the importance of freedom and the significance of making good choices and giving back to our community.  You could have heard a pin drop in our gymnasium, the students were so quiet and attentive, listening to every single word.

As the 195th Army Band played a musical selection called “Bravura”, which words cannot describe, as it was beautifully arranged and delivered, I remember hearing those seated around me whispering “wow” as they were truly impressed with the talent of these musicians.  At this point in the assembly, Sergeant Campbell, a high school teacher, shared the significance of the challenge coin which every veteran received during breakfast that morning.  The Challenge coin is given to a person when they become part of a unit.  They carry their unit coin on them to prove they are a member of that group.  When challenged you must present your unit coin or face the consequences…buy a round of sodas for everyone.  J Sergeant Campbell then recognized all of the Brewer High School Veterans.

As the assembly neared closing, we had the honor of hearing from Anna Jewell from the Class of 2019.  She was the student essay contest winner.  I then had the privilege of giving closing remarks.  I spoke about honoring our heroes, remembering their achievements, courage, dedication and sacrifices, and the great pride we have in being Americans because of what these brave men and women have done for us and continue to do for us.  As the 195th Army Band and BHS Band Members played the “Stein Song”, our veterans and families exited our gymnasium to another standing ovation.

The entire event was incredibly moving and I only shared some of what occurred.  I am sure that my words also could not capture all of what was felt within those moments especially for our veterans.  However, as an American with family members and friends that have served in our armed forces, I was once again in my life, blessed.  I was proud to be in the presence of these great American Veterans.

I want to also make sure I thank the following:

Student Council: Noah Umel, Lana Sabbagh, Annie Jewell, Maria Maxsimic, Jennah Geiser, Jacob Cote, Cameran Oxley, Collin Rhoads-Doyle, Connor Roope, Brian Howard,  Rose McLaughlin, Caleb LaPlante, Hayley Roy, Sarah Maxsimic, Cameron Wood, Alex Stroup, Eric Seekins, Kyle St. Thomas, Abby McCarthy, Ally Chapman, Ashley Clukey, Madison Oxley, Jamison Rhoads-Doyle, Oisin Biswas, Reed Davis,

Student Council Advisors: Breanne Pelletier and Sergeant Anthony Campbell

The 195th Army Band, CW3 Brady Harris and Select Members of Brewer High School Band

Brewer High School Administration

Brewer High School Food Services

Brewer High School AFJROTC

Anna Jewell, BHS Class of 2019

Our Guess Speakers:  Col. Douglas Farnham and CMSgt, Daniel Moore

Our students, teachers, and staff

And Most of All …  Our Veterans, their Families and those that continue to serve and protect our freedoms.

Student Council Students Serve Breakfast to Our Veterans

Student Council Students Serve Breakfast to Our Veterans

Welcome Address and Color Guard

Welcome Address and Color Guard

Our Veterans Lining Up

Our Veterans Lining Up

Marching Into the Gymnasium

Marching Into the Gymnasium

Evan Vidas Welcomes Everyone to the Assembly

Evan Vidas Welcomes Everyone to the Assembly


MIA/POW Ceremony

Guest Speakers Col. Douglas Farnham and CMSgt. Daniel Moore

Guest Speakers Col. Douglas Farnham and CMSgt. Daniel Moore

The Incredible Music

The Incredible Music

Anna Jewell Essay Contest Winner

Anna Jewell Essay Contest Winner

Breakfast Gathering

Breakfast Gathering


Message from Superintendent of Schools

Message from Superintendent of Schools

Welcome to the Brewer School Department. It is my pleasure and honor to serve the students, faculty, staff, parents and community of Brewer. My plan is to create a monthly update to share with all stakeholders. This first update will be more of an introduction to who I am and why I became an educator and what brought me to Brewer School Department. I have to start by saying that I am excited that I have the opportunity to lead this incredible school system!

My name is Cheri Towle and I have been an educator in Maine since 1993. I began my journey at the Riley School in Rockport where my philosophy of education was ignited. At this small K-9 multi-grade school, I quickly learned that all students can learn and we as educators need to meet them where they are in their learning and guide them with learning activities that engage, create opportunities for collaboration and allow students to develop critical thinking skills. I also saw that students learned at different rates as my students were in mixed graded classrooms and excelled by learning from each other. My teaching career took me from the Riley School to forming the first multi-age classroom at Great Salt Bay School to teaching high school science at Mt. Ararat. Once at Mt. Ararat I became a Nationally Board Certified Teacher and Department Head and was encouraged to enter administration. I also created an action research project that looked at science literacy methods and incorporated lab science for all students. I have been a high school administrator with two school districts, RSU #3 and Wiscasset School Department.

The skills I am proudest of are my work to lead change in proficiency based education, teacher effectiveness and professional growth and creating school wide community events. I have been known to do just about anything for a fundraiser including putting myself in a dunk tank not once but twice, dying my hair pink, and modeling at a local fashion show. I love kids and believe that they deserve the very best. I have a variety of additional experiences in aligning RTI needs to specific interventions to improve student outcomes; school accreditations committees; differentiation consultant; vision, mission and strategic design and implementation; and I am currently writing my dissertation on student voice pedagogical tools and there effects on student learning. I have a great many tools to share with you on how to specifically help students set goals, become accountable and engaged in their learning and meet learning targets in a variety of ways at all grade levels. Since I have such a wide variety of skills and have been at various types of schools, I understand what it takes to successfully lead a school system from a variety of perspectives.

Many of you might ask what drew me to Brewer School Department. There were several things that impressed me about the Brewer School Department and made me feel that Brewer would be the correct match for my leadership skills, educational beliefs and philosophy. One of the key reasons was your vision statements. While I could discuss all five, there are two particular pieces that resonated with me.

1. Our curriculum will be cohesive and seamless, providing smooth transitions between grades, with a variety of pathways suited to each child.
2. Brewer’s schools will be the “schools of choice” in our region—drawing people to move to Brewer to live and contribute to a vibrant community.

First, it talked about students having a variety of pathways suited for each child. The idea that a school system recognized that all students learn in different ways and that we must provide students different ways to demonstrate that learning was very exciting. This means that we are ensuring that all of our students are successful. One of my core beliefs is that we must ensure that each child is successful and that each child graduates from high school with every possible door open for them. With every possible door open, students are able to choose their own future rather than having that future chosen for them.

Another exciting piece was having Brewer Schools be the school of choice in the region. By being the school of choice this means our schools are academically vibrant, nurturing and challenging, and safe. Another of my core beliefs is that every child in our schools should be welcomed and cared for by every adult they encounter. All children should want to come to school, know that they will be met at their level of learning, be engaged in their classrooms, and pushed to grow and learn and have fun in the process. As a community of learners, we should expect nothing less for our students. We want our schools to be a place where students’ dreams and ambitions can come alive so that their full potential can be reached.

In my first 90 days as your Superintendent, I have created an entry plan. This plan is centered around another of my core beliefs: visibility and communication. It is important to me to immerse myself in the community and to learn about the Brewer School Department. By being present in as many events as possible, I hope to form positive relationships to help meet the needs of our school department. I will be meeting with administrators, teachers, parents, students and community members over the next several weeks. If you are interested in meeting with me, please email me at ctowle@breweredu.org. I am looking for some answers to some simple questions: What do you see as Brewer’s greatest strengths? What do you see as our challenges?

My entry plan reflects my strong desire to make a thoughtful and deliberate entry into this diverse and high achieving school district. It provides the necessary time to listen and learn about Brewer Public Schools and work collaboratively to develop, articulate and execute an educational vision for the future. High quality instruction and successful student learning are the keys to achieving our collective educational mission. Meeting each student’s individual learning needs and providing each student the necessary pathway to success is vital in today’s educational paradigm shift. We know that students learn in different ways and in different time frames. Our educational system needs to align with best practices. We need to help all students realize their dreams, and equip them with the knowledge, skills and abilities to succeed in a constantly changing world. Through a deep commitment to children; every child will learn and every child can meet high standards. My plan is organized to gather a great deal of information, input, and ultimately gain insight into how best to strengthen and build upon the current and historical success of the Brewer School Department.

I hope as you get to know me, you will see that we share a passion for children and education that you so clearly have demonstrated to me in your vision and mission statements. One of my favorite quotes on leadership is “Leadership is not a position or a title, it is action and example.” I realize my leadership will be earned by my actions over the next few months. It is through my desire to learn as much as I can about the Brewer Community and my strong desire to build schools that support all students to fulfill their dreams, that my leadership will be demonstrated within our community. Thank you for this incredible gift and I look forward to making our vision and mission a reality for all of our children!


Cheri Towle, NBCT Superintendent of Brewer Schools