CAMDEN – As executive directors of the two largest chambers of commerce in Midcoast Maine, we were very pleased to hear Gov. LePage champion the five-year high school/associates degree model in his inaugural address.

We think he is right on track. The need for a well trained, highly skilled workforce is essential for our businesses to thrive and grow in the 21st century. Practical, hands-on career and technical training, in addition to broader access to university and community college programs, are the key ingredients for long-term economic growth in Maine. Expanding the opportunity for early college and technical training to all high school students makes perfect sense.

We know a governor can feel pretty lonely in Augusta at times. When it comes to the five-year high school/associates degree concept, our region’s “Many Flags/One Campus” model is ready, willing and able to take the lead.

DOING THE HOMEWORK

In 2008 the Maine Legislature unanimously passed a bill to create a seamless “9-16 Innovative One Campus” education model for Maine. That same year RSU 13 and the Region 8 Midcoast School of Technology jointly submitted the Many Flags/One Campus proposal to the Maine Department of Education. After two years of extensive evaluation and intense competition, the State Board of Education formally announced in October 2010 that Many Flags/One Campus had been chosen to be the state’s integrated secondary/post-secondary program.

Over the past seven years a dedicated group of educators, business owners and community leaders in the Lincoln, Knox and Waldo Counties have worked tirelessly to design, refine and advance this seamless high school/college/technical training model. The Many Flags philosophy is based on individualized learning plans for each student. The faculty and advisors from all the institutions on the campus will work together with each student to jointly develop the pathway they will need to reach their individual career and academic goals.

At Many Flags, career, technical and industry-led education is on an equal footing with all academic courses. Project-based, applied learning will be the norm at Many Flags — all designed to offer each student the practical tools they need to succeed. From its inception, it has been envisioned that the fully integrated programs at Many Flags would allow our high school students to go as far as their own ambition and hard work will take them — including completing high school with many college credits under their belts. It has always been our vision that at graduation on the Many Flags campus, many of our high students will walk across the stage to receive their high school diploma — then walk another few feet and receive their associate degree — all on the same day.

The Many Flags/One Campus model will integrate on one shared campus:

• Oceanside Regional High School (by merging Georges Valley and Rockland high schools)

• Midcoast School of Technology (serving students from Camden Hills High School, Islesboro Central School, Lincoln Academy and Medomak Valley, North Haven and Oceanside high schools.)

• University of Maine System

• Maine Community College System

• The first two Industry Centers of Excellence

• Marine Systems Training Center (run by the Maine Marine Trades Association)

• Coast Guard-approved Merchant Mariner Program

READY, WILLING AND ABLE

Our community is ready, willing and able to be the pilot for the five-year high school/associate degree concept that the governor is championing. In addition to being selected by the Maine State Board of Education, the Many Flags model has also been endorsed by the Maine Coalition for Excellence in Education, the Maine Compact for Higher Education, the Mitchell Institute, and the Great Maine Schools Partnership — just to name a few.

To learn more go to the website www.manyflags.org. The members of our two Chambers of Commerce stand ready to assist in any way possible. We realize that for Many Flags to become a reality, a real public/private partnership will be needed. 

– Special to the Telegram