SACO – More than 200 parents, students and district staff weighed in Thursday night on what they want included in a five-year plan for the schools in Regional School Unit 23.

The district, formed by voters in 2008, serves Saco, Dayton and Old Orchard Beach.

“This is the third largest district in the state,” said Gary Curtis, a member of the district’s school board. “It made much more sense to come and solicit input so the plan is yours. These are your schools. These are your students.”

After a brief introduction from school officials, attendees broke up into small groups to answer questions on topics ranging from district demographics and performance to preparing students for college and careers, and how to best use technology as a teaching tool.

Leslee Pierce, who has a fifth-grader at C.K. Burns School in Saco and whose oldest child is in college, suggested the district find more ways to expose students to potential careers.

“Our students in high school don’t know what they want to do because some of the jobs don’t even exist now,” Pierce said. “It’s not as simple as doctor, lawyer, mechanic or chef anymore.”

Rick DiFusco, principal at Old Orchard Beach High, said his group wanted more experiential opportunities for students. Other groups talked of the importance of challenging students, providing the best quality education while being fiscally responsible, and integrating the community to provide real world learning.

“When the RSU was created, it was three communities,” DiFusco said. The next step, he said, is to “make that bridge between the communities and think in terms of a whole.”

Superintendent Michael Lafortune said the forum was the first step in creating a vision for the school district, which is expected to be complete by July. The next meeting of the strategic planning committee, comprised of Lafortune, two school board members, three administrators, two teachers and two parents, is scheduled for April 13.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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