Happy 2017! Throughout the world, cultures welcome the new year in a celebratory fashion. Many in the United States enjoy watching and counting down as the ball drops in Times Square, or finding a favorite place to watch festive fireworks lighting the night sky.

The new year marks the passing of accomplishments and events from the past year and the hope of greater things to come in the future. It’s a time of anticipation and promise.

In RSU5, there is much to celebrate and anticipate for the upcoming year.

Students returned to Freeport High School after the holiday break celebrating the opening of the recently renovated addition at the high school. The newly created space includes a cafeteria, weight room, music rooms, and additional classroom space. Students, staff, parents, alumni, and community members toured the new addition and wholeheartedly agree that it is a much more inviting learning environment for our students. Renovations will continue throughout the spring and summer, and we eagerly anticipate the fully renovated high school unveiling in September of 2017.

Students in our STEM classroom are working on creating three-dimensional murals that allow student artwork to be displayed in the new addition. This collaborative effort between teacher, students, and community members is an example of how the best learning occurs when partnerships are developed among many stakeholders.

We eagerly anticipate the budget for the upcoming year being presented at the Jan. 25 School Board meeting. This budget will emphasize early intervention, building more collaborative time for teachers, and creating resources to assist students who need differentiated learning. We celebrate the passage of last year’s budget and are currently utilizing those resources to support teaching and learning throughout the District. We are using the same time-line and similar process as last year and hope for the same outcome that the budget passes with full support of the community.

There is so much to celebrate in education in Maine. Here is a snapshot from a recently published article, “Maine’s Public Schools: Worth the Investment,” written by Yarmouth Superintendent Andrew Dolloff:

• Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, administered to students in all 50 states in grades 4 and 8, show Maine fourth-graders performing above the U.S. average, ranked No. 14 in mathematics and No. 20 in reading. Eighth-graders performed slightly better, at No. 11 in mathematics and No. 14 in reading.

• At the high school level, Maine’s graduation rate of 87.5 percent is well above the national average of 83.2 percent, placing the state No. 11 in the country. (RSU 5’s latest graduation data is 94.3 percent.)

• A recent article in U.S. News & World Report ranked Maine’s high schools No. 7 in the U.S.

Often we focus on strategic planning, improvement, and what is not going well in public education. Of course we continually strive for improvement in RSU 5, as do other schools throughout Maine.

However, as we ring in the new year, I hope we take a moment to pause and celebrate the successes in our communities, schools, students, and in each other, and anticipate many more great things to come in the year ahead.

Becky Foley is superintendent of schools in Regional School Unit 5 (Freeport-Durham-Pownal). She can be reached at [email protected].