I wished I could lengthen the all-too-brief Maine summers, but the one thing that keeps me from mourning too long about the brevity is that it is replaced with the start of a new school year. It is a chance to begin anew. As I visited schools on the first day, the look of anticipation and positive expectations could easily be recognized on the faces of our staff and students. In RSU 5 we begin this school year with a new strategic plan that supports our updated mission and vision statement. Our new mission statement states “To inspire and support every learner by challenging minds, building character, sparking creativity, and nurturing passions.” One goal to reach our mission is that “all RSU 5 school-parent-community partnerships are based on strong communication and active involvement to support student success.” A core belief is that learning is a partnership with families, a community-wide endeavor, and a shared responsibility.  

We are fortunate to be in a community that believes in the power of education and works to support us at every opportunity. We know that better partnerships with parents and community members will result in stronger student learning. 

We have many examples of strong partnerships and want to continue to look for ways to expand these opportunities. This fall we are partnering with L.L.Bean to provide all of our high school students with an outdoor learning experience that promotes team building, fosters collaboration and builds better communication skills. For one day, each class will choose from a variety of outdoor learning experiences including kayaking, paddleboarding, orienteering, or navigating a ropes course.    

This summer our community came together to support the tragic loss of one of our students, Steel Crawford, who died in a swimming accident on Aug. 9. The community organized a charity lacrosse game and raised $18,000 within a week of his death. This effort helped his family and established a scholarship fund in his name that raised about $50,000. Community partnerships can support our students during times of celebration, and are needed in times of grief.  

With some of our youngest learners, we have community members join them at lunch to interact and model appropriate lunchroom behavior. The police chief of Freeport, Sue Nourse, even joins in on many of these Fridays. What a wonderful way to create a positive relationship with law enforcement at a very young age!  

In Pownal, the town partnered with us to provide an ice rink for our students to access during winter recess, while residents have access to it at other times. Both townspeople and students benefit from this partnership.  

When learning is a partnership, it works to reduce student failures and increase successes, ensuring that our students have the needed resources to thrive socially, emotionally, and academically. The communal mindset that all of our children deserve success benefits individual students, and benefits our community.  Although the first day of school, one of my favorite days of the school year, is behind us, I wait with anticipation for the student successes that lie before us as we partner with our parents and community to build a stronger RSU 5. 

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