The Annual Trustees' Meeting of the Greenlawn Cemetery Association will be held 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 25th, at the home of Joy Baker, Veazie Road, Searsport. If you are interested in attending, please call Rita Stone for further information, 548-6186, or 548-6337.
Three Months Ago
I was invited to tour the Nickerson School by Principal Abbie Hartford. I'll write about the good side of what I saw there in this column. There will be another side soon, but it requires some fairly careful referencing. For now, in the face of the school being closed, I would like to talk about the wonderful things going on there. Waldo County is the second poorest county in Maine. This puts a huge strain on parents to spend too many hours away from their kids just to put food on the table. Seventy-eight percent of our students are getting fee-reduced or free school lunches, which tells a lot. And yet, on NECAP scoring for 2013, the kids have moved from, in 2011, scores that put them in the 30th percentile for math, and 47th percentile for reading in 3rd grade, to these same students in the 5th grade excelling into the 41st and 65th! All the kids scores are rising for the classes of kids coming up behind them to above 71% in both. The academics are improving to a level that is making the poverty issue irrelevant. (How they're tested may affect this, but let's let the kids enjoy their success for now.)
They have a facebook page, Kermit Nickerson School, which provides quick communication between the staff and parents. Principal Abbie is managing to keep communication regular through a newsletter "Nickerson News" which goes out weekly. She tries very hard to make sure the building is open to community groups for activities the townspeople may have going, from Girl Scouts and 4-H, to Little League and the Swan Lake Association, as well as family events. (I'll put a plug in here, and say that I will print things as well if people will please contact me to do so!) For folks around town who have the time and the mind, the kids are fundraising all year, and accept BoxTops4Education coupons from your food boxes, and if you mention it, Swan Lake Grocery will give your returnable bottle money to the school kids as well to fund activities and trips. Principal Abbie also is pleased to say that parental involvement in activities is increasing.
The kids are now gardening, and the vegetable garden is open to townspeople to pick from during the summer. Please treat the plants kindly (my comment). They have also recycled 14,000 Capri Sun juice packs, mailed to the TerraRecycle program to reduce waste.
All pre-school families are invited to use the library and join the students when there are "virtual field trips" in which live programming is viewed on the big screen there, from trips to the Grand Canyon to classroom to classroom conversations.
While there are no science classes in the Common Core Curriculum (yes, I'll get to that in the next column), the teachers and staff are doing their own projects, and a cherry-picker truck is provided by CMP for the yearly "Egg Drop" contest to see which student can create a container out of scant materials that will keep an egg from breaking when dropped from great height. The event is open to the public and is great fun.
Our school is also a haven for kids who've been bullied in other schools. (I'm so proud of them I get weepy here.) About 10% of our student body are transferred kids who had no safe place to be in other schools during their time away from their parents. Our principal and teaching staff are providing a wonderful, loving environment, where from my tour of the school, it was quite evident that the kids were all comfortable and happy to be there. I even noticed a teacher correct a child who was clearly only parroting a criticism she'd heard at home. The teacher was graceful and uncondemning but made sure that the student was clear that hurtful comments were not welcome, and the victim was fully satisfied that they were protected.
The building is clean and lovely. Student work was displayed everywhere. The Parent Teacher Group is very active and attentive, and outings, which have fallen by the wayside in many public schools, are happening often here. While funding for art classes is only for 1/2 the school year, we do have music and physical education year round.
A big "Thank You" goes out from the staff and principal to townspeople who donated backpacks and school supplies at the beginning of the school year. You are vital!
Principal Abbie also wanted to be sure that the town knew that neither she nor the teaching staff are taking sides in the withdrawl issue. They are hired to do a job, and they keep to it, and do it well in my opinion. To quote, "We love the community, and want the parents and kids to know that they are wanted here."
This school is a haven worth saving for many, many wholesome reasons.