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'One huge step forward' for marine-oriented magnet school

By Stephanie Grinnell | Apr 12, 2016

Searsport — The first round of nominations to a board of trustees responsible for creating a curriculum for a marine-oriented magnet school was approved by the state Department of Education April 5.

"It's the greatest group of people," Town Manager James Gillway told selectmen. " ... I think we have a group that will be cohesive."

Gillway noted the nominations submitted by Gov. Paul LePage are the first round of appointments to the 19-member board and additional positions remain open.

"We are one huge step forward toward getting the school here," he said.

Gillway, R-Searsport, is also a state representative. Efforts to bring a magnet school to Searsport began in 2013 when Gillway submitted a bill, which failed to pass. He tried again with a second version of the bill that became law in July 2015 after avoiding a veto by Gov. Paul LePage.

The idea for a magnet school in Searsport was conceived by former Searsport District High School Principal Brian Campbell.

The board of trustees will create a plan, Gillway said, that will be submitted to the state education committee for inclusion in the education commissioner's budget. It must be submitted by February 2017 because of a sunset provision in the approved legislation.

"If this group can't do it, it can't be done," Gillway said.

When Gillway appeared before Regional School Unit 20 directors in October 2015, he said LePage “vowed” not to make any such appointments until January 2016. He said in October last year he hoped the trustees would be appointed in time to begin reviewing curriculum by March. Both those deadlines were not met but Gillway said he is optimistic the board of trustees will see success.

“I can guarantee you, without any doubt, there are communities and school districts lined up behind us that will probably put their bid in for doing exactly what we're looking for,” Gillway told directors during the October meeting.

The structure for the marine-themed magnet school is based on Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone. The Searsport magnet school would be the second of its kind in Maine.

The magnet school would be located within existing RSU 20 buildings in Searsport and Stockton Springs but would be governed by its own administration and accept students from around the state and potentially from other states and countries, according to previously published reports.

The school could open as early as fall 2017.

Reporter Ben Holbrook contributed to this story.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Rebekka Freeman | Apr 12, 2016 12:02

I Can Hardly Wait !!! This Is THE MOST Exciting Educational Opportunity To Hit The Coast ... And With Searsport's Marine &  Nautical History ... It's MidCoast Location, The Web Of Key Academic & Nautically-Experienced, Enthusiastic Supporters And A Handful Of  Eager-Beavers Who Are Trying To Launch This Soon-to-Be Spectacular School..  It's Sure To Be A Draw From Near & Far.  It's Sure To Provide Excellent Training Opportunities During High School Years For Our Young-Uns To Develop A Trade By Graduation . Keep Up The Wonderful Efforts Magnet School Team ! Your Most Enthusiastic Cheerleader, Dr Rebekka Freeman

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