OXFORD — The future direction of SAD 17 will be the focus of a meeting Dec. 4 at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Forum.
Residents can tell the district's Strategic Planning Committee what's on their minds regarding the future of the Oxford Hills educational system. The meeting will be from 6 to 8 p.m.
"The forum will be successful if we attract a diverse cross section of our local public with good ideas,” committee Chairman Jared Cash of Norway said.
The Strategic Planning Team, representing longtime community members, alumni, parents of students, former teachers, SAD 17 board members, current teachers and administration, has been engaged in launching a strategic planning process for the next five to 10 years.
They have been meeting with committee facilitator Duke Albanese, senior policy adviser at Great Plains Partnership and state education commissioner during Gov. Angus King's term, since July to work on the plan.
“This is the time to bring your thoughts and ideas — small or big — to the table,” Cash said.
The format of the forum will be a general discussion from 6 to 7 p.m., followed discussions by groups of 10 people or so with a facilitator, Cash said.
“They key first step, before any writing begins in our working groups, is engaging the public,” he explained.
The Strategic Planning Team will put all the ideas, suggestions and feedback from the public forum into the working draft of the plan, which will ultimately go to the School Board for approval and adoption.
In July 2012, Superintendent Rick Colpitts told the board of directors it would be part of a districtwide effort to develop a vision for students, providing them with what could be a vastly different educational environment than the one they see now.
At that time, Colpitts presented an update on plans to create a mission statement and a vision for the school district that promotes the current district's strengths, such as quality of education, but incorporates changes that have taken place in education over the last 10 to 20 years, including laws that created national education standards, charter schools, supervisor evaluations and student assessments.
The groundwork was laid for the first step — creating a mission statement — during the past school year through some 30 forums with community leaders, parents, teachers, students and others.
Cash said the last districtwide strategic planning process was when the comprehensive high school was built. He said that since that time, state and local taxpayers have collectively invested more than $400 million for local public K-12 education, and more than 3,000 high school students have graduated the system.
The idea of developing a strategic plan is being developed throughout Maine school districts as many try to move away from the late-19th-century “assembly-line” design of public schools that dates from the Industrial Age to a customized learning environment for the individual student.
Several schools in Maine, including Auburn, Portland and Winthrop, completed their visions, which were tailored toward their district's needs, and have been implementing their plans over the past year.