New principal named at Longley

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LEWISTON — Linda St. Andre, now the principal at the Farwell Elementary School, will become the new principal of the Longley Elementary School, Superintendent Leon Levesque announced Monday night during the Lewiston School Committee meeting.

St. Andre will replace Tom Hood, who along with 50 percent of Longley’s teachers will be transferred to other schools, as required by a federal grant that will provide money for Longley to improve. Longley is one of 10 Maine schools with such persistently low test scores that the federal government is offering money to help those schools improve.

The catch is the schools will have to make drastic changes, including replacing the principal and half of the school’s faculty. The Lewiston School Department has applied for the grant, which could be as high as $2 million.

St. Andre said there will be challenges at Longley, “but the possibilities are very exciting,” she said. “There’ll be new work going on there. We’re be trying new stuff. I like that. If it’s successful, it’s going to be a very exciting thing to be part of.”

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She’s hoping, with the help of new staff and faculty members who have been there, “to build on that foundation that Tom and his staff have been laying. And now we may have a little extra money to do it.”

Longley has long had test scores far below state averages and among the lowest in the city. It has long been in the poorest neighborhood of Lewiston, and many disadvantaged students start school already academically behind their peers. In recent years the school has had a growing immigrant population, with many learning to speak English.

The city won’t find out how much it will receive from the grant until mid-June, Levesque said. Lewiston will get some money, or the government wouldn’t have made the offer, Levesque said. But he couldn’t wait until June to notify people of job changes. Regardless of how much the city receives, “we’ve made a commitment to move ahead and do something at Longley.” Levesque said.

He picked St. Andre for the job “because she has the skill sets. She has a great literacy background, she’s been a successful principal at Farwell. She has the stamina, the vitality, the interest to take the challenge. I’m excited about it,” Levesque said.

In the grant application Lewiston is proposing that students be given extended class days and an extended school year; teachers would have built-in time to plan lessons, ensuring they’ve constantly improving their practice, St. Andre said.

And, “we will address the safety concerns of the staff,” which include the behavior of students in the school and student safety walking to and from school in a poor, inner-city neighborhood. Students will receive more help, she said. All the steps in the grant are proactive,” St. Andre said. “We don’t want to wait for kids to fail and then do something. We don’t want to wait for kids to get in trouble and then do something. We want to be preventative.”

In other business, school committee members were invited to be honored guests at the Lewiston High School graduation on June 4. Committee members who are interested can help hand out diplomas, said Assistant Principal Paul Amnott.

The graduation will be at 7 p.m. Friday, June 4, at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

More math for middle students

Beginning this fall all Lewiston Middle School students will get more class time to learn math, according to a plan approved by the Lewiston School Committee Monday night.

The goal is to improve test scores and math abilities of all students. Recent test scores show that 47 percent of middle students are proficient in math or above proficient, a 10 percent improvement over last year. However, the state average is 60 percent proficient.

“We’re making gains. We’re getting close to the state target, but more classroom time is important,” said math teacher Kevin Sasseville.

Principal Maureen Lachapelle surveyed other middle schools to find out how much math class time students receive. The average was 55 minutes a day compared to the current 40 minutes offered in Lewiston. The new plan will bring Lewiston up to that average, she said.

This fall all students will get three more minutes in every class every day, including math. Classes will go from 40 to 43 minutes. The time will be made up by cutting out one break and reducing time in homeroom each morning, Lachapelle said.

In addition, students will get a math lab every six days that will offer personalized help. Students who need more will get two math labs. And more math will be taught in a class that offers hands-on learning in technology and science.

Several school committee members praised the plan. Tom Shannon called it “a win-win that will help drive the entire system forward,” improving math abilities of all students.

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