POLAND – Students and faculty from Poland Regional High School and Bruce Whittier Middle School hosted a daylong visit for members of the Southern Governors Association. The 26 visitors represented 11 states and the District of Columbia.

The representatives spent time visiting classrooms, talking with students and teachers and meeting with district personnel and school board representatives. In addition, the group met with former Commissioner of Education Duke Albanese and Pam Fisher, director of the Great Maine Schools Project, to learn more about statewide initiatives in support of secondary education.

“I was most amazed by the ability of students to talk knowledgeably and passionately about their learning,” said Lee Stevens, a staff member of the Southern Governors Association and coordinator of the visit.

Jeanne Burns of the Office of the governor in Georgia, said, “I was impressed that you are addressing the academic needs of students as well as the intrapersonal and interpersonal aspects of your students’ development. Your students will be better prepared for success in life when compared to other high school students.”

Principal Derek Pierce agreed with Stevens’ comment, saying, “We want kids to be able to reach for high standards. Our work is figuring out ways to give every student the support she or he needs to realize these standards.”

Members of the association had the chance to participate in student advisories known as “roundtables” at Poland.

“Of all I saw at the school, I really liked the roundtable advisories. This is a place where kids learn to respect each other,” said Cathy Gassenhelmer, president of the Alabama Best Practices Center.

All students participate in roundtables, an integral part of the educational experience at Poland. “When I talked with students, they talked about appreciating the roundtables more as they were at the school longer,” added Andrew Young, deputy state superintendent from Oklahoma.

“One of the major strengths we have at this school is the faculty they really care about the students. I think we have a really great school here and I’ve loved my four years. I think it is important to share what we do here and hope that it will help other schools better themselves and give them ideas to work on,” said Linda Fecteau, senior.

“Visits like this give us a chance to meet new people with new ideas. We are always eager to converse with people to make education better for our students. I’d even be interested in a possible teacher exchange [with teachers from southern schools],” stated David Burke, a math teacher at the school.

Poland was one of four schools visited nationwide by the Southern Governors Association as part of an investigation into successful rural schools.

The association is looking for strategies and ideas that promote better learning for every student.

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