Dirigo High School, Dixfield RSU 56

DIXFIELD — Regional School Unit 56 directors voted Tuesday night to adjust standards for some Dirigo High School seniors at risk of failing to graduate this year.

Superintendent and Principal Pam Doyen said the coronavirus pandemic has caused her to rethink the high school graduation standards.

“The graduation requirements for Dirigo High School are significantly more than the state minimum and I think they should be,” she said. However, the pandemic has posed many problems for students, warranting consideration of changes.

“Some of our students have been struggling to keep up with their classes and school since last March, which puts a number of our potential graduating students at risk for graduating,” she said. Eighteen of the 57 seniors are in jeopardy of not graduating and they would benefit from the district changing the standards to match the state’s, she said.

Among the differences in graduation standards are: Dirigo High School requires 3.5 credits in math, while the state requires two credits; Dirigo requires 3.5 credits in science/technology, while the state requires two credits.

“I want to be clear that this would not be a blanket exception,” Doyen said. “I would require students to meet with myself and with the guidance counselor to work with individual students to establish priorities. Any student who could feasibly complete the DHS requirements would be held to that standard.”

In other business at the meeting, Dirigo High School students Caitlyn Daley, Jennifer Decker and Jobs for Maine Graduates specialist Jennifer Bell spoke via Zoom about their experiences with the program.

Daley, who has been involved in it for three years, said it partners public education and private business.

“JMG’s mission is to identify students who face barriers to education and to guide each one on to a successful path toward continued education, a meaningful career and a productive adulthood,” she said.

Decker, also involved in the program for three years, said the program has been positive for her and her family.

“Our JMG specialist, Ms. Bell, is truly an amazing person and we are so grateful to have her in our lives,” Decker said. “She has taught us so many things in our classes and sometimes even our parents may not even be able to teach us, from how to budget our money to filling out job applications to even how to dress and act professionally for an interview.

“We have the ability to learn important life skills because of this program,” she said. “But even more than that I know that I can go to Ms. Bell for anything.”

Bell told directors that high school students in JMG this year have visited several colleges and are working on projects such as creating mental health videos to address the growing concerns about adolescent mental health.

“And this year JMG distributed over $3,000 in Hannaford gift cards to families in the Dirigo community since March. In JMG we’re most proud of the services we offer to our students, their families and to the communities that we work with,” Bell said.

The district includes the Dixfield, Canton, Carthage and Peru.


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