FARMINGTON — The Regional School Unit 9 (RSU 9) administration has released its data for the Community Engagement Survey conducted Nov. 6 2021 to Jan. 4 2022.

The data was announced and reviewed at the Strategic Planning committee’s Jan. 27 meeting.

The comprehensive survey results addressed eight areas: negative & positive responses, schools in the future, strength & weaknesses, hopes, outcomes, changes and ideas. The survey data was organized to group together answers with similar meanings or sentiment.

The survey results span 41 pages that can be found at

There were 1,178 survey respondents. When the survey was first announced Nov. 9, Superintendent Chris Elkington told the RSU 9 Board of Directors he was hoping for 2,000-4,000 respondents — at least around 15% of the district’s 12,000-15,000 community members.

The respondent populations were as follows: just under 60% were students; 20% were parents; 20% were RSU 9 staff members; and under 10% were either local business members or other community members.


The survey is just a piece in the district’s puzzle to formulate its vision for the future of RSU 9 and how specifically to make that vision a reality.

During the committee meeting held over Zoom, the administrative team assigned attendees to different breakout groups to pick out the highlights of each section.

Mellisa Clawson, an RSU 9 parent and committee member, represented the strengths & weaknesses group. She said she was encouraged by “how many students responded.”

“Looking at the staff and the leadership, students must be feeling pretty good about where they go to school,” Clawson said.

Clawson said her group pinpointed, in the strengths, that respondents saw the “school climate as a safe place, as a positive place.

“[This] is really important because you can’t learn if you don’t feel safe,” she added.


Clawson said that responses regarding curriculum, activities, program options in areas such as the Foster Career and Technical Education Center were “very positive.”

There was also a positive response for the district’s “close community” and how the district has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

In looking at the weaknesses, Clawson said her group tried to parse through how the data might look “in a normal year without COVID.”

The group identified the highlights of the data on weaknesses as “staff shortages, responses about weak teachers, lack of diversity, bullying, rudeness, structure of the school day, some disorganization and inefficiencies, inequities, too much focus on tech,” and a need to support struggling students with things like mental health services.

Erin Landry, an RSU 9 parent and committee member, spoke for the group asked to analyze the data on hopes for the district.

Landry said the themes from this section included “keeping what we have in the district and not losing anything” such as the strings program, the core content, etc.; “out of the box or out of the classroom learning” in situations like internships, field trips; “balancing the use of technology to keep kids healthy and safe”; and “supporting the students with a healthy lifestyle.”


“What I took away from all that is really just a balance, keeping our students in the forefront … and making sure that they’re healthy, so they can have the best education possible.”

Another group was assigned to look at the answers to “What student outcomes should our schools focus on to prepare our students to live and work in the 21st century and beyond?” and ideas for changes to achieve these outcomes, meet student needs.

Lucinda Dreschler, an RSU 9 employee and committee member, represented this group. She explained that in the outcomes, “the one word or phrase that came up most often was functional life skills and … financial literacy.”

Other skills were “the ability to problem solve,” “creative thinking and reasoning and decision-making skills,” and “universal achievement of reading in the younger grades.”

Dreschler said the group noticed the main themes in these responses were “soft skills, functional skills and lifelong skills.”

In terms of the changes that need to be made to achieve these outcomes, Dreschler said the group identified potential needs for smaller class sizes, restructuring the school week with four days instead of five and “good partnerships between parents, teachers and community.”


Superintendent Chris Elkington emphasized those answers around community.

“I think there are a lot of connections in both questions around community, whether it’s an internship, whether it’s working while you’re going to school…” Elkington said. “There were a lot of connections with having the schools more connected to the community and also to the parents.”

Finally, RSU 9 Board of Directors Chairperson Carol Coles represented the group who discussed “the changes that [the district] might anticipate seeing.”

Coles said a lot of “what stood out … was around safety [such as less bullying] and engagement” and “ideas of all of the things that support students.”

Specific answers included “needs … for professional development and staff, for building learning, for students to have a voice and for that voice to be heard, and effective teaching [demonstrated] by listening, adapting programs to be more individualized.”

Additionally, potential changes included individualized learning, smaller classroom sizes, “more support,” higher pay to attract “new and innovative teachers,” and “experiential learning.”


However, Coles noted that “all of these things were recognized to have cost.”

“It’s great to think about all of this, but all of it does cost money, or time or both,” Coles said.

Coles said the group similarly noticed a shift to more “community involvement.”

Coles said that ultimately, the message was about “really building learning pathways forward and to really hear the student voice.”

“In summary, the other thoughts at the end of the session, were really around the fact that we were looking at it in a way that was student centered, and then the concentric circles around the student,” Coles said.

“The changes were more in emphasis than in deep change, I think,” she added.


Mt. Blue High School Principal Monique Poulin, who was also in this group, added that the group “really focused on the aspirational lens to a vision statement and didn’t spend a lot of time with kind of the implementation and some of the hurdles that we might face.”

“We really were thinking what will be best for our students,” Poulin said. “And it was wonderful to be able to look at it that way.”

Mary Jane McCalmon, the strategic plan facilitator hired by RSU 9, then explained “where we go from here.”

McCalmon said the data analysis from this meeting will head back to the strategic planning committee. Additionally, Poulin and McCalmon are working with a student strategic planning group to bring the data to other students and “ask them what they see in the data that can help us develop a good, strong vision for the future.”

The main committee will now “begin to craft ‘What are the big ideas that need to go in this vision?’ [and] ‘What is it we want the system to be like if it is the very best it can possibly be in the future?’

After the committee creates a list of ideas, a draft of the vision statement will be created. Eventually the vision statement will go before the board of directors. Once “everyone is okay with the vision,” the committee and administration will work on the strategic plan, action needed to achieve that vision statement.

The strategic plan itself, will be less aspirational and “more practical.” It will set goals for the next couple of years rather than all 10, she said.

Elkington said that the ultimate goal is to “really look strategically on what we need to do and how we tie [together] our goals, the money we ask our people to spend and the outcomes that we are looking for.”

“This is a step-forward process,” he said.

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