Kurt Rowley, coordinator of the Building Assets, Reducing Risks (BARR) program and a social studies teacher at Dirigo High School in Dixfield, speaks Tuesday during a Regional School Unit 56 board of directors meeting. The BARR program got its start this fall at Dirigo, one of 71 schools in Maine to apply the program model. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

DIXFIELD — Regional School Unit 56 Superintendent and Principal Pam Doyen gave a presentation Tuesday on the Building Assets, Reducing Risks (BARR) program at Dirigo High School during a board of directors meeting at the school.

The program got its start this fall at Dirigo, one of 71 schools in Maine to apply the model.

The BARR program was implemented by the state Department of Education, which invested $10 million in federal emergency relief funds to provide access to the BARR model for Maine schools, according to information on the state DOE website.

“BARR is a research-backed model focused on strengthening relationships, reducing high-risk student behavior, and improving academic achievement,” according to the DOE.

Doyen explained the program Tuesday and introduced Kurt Rowley, the school’s BARR coordinator and a social studies teacher at Dirigo High School in Dixfield.

“One of the things that we heard a lot during our training was that in BARR, we know it’s the same students and the same teachers, but we’re going to get better results,” Doyen said. “That’s what we’re looking to do through BARR.”


She explained that there are eight strategies to the program that “intentionally build relationships: staff to staff, staff to student and student to student.”

Doyen said the program also provides professional development for the school’s staff members, who received two days of training this fall.

The school community is also part of the BARR training model, Doyen said, and staff members have been asked “to connect with their Cougar Paw families, to reach out so that they know that they have a connection, so that (our families) feel engaged with the school.”

Following Doyen’s presentation on the BARR program, board Director Larry Whittington of Dixfield said he liked what he had heard about the program, but wondered what the district seeks as the final result of the program.

“The reason that we signed on with BARR is because this fits what we want to do,” Doyen said. “We want to increase the academic performance of our students at DHS (Dirigo High School). We want to make sure that more and more students are successful at the end of their DHS career, know what they want to go on and do and feel like they’re confident to go on and do something (after) high school. It’s to strengthen our academic and behavioral success at DHS.”

Rowley, the BARR program coordinator at the school, said, “I’m really sold on this (program) because it just is so comprehensive and the training that we had was in depth.”

He said each cohort uses spreadsheets that “can add a (student’s) name to any spreadsheet at any time, which brings them up for a very disciplined five-minute discussion.”

“And in that five minutes,” he said, “we can identify strengths of the student, we identify areas of concern, we take a look at all their grades and then we try to come up with a smart goal for them.”

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