The schools’ principals sought continued support for Boothbay Region high and elementary schools at a Dec. 7 breakfast presentation to the public. BRHS Principal Dan Welch and BRES Principal Mark Tess held the back to back morning sessions to share the offerings, achievements and goings on from recent years to the present.
“We are not a perfect high school. We have old bones, if you will,” said Welch, highlighting the quirks of the 62-year-old high school building. “So when you walk around, it looks like a school that was built in 1956 … but I think what you're going to see when we walk into some classrooms is some really great teaching and learning going on.”
Citing the 10-1 student-teacher ratio, Welch said the teaching is truly top notch allowing for creative thinking and autonomy, and the guidance students need to achieve well-set goals. Teachers and staff constantly strive to equip all students with everything needed to succeed, whether that means college or going out to sea and everything in between and beyond, Welch said.
Welch admitted to being biased since he witnesses the students and teachers at work daily. He said his own children – one graduate and another currently enrolled at BRHS – would not step foot in a school he knew would not give them the education they need and deserve.
Every 10 years, New England Association of Schools and Colleges comes in to accredit the schools and review how their budgeting, curriculum, assessment and more. Welch said updates to NEASC can vary – sometimes every couple months, sometimes every couple years – but the last report, turned in about two years ago, was stellar. Everything the school has been working on are the things that need attention, said Welch. Likewise, everything faculty and staff believe they are doing well also shines in the report.
“We have been named three times in the last three years a silver medal school by the US News and World Report. We were in the top 10 the last year two years and now we're eleventh (as of) last year … If you look at some of those other schools, I think you'll notice some stark differences between those schools and ours …”
Declining enrollment is also a topic of concern to Welch and all teaching and staff at BRHS. Welch said housing and employment are a couple of the variables. However, he said the community needs to remember that in the here and now, there are still those in need of education.
“We need to still provide for these students even if there is less of them … We have great kids here – I get compliments all the time … from schools, from administrators, from coaches when our kids travel. They're really great and I think most people involved in the schools, they see that.”
BRES Assistant Principal Tricia Campbell, runner-up for Maine’s assistant principal of the year, said the most special thing about her school is its relationship with the community.
“We work with Bigelow Labs … the YMCA … local restaurants … Botanical Gardens … art programs and the art foundations,” said Campbell. “They bring in programs and we bring students to them and I think that is a phenomenal resource … I think it helps to connect our kids to their home and to the people in the community.”
Tess said today’s youth are tech savvy and BRES enjoys having students do as much hands-on learning as possible. “We try to provide opportunities that give children a chance to do activities … where they can actually get up and physically move around because we know that's not the way life goes most of the time, now ... There'll be volcanoes shooting stuff all over the place, they'll make jello molds of molecules and things like that.”
Tess said BRES does not do well at letting the rest of the community know about all the great things that happen there. Using Michelle Miclette's fifth and sixth grade science class’s kelp project as one of many examples, Tess said some of the things the students are able to do and learn are amazing.
“I take it for granted because I get to see it every day,” said Tess. “I'm not sure everybody has that opportunity.”
That continued support from the community is at the top of Tess’s and Welch’s wish lists. The officials said most of the children who go through BRES go onto BRHS and do very well, with many of them going on to some of the best universities and colleges in the country.
Said Welch, “There's no cookie-cutter approach … We do put a lot of emphasis on post-secondary and I know a lot of people think that means I say every kid needs to go to college – I want every kid to have options … Whatever your choices are in life, we want to make sure we equip you for that. We are celebrating everybody's unique successes.”