2014-09-12 / Community

Schools focus on literacy, community

Mildred L. Day School, Consolidated plan to ‘celebrate’ literacy throughout the curriculum
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

Last in a series.

Now in their first full week of school, students in two of Regional School Unit 21’s elementary schools, Mildred L. Day School in Arundel and Kennebunkport Consolidated School, are prepping for a focus on literacy and community engagement.

Principal Cory Steere, who was chosen to fill the post this summer after former Principal Kevin Crowley was selected as interim superintendent of RSU 21, is focused on exposing students to literacy in the classroom and at home.

“One of the things that we’re trying to do this year is really trying to put an extra focus on literacy,” Steere said. The extra emphasis doesn’t necessarily include changing what’s in the classroom, “but make it so that literacy is celebrated – it’s fun, it’s valued, it’s something that we’re hoping to get to the point where kids just want to (participate) in it,” Steere said.

Steere recently introduced the idea of forming a literacy team at MLD, led by interested teachers and residents. “We’re hoping to have a wide variety of representation (from teachers and community members) and really try to piece together a calendar that’s filled with activities we can do as a school that will celebrate literacy,” Steere said.

Steere, who was formerly a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Sea Road School, said he is following the model used there. Once teams were implemented and the program really started rolling, there was a change in the way students began to perceive literacy-based activities, Steere said.

“The change in the culture really made a difference in the kids’ perspective around reading,” said Steere. “And it brought the importance of it to life for families.”

One of the key points Steere wants to impress with the literacy teams is to help families of students “understand things they can do that aren’t very hard to support their students’ growth in reading.”

Teachers at Mildred L. Day will work over the next several weeks to begin discussing and planning literacy activities and events.

In an effort to further students’ involvement with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at an early age, Steere, said, “We are trying to find every possible way to integrate the (STEM) concept as much as we can.”

“As the kids grow and get in to high school, some of the STEM opportunities will really open up to them. We want to make sure they have a solid foundation to grow in whatever way they may choose to when they get older,” Steere said.

In addition to conceptual upgrades in the classroom, Mildred L. Day School and Consolidated School and with Kennebunk High School are in need of structural renovations.

Residents of each town will vote on the multi-million-dollar project in November. To date, however, using the revolving renovation funds that voters approved earlier this year, asbestos was removed from Consolidated School this summer and new floors were installed.

Principal Dave Crandall said the school, as a whole, feels better.

“It feels good to be in a bright, airy building. I didn’t realize how dark it was until we replaced the dark carpet with white tile,” Crandall said.

In the vein of literacy, Crandall said, Consolidated will continue with its literacy management system, Daily 5, in the classroom.

“It has everyone reading and writing every day. It has been very successful for us,” Crandall said.

Enrollment at Consolidated tends to hover around 200, which makes it the smallest elementary school in the district. “Because we’re small, we (teachers and administrators) try to analyze where our successes come from and we try to analyze growth all the time,” Crandall said. “We spend a lot of time in our PLC (professional learning community) and talk about how we’re continuing to grow.”

A mentality that is enforced among teachers at Consolidated, Crandall said, is, “taking them (students) from where they are and moving them forward.”

In the classroom, Crandall and fellow teachers instill the idea of finding multiple routes to solutions. In teaching children there is more than one right way to a solution, it’s more applicable to life’s issues, which typically involve multi-faceted solutions.

“We’re talking about being able to develop grit in our students, to be able to follow through and do multi-step problems, not just for the assessment, but with the idea that, in real life, most things do take a few steps,” Crandall said.

Both Mildred L. Day School and Consolidated School emphasize community involvement. As a means to usher in the new school year, Consolidated will hold an ice cream social Monday, Sept. 22, “for anyone to attend; we try to be the small, friendly neighborhood school,” Crandall said.

For the Sept. 11 anniversary, students at Mildred L. Day will display flags in the front of the building and wash the fire department’s fire truck along with the Parks and Recreation bus. At Consolidated, the students will be encouraged to perform acts of kindness for one another.

For more information on events throughout the district, visit www.rsu21.net.

Want to comment on this story? Visit our website at www.post.mainelymediallc.com and let us know your thoughts.

Return to top